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ARGENTINA | 29-02-2020 08:47

Fernández confirms judicial reform bill on way

Peronist president opens up a new battlefront with the opposition, saying justice system is “not functioning well”

President Alberto Fernández has confirmed that he will send a judicial reform bill to Congress next week, declaring that “Argentine justice needs a revision, because it’s not functioning well.”

The news came as little surprise, with speculation over a bid to reform the Judiciary dating back to last year’s presidential campaign.

“We are working on the issue. We want this to work better. Argentine Justice needs to be revised. We have reached the point where Justice is not functioning well,” maintained the Peronist leader, adding that he was “concerned” by the current state of affairs.

Speaking in a radio interview on Friday – at the end of a week in which his move to drastically alter pension privileges for judges and diplomats cleared the lower house – the president said his government was “working on” a reform bill, before going on to accuse those in the justice system of living in ‘La Belle Époque.”

The president told Radio 10 that his bill would seek “to bring order to the functioning of the federal justice system.”

“In the courts, there are people working in subhuman conditions, full of papers, people, overworked ... and how can it be that they have 40 billion pesos of savings. How can you tell me that is a good system of administration?” he asked.

Therefore he added: “They are living in ‘La Belle Époque,” throwing butter on the roof, when the rest of the country is having a hard time. Justice cannot continue being administered in this way.”

He also said that the bill would address “the ordinary courts and the City [of Buenos Aires], because some jurisdictions must be transferred to the City.”

The government’s reform package will likely include a move toward a so-called “accusatory system,” reports again suggested this week. Under such a model, judges are not allowed to arbitrarily decide whether they are the investigating magistrate, or delegate onto prosecutors, who would then take on full responsibility for the investigating.

This system is currently only in place in Salta Province.

RISING TENSION

The move comes amid rising tension between the Judicial and Executive branches. Mass resignations have been threatened by workers of the justice system, after the recent government’s move to alter pension privileges for judges.

Fernández said he had “no problems with the [Supreme] Court, nor with the central courthouse, but the Executive branch is the administrative power.”

Last week, Alberto Lugones, the president of the Magistrates Council (the body in charge of appointing and deposing judg e s ) w a r n e d t h a t t h e government’s alteration of rules for judges’ pensions would lead to the resignation of “100 and 150 judges,” which would generate thrust the Judiciary into chaos.

Fernández said he wanted “independent, sound, worthy judges,” adding that “The immense majority are honest, proven and decent judges and a few have sullied the image of all.”

“It’s not a question of putting everyone in the same bag,” said the Frente de Todos leader.

“I have no interest in the judges res i g n i n g and leaving. I do not induce anyone to retire and hopefully the decent judges will continue working, understanding that they have to make a different contribution,” said Fernández.

Some opposition lawmakers have alleged that judicial reform is a Trojan horse, alleging that the Peronist government i s t r u l y motivated by a desire to put obstacles in the way of judges seeking to investigate allegations of corruption against Kirchnerite politicians and allied business figures, including Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

SPEECH TO CONGRESS

The president is expected to address the topic further in his speech to Congress tomorrow opening up new sessions. He confirmed to Radio 10 that he would provide the outline of his reform package to lawmakers in what amounts to Argentina’s equivalent of a ‘State of the Union’ address.

At his inauguration last December 10, Fernández had trailed that widespread judicial reform was on the cards.

“It is a matter of taking advantage of valuable and majority resources that today exist in our justice system, in order to end the ominous stain that a minority sector causes to the credibility of the institutions,” he said, adding that he in- tended to “reorganise and concentrate judicial efforts so that the investigation of organised crime, complex crime and drug-trafficking can be emphasised with efficiency and transparency.”

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