The Supreme Court is putting the finishing touches to a ruling aimed at overturning one of its most repudiated and controversial decisions of recent years: the so-called ‘2x1’ principle that granted early release to dictatorship-era criminals convicted of crimes against humanity. A new decision is expected to be issued as early as Tuesday.
On May 3 last year, three of the five members of the country’s highest tribunal ruled that Luis Muiña – a convicted human rights abuser who was part of a ‘death squad’ that operated within the Posadas Hospital between 1976 and 1977 – had the right to benefit from a controversial law that says the time a person spends in prison prior to receiving a conviction should count double toward the sentencing total.
The law, which had been repealed, was no longer in effect by the time the Supreme Court released its ruling. It had never previously been applied to those serving sentences for human rights violations.
Once the court’s decision became public knowledge, there was an immediate social outcry, prompting one of the largest human rights demonstrations in Argentina’s history. And, inside the central courthouse, the members of the tribunal realised that something had to be done.
Less than a week later a new law – promoted both by a group of lawmakers with close ties to human rights organisations, along with Cambiemos (Let’s Change) Senator Federico Pinedo – was passed preventing the application of the 2x1 principle to cases of human rights abuses committed during Argentina’s era of state terror.
That law is the key the members of the country’s highest tribunal will use to undo its own ruling that paved the way to the early release of dictatorship-era criminals. According to sources inside the court, Horacio Rosatti – one of the three justices who ruled in favour of Muiña receiving the benefit – is ready to change his vote, claiming that the new law has sealed a legal loophole.
It is believed his colleagues Ricardo Lorenzetti and Juan Carlos Maqueda will again align themselves against the application of the 2x1 principle for cases of crimes against humanity, whereas Chief Justice Carlos Rosenkrantz – who is believed to have been the mastermind behind the ruling that favoured Muiña – will not change his vote.
It is still unknown what decision Justice Elena Highton de Nolasco will take. In 2017, she voted along with Rosenkrantz and Rosatti and over the past months she has become a close ally of the new chief justice, but it was said that she was deeply disturbed by the social reaction to the ruling.
After the ruling, she asked for a leave of absence and called off a trip to Spain, where she was due to participate in a conference along with Lorenzetti.
Rosatti was the justice who picked the new case that will be used to issue the fresh ruling, according to sources inside the court. His choice is a request filed by Rufino Batalla, a civilian who served as an intelligence officer for the Army and acted as a guard at the clandestine detention centre known as ‘La Cacha,’ in La Plata, Buenos Aires province.
In 2014, Batalla was sentenced to 13 years in jail after being found guilty of taking part in the abduction, torture and the murder of Olga Noemí Casado and Laura Carlotto, the daughter of the leader of Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, Estela Barnes de Carlotto.
Batalla was incarcerated in 2010 after a couple of months on the run. He was released on November 13, earlier this month, from a Formosa prison after serving two-thirds of his sentence. His freedom came the same day that the court officially announced that it was examining his case. The 71-year-old convicted human rights abuser is awaiting the new ruling at his home in Formosa province, where his family lived before moving to La Plata in 1976.
The Court was expected to make a new decision after last year’s midterms. However, the ruling was postponed in spite of then-chief Justice Lorenzetti’s attempts to speed up debate within the members of the tribunal.