A Mexican university presented a study to its Senate last week indicating that their own country, along with Colombia, had some of the highest rates of criminal impunity in the world.
The study, the Global Impunity Index (PDF), by the University of the Americas in Puebla, looked at criminals avoiding punishment in 59 different countries, ranking the home country of escaped cartel kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán and Colombia behind only the Phillipines.
Overall the study included 15 countries from Latin America and the Caribbean, and all of those countries ranked in the worse half for impunity.
Costa Rica, at 28, had the lowest impunity ranking in the region.
Originally published in April, the study combined factors such as police per capita, prison capacity, judges per capita and human rights records to award an overall score to each country included. The list only ranked countries where such data was available, excluding countries in Africa, South Asia and many notable countries in Latin America such as Brazil.
The study divided every category into security (police, security forces) and justice (courts, jails, prisons). The functional score measured actual punishment such as percentage of criminal sentences over crimes reported. The structural score measured capacity, such as police and penitentiaries per capita. The human rights score looked at reports of torture, extrajudicial executions, political prisoners and suspicious disappearances.
Mexico and Colombia top the charts
Mexico and Colombia shot to the top of the impunity rankings due to a lack of penitentiary resources, reports of torture and a lack of criminal sentences for criminal suspects, according to the study’s authors.
For example, the global average for criminal suspects detained but not sentenced was 23 percent. It was 47 percent in Mexico and 33 percent in Colombia. The study reported that Mexico only had four judges per every 100,000 citizens, compared to a global average of 17, greatly impeding its ability to try criminal cases.
Honduras, the global leader in homicide rate, and ranking seventh for impunity in this study, also came under scrutiny for its lack of prison resources. The study reported Honduras had more than 12,600 criminal detainees in May 2013, but only a detention capacity of approximately 8,200.
Income inequality is a factor
Puebla researchers compared their results with various economic characteristics of certain countries. They found only a weak correlation between a country’s wealth, measured as per capita gross domestic product, and its impunity score. However, income inequality, measured by the Gini coefficient correlated strongly with their impunity scores. The UN’s Human Development Index scores, which measures health, education and living standards, also showed a strong correlation.