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December 18, 2014
Friday, February 14, 2014

Experts deliver Penal Code bill to CFK

Head of state receives reform draft, meets commission led by Justice Eugenio Zaffaroni

An experts commission led by Justice Eugenio Raúl Zaffaroni yesterday delivered a draft for a proposed Penal Code reform bill to President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

Among its main modifications, the bill would eliminate the penalty of life in prison and would also establish 30-year sentences as the maximum penalty for a crime, along with the definition of several new crimes, such as those committed against the environment and cyber-crimes.

It also includes a precise legal definition of offences such as genocide, forced disappearance and crimes against humanity, a long-held demand by judges and prosecutors who have participated in the trials against those who committed crimes during the last dictatorship.

The meeting began yesterday at 8.15pm at Government House.

Several members of the commission, including as former Security minister León Arslanian, PRO party lawmaker Federico Pinedo and former Lower House members Ricardo Gil Lavedra and María Elena Barbagelata were present at the meeting.

The president was joined by Lower House head Julián Domínguez and Justice Minister Julio Alak, whose department coordinated the bill.

The commission to update the Penal Code was created by decree 678/2012. It was “a political commitment assumed by the national government to consolidate the institutional system, legal certainty and the full validity of individual rights and guarantees,” the government said in the basis of the decree.

Changes and details

The maximum prison sentence will be increased from 25 years in prison to 30 years, in tune with previous legislation implements the Rome Statute in the national legal order.

The elimination of the life sentence only affects the text of the code because it was never applied in practice, judicial sources said.

A new addition is the criminal responsibility of entities, which was until now applied only to a limited range of crimes.

Other updates include legal definition of genocide, war crimes and other crimes against humanity.

Abortion would still be considered a crime, but when a pregnancy comes from rape the action will become specifically decriminalized.

If the bill is passed, all kinds of cybercrimes such as phishing, pharming, spoofing and leaking classified information will become punishable by a prison term of anwyhere from six months to two years.

A call for rationality

Hours earlier, Roberto Manuel Carlés, the commission coordinator, said the idea behind the proposed bill was to “bring rationality” to punishments and to put some order into the current Penal Code, that was first approved in 1921.

“As anyone can see, this does not mean an ‘arbitrary’ reduction of penalties nor symbolically hardened sentences, but rather the modification of those penalties that were not consistent with the rest of the code,” Carlés wrote in a news release.

Justice Zaffaroni told the Herald last week that all members of the commission were forced to make certain concessions. “We all realized the need to clean up the chaos we have in terms of criminal legislation,” Zaffaroni said. “The Constitution gives me certain rights and the Penal Code limits them. It’s a text that’s just as important as the Constitution.”

Herald staff

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