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Congress: change penal procedures now

Lawmakers Victoria Donda, Patricia Bullrich and Diana Conti seen during recent Congress debates.

Kirchnerite, opposition lawmakers agree to reform; Penal Code bill draft is officially announced

As the official discussion over the Penal Code bill draft is set to begin today, lawmakers from both the Kirchnerite and opposition camps coincided in the need of also reforming the country’s Federal Code of Penal Procedure that determines how criminal prosecutions are conducted.

“There are current flaws in the legal process and its result,” said lawmaker Diana Conti from the ruling Victory Front (FpV).

“We need good procedures to put an end to impunity.”

The head of the Penal Legislation Committee of the Lower House, Patricia Bullrich (Unión PRO), said lawmakers across the political spectrum are now questioning “how justice is served, how people experience justice and how people deal with justice.”

“We need to simplify mechanisms while at the same time guaranteeing citizens the due legal process,” Bullrich told newspaper Tiempo Argentino.

Bullrich provided an example to prove her point.

“It’s a whole different thing reaching a trial court 15 years after than a year after,” the lawmaker said.

Meanwhile, Broad Progressive Front (FAP) lawmaker Victoria Donda said that “a lot has been said about the Penal Code, but we’ve heard little from the Code of Penal Procedure.”

“Many criminal justice problems may be solved from the procedural point of view,” Donda added.

Lawmakers stressed that only two or three percent of criminal cases result in a sentence — and they lay the blame on a “dusty old code” that gives a discretional power to judges to manipulate time frames of cases. In fact, the whole reform is aimed at speeding up judicial proceedings.

The other main aim of the reform is to take investigations away from judges so they can be handled exclusively by prosecutors.

Commission submits draft

Remarks from Congress representatives were known as the experts’ commission to update the Penal Code are preparing to present today their bill draft at the Law School of the University of the Buenos Aires (UBA).

The event, which is expected to begin at 6pm, will mark the beginning of a debate that will last for 90 days.

The meeting will be headed by the five members of the committee in charge of drafting the bill — Supreme Court Justice Raúl Zaffaroni, Justice former Buenos Aires province Security secretary León Arslanian, PRO lawmaker Federico Pinedo, former Socialist Party lawmaker María Elena Barbagelata and former Radical Party (UCR) congressman Ricardo Gil Lavedra.

“We’re opening a ‘comment period’ that will ask different universities their opinion on the Penal Code Reform bill draft,” Arslanian said.

Experts who took place in the debate that resulted in this preliminary project said the decision to begin a period of public audiences is a “natural and necessary” step before the draft reaches Congress.

Criticism and reply

The Renewal Front party led by former Tigre Mayor Sergio Massa insisted on criticizing the bill draft — a move they made ever since the bill was announced.

“They want to hide in universities what they don’t dare showing to the people,” San Miguel Mayor Joaquín de la Torre said.

It is worth noting that the Renewal Front did not take part in the discussion as the Tigre leader was still a Kirchnerite ally when the commission was set up.

From the committee, Barbagelata asked for a “serious debate, not just an exchange of fake slogans.”

“It would be sad if the project ends up in a drawer,” the Socialist representative said.

A few weeks ago, Pinedo also expressed his anger at the “disdain” from Massa’s representatives, who took aim at a multi-party draft that had been discussed for several months.

“I personally amended 80 out of the 279 articles of the code bill, I believe these guys should begin to read, to work,” the PRO lawmaker said

Last week, Zaffaroni said he was doubtful that in the next three years the country would witness a reform of the Penal Code like the one he helped to draft.

“The debate is going to continue starting with a basic document and later with discussion in academies, universities, law schools and courts,” the justice explained.

Zaffaroni also hinted the opposition was attempting to discredit the bill.

“The process (for reforming the code) has nothing to do with what’s being discussed on television. While it’s not to say the draft was perfect, what they’re saying are lies,” he charged. “Any criminal law reform can be discredited with hysteria, but explaining one’s rationale requires time and TV is not the medium to do so.”

Herald staff with Télam

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