Argentina openly clashes with UN over the judicial reform; calls Rapporteur ‘ignorant’
Argentina expressed on Tuesday its discomfort over the unheard of attitude displayed by the UN Special Rapporteur, Gabriela Knaul, who urged the Cristina Fernández administration to reconsider the Council of Magistrates reform and injunction regulation bills.
In a press statement released by the Foreign Ministry, the Argentine government said the UN's message not only strays from the standards of professional and independence ethics expected from the head of an organization such as the Rapporteur, but it also shows a lack of balance. It is a stray from the Rapporteur's mandate.
It's paradoxical that whoever has obtained the mandate to protect the independence of judges and lawyers lambastes the basic principles of the law and arriving to conclusions without even getting the answers to the questions she asked last Friday evening, the Ministry said.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, urged the Argentine Government to review the bills on the Magistrates Council reform and ruling of the cautionary measures, approved by the Lower House last week.
Knaul classified “selection of Magistrates Council members via political parties” and “limits to the cautionary measures” as bills that “contradict with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).”
“The State has the responsibility to ensure the independence of the judiciary by respecting its laws and international standards,” stressed the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.
“By providing the opportunity for political parties to propose and organize the election of the directors, the independence of the Magistrates Council is put at risk, which seriously compromises the principles of separation of powers and independence of the judiciary, which are fundamental elements of any democracy and any rule of law,” Ms. Knaul said.
“The provision on partisan election of members of the Magistrates 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,” Ms. Knaul said.
The draft law also modifies the requirements to be a candidate to become a member of the Council, and reduces the majorities required for the adoption of relevant decisions, including for the removal of judges, with no possibility of appeal.
“I call on Argentina to establish clear procedures and objective criteria for the dismissal and punishment of judges, and to ensure an effective process through which judges can challenge those decisions in order to safeguard judicial independence,” said the Special Rapporteur.
The Argentine government insisted in its reply that the UN Rapporteur with its release, before receiving Argentina’s reply on her requests “turned the UN into prosecutor, magistrate and executioner of a member country”.
The Foreign ministry release says that the Argentine representation before the international organization in Geneva held a meeting with Jane Connors, head of the Special Procedures Division from the High Commissioner Office for Human Rights “to express its displeasure with the misconduct of the Rapporteur lease” and then states that “the same concern with the improper conduct of the Rapporteur is shared by the High Commissioner’s Office”.
Finally Argentina states that the Rapporteur expresses “ignorance or political partisanship on recommending a participative and inclusive dialogue with the society and juridical community”, because there was feedback from civil society which “proposed and obtained several changes incorporated to the bills in discussion”.
But the judiciary reform which is already partly promulgated in the midst of great controversy in the Argentine Congress, and despite the attack on the US Rapporteur, has been questioned by most of the opposition political arch, magistrates and lawyers groupings plus national and international organizations.
On Tuesday a decree promulgated the law that controls injunctions against the state following last week’s session at the Lower House when the bill was passed amid strong tensions between ruling party and opposition lawmakers.
The 456/2013 decree was published at the official gazette promulgating the controversial law, part of the six-bill package submitted to Congress by President Cristina Fernández with the purpose of “democratization” Argentina’s judiciary system.