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Argentina / Judicial reform: UN expert calls for guarantees and respect for the independence of the judiciary

GENEVA (30 April 2013) - The United Nations Special Rapporteur Gabriela Knaul urged today the Government of Argentina to reconsider the draft bills on the reform of the Judicial Council (Consejo de la Magistratura) and the regulation of precautionary measures (medidas cautelares) in the country.

“The State has committed to ensuring the independence of the judiciary through respecting international standards in its domestic legislation,” stressed the independent expert appointed by the Human Rights Council of the UN to investigate and report on the independence of judges and lawyers in the world.

According to information received by the independent expert, the Chamber of Deputies approved the draft bills on the reform of the Judicial Council and the regulation of precautionary measures against the State on 24 April 2013. The first draft bill returned to the Senate of the Nation for its review of the changes made, while the second draft bill is ready for approval and publication.

Ms. Knaul noted with concern that the draft bill on the Judicial Council provides that members of the Council shall be elected by direct popular vote and that the candidacies shall be channelled through the lists of political parties.

“Providing the opportunity for political parties to propose and organize the election of the members of the Judicial Council threatens their independence, thereby seriously jeopardizing the principles of separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary, which constitute fundamental elements of any democracy and the rule of law,” underlined the expert.

“The provision on the partisan election of members of the Judicial Council is contrary to article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary,” affirmed the UN Special Rapporteur.

Similarly, the requirements to be a candidate to the Council are substantially modified, and the majorities required for the adoption of important decisions are reduced, including for decisions on the removal of judges, without possibility of any appeal.

“I call on Argentina to establish clear procedures and objective criteria for the dismissal and punishment of judges, and to ensure an effective remedy for judges to challenge those decisions, in order to safeguard judicial independence,” she said.

On the draft law regulating precautionary measures, the expert noted that “the use and the period of validity of precautionary measures against the State cannot be restricted. Otherwise, access to justice will not be fully guaranteed.”

“The limitations approved on the precautionary measures are contrary to articles 2 (3) and 14 (1) of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, among other relevant international standards,” alerted the UN Special Rapporteur.

Gabriela Knaul took up her functions as UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers on 1 August 2009. In that capacity, she acts independently from any Government or organization. Ms. Knaul has a long-standing experience as a judge in Brazil and is an expert in criminal justice and the administration of judicial systems.
Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Judiciary/Pages/IDPIndex.aspx

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Argentina: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/LACRegion/Pages/ARIndex.aspx

Check the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/indjudiciary.htm

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