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Human rights at the crossroads
Latinamerica Press
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Government enacted a law against the Supreme Court ruling that would reduce prison terms to those sentenced for crimes against humanity.

The massive citizen demonstration, as well as the quick answer by the Legislature and the government put a stop to a ruling approved by the Supreme Court on May 2 declaring the “two-for-one” jail benefit to apply to those convicted of crimes against humanity.

The ruling was based on Law 24.390 — that was in force between 1994 and 2001, when it was repealed — that allowed counting as double, after the second year of imprisonment, the time spent in pretrial detention without a conviction.

The decision — approved by three judges (two named by President Mauricio Macri) of the five supreme judges — applied to the case of repressor Luis Muiña, who was arrested in 2007 and sentenced in 2011 to a 13-year term for participating with a paramilitary group that operated in a clandestine detention center known as “El Chalet,” inside the Posadas Hospital, in Buenos Aires.

Along with Muiña were sentenced ex-brigadiers Reynaldo Bignone and Hipólito Mariani. Bignone, 89 years old, was the last de facto President of the military dictatorship that ruled Argentina between 1976 and 1983. Muiña, who was already enjoying a conditional release at the time of the verdict, had already served half of his sentence in December 2016 by taking into consideration the years he was detained without a formal sentence.

Viviana Krsticevic, director of the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), said that “the ruling by the Argentinean justice ignores the need to provide a differentiated and severe response to crimes against humanity and the consequences that it brings by the imposition and enforcement of the sentences. Also, the ruling does not consider whether the person benefiting from an early release has provided information leading to the clarification of the individual or historical truth, neither it consider if the person has shown remorse that could guarantee reparation measures and no recurrence, faced with the surviving victims, relatives of the victims and society.”

Never Again
On May 10, approximately half-a-million people gathered in the Plaza de Mayo convened by human rights organizations headed by the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo-Founding Line and Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo.

The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo-Founding Line, who on Apr. 30 celebrated 40 years demanding appearance of their sons and daughters disappeared during the military dictatorship, condemned the Supreme Court ruling which they consider “a new attempt to guarantee impunity to those who committed genocide.”

During the event, Nora Cortiñas, cofounder of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, stated that the genocidal continue not revealing the whereabouts of our children. They want the repressors walking free on the streets next to us.”

Cortiñas added that “there are still more than 300 men and women who live under false identities,” in reference to some 500 sons and daughters of detained and disappeared women, out of which 122 have already been found.

As stated by the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, “the children taken as ‘war booty’ were registered by members of the repressive forces as their natural children; were left in no particular place, sold or abandoned in institutions as nameless persons or NN [for No Name]. This is how they made them disappear, by erasing their identity, depriving them from living with their legitimate families, and from all their rights and liberties.”

“We have shown, once more, that we do not want those guilty of genocide, rapists and murderers to walk alongside us,” said the organizers of the demonstration in a statement. “The human rights organizations and the population, we say ‘Never Again’.”

Some 750 repressors are now jailed still without a final sentence, many of whom applied for the 2x1 benefit, based on the ruling of the Supreme Court, requests that were not accepted. Around 30,000 people were detained-disappeared by the Argentinean military dictatorship, and whose whereabouts remain unknown.

On May 12, the government enacted the Law 27.362 — which was passed two days before by Senate and the Chamber of Deputies — establishing that “Law 24.390 — repealed by Law 25.430 — does not apply to criminal actions that fall in the category of crimes against humanity, genocide or war crimes, in accordance with domestic or international law”.

The aim of this law, only three articles long, is to prevent the application of the Supreme Court ruling to other repressors convicted for human rights violations. The second article states that the determination of the sentences “will only apply to those cases in which the accused was in pre-trial detention during the period between the enactment and overturning of that law.” 

The Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), besides pointing out that the Supreme Court ruling departed “from international standards for prosecuting serious human rights violations,” welcomed the enactment of Law 27.362 and the citizen demonstration.

“The IACHR welcomes the fact that victims have made their voices heard in defense of the important progress that has been made in the fight against impunity for the serious human rights violations perpetrated during the dictatorship. The IACHR also welcomes the important work that national and international civil society organizations and human rights defenders have been doing to demand the right to the truth, justice, and reparation with regard to these grave crimes of the past, within the framework of the rule of law and a vibrant democratic society,” reads the statement released on May 15. —Latinamerica Press.

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