October 31, 2014
Prosecutor and prosecution
If there is one aspect of institutional life where coherence does not prevail it’s in the accusations and defences carried out by the ruling party and the opposition against court system officials. On average, justice system officials and those in political power seem to behave more on the basis of calculation and the defence of their own interests than in the role of watchdogs assigned to them by the Constitution. However this editorial is more about an exception to that rule, despite the loud noises by the media and politicians in alleging the abuse committed against a prosecutor portrayed as independent, José María Campagnoli, who this week faced a hearing in a proceeding against him. The accusation of bias made against the Government House has a point in other cases that have nothing to do with this one: the government and its allies have come to the rescue of a judge who gets in the way of justice, Norberto Oyarbide, while it is in allegiance with the opposition UCR in putting against the ropes a much more prestigious colleague, Daniel Rafecas.
The paradox that should placate the noise is that few proceedings against prosecutors or judges have been so clear as in the accusation made against Campagnoli. Firstly, an appeals court ruled on an issue of competence and removed the prosecutor of Núñez and Saavedra neighbourhoods from a case of alleged blackmail and money laundering involving the Kirchnerite businessman Lázaro Báez, which stemmed from Jorge Lanata’s television show. The case, according to the court, belonged in a federal chamber and Campagnoli was forcing the issue with his intervention. Then an Evaluation Council comprised of prosecutors, some of them with a long career and with no special links to the government, said that the case merited an impeachment. Later an impeachment jury in a split decision decided on Campagnoli’s suspension, a move that was upheld by an administrative court and then by an administrative appeals court, while awaiting a final ruling on whether he should be sacked or returned to his position. At the same time, a federal prosecutor who is highly critical of the government dropped the accusation that Campagnoli had made against Báez, saying there was no evidence in the case files to confirm the story on Lanata’s show.
The conclusion that we can now reach, considering that Campagnoli is innocent until proven guilty, is that it would be highly desirable for all cases against political and court personalities to go through so many stages of review and have the swiftness of this one. And, meanwhile, Campagnoli shouldn’t be so blatant in coordinating his communication strategy with some media outlets.