Nearly every country in Latin America is struggling to combat high rates of impunity, according to a new report that analyzes structural and human rights conditions contributing to crimes going unpunished in the region.
According to the 2017 Global Impunity Index (Índice Global de Impunidad – IGI) from the Center for Studies on Impunity and Justice (Centro de Estudios sobre Impunidad y Justicia – CESIJ) and the University of the Americas Puebla (Universidad de las Américas Puebla – UDLAP) impunity is the norm throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.
The report calculated impunity index scores based on factors such as institutional strength and other structural conditions for 69 countries worldwide — 19 of them in Latin America and the Caribbean — with higher scores representing worse levels of impunity.
Nearly half of the Latin American countries examined were among the nations with the worst impunity scores globally. Mexico’s score was the worst in the Americas, and just four slots above the worst-ranked country in the world, the Philippines. Barbados had the lowest impunity score in the region.
In order to calculate the impunity scores, the report’s authors analyzed what they call the “chain of impunity.” The report describes the chain of impunity as a process that begins with the reporting of a crime, which is ideally followed by an investigation by judicial institutions, and finally ends with the state serving justice for the perpetrator and/or victim.
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They examined the links in this chain by looking at two factors. The first factor — the functionality of security, justice and human rights protection systems — was assigned a score based on indicators like the number of people in court compared to the number of prosecutors, or the percentage of inmates in pretrial detention. The second factor — the structural capacity of countries’ justice systems — was measured by data points such as the number of police officers and judges per 100,000 residents.
The report then provided each country with an impunity score by using a formula that combined the analysis of functionality and structural capacity with an assessment of the human rights situation.
InSight Crime Analysis
The impunity index provides a multifaceted look at the factors contributing to crimes going unpunished in Latin America. And the report’s authors argue that the region must put a greater emphasis on allocating resources towards crime prevention, intelligence and information sharing, as well as improving the capacity of countries’ judicial systems in order to deliver justice and improve generally high rates of impunity.
Mexico’s poor ranking in the index comes as little surprise as the country is notorious for having high rates of impunity. Mexico has just 4.2 judges per 100,000 inhabitants and 43 percent of the country’s prison population is in pretrial detention, which the report suggests is indicative of the low functionality and inefficiency of the country’s justice system. (Mexican authorities are currently attempting a major overhaul of the judicial apparatus, but the effort has hit some significant roadblocks.)
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On the other hand, Barbados and Costa Rica boasted two of the lowest impunity rankings in Latin America, in large part due to their well-resourced and well-structured justice and security systems. One indicator of this is the relatively low percentage of inmates held in pretrial detention in Barbados, which the report suggests is reflective of efficient judicial processes.