Following the assassination of a candy store vendor over the weekend in the outskirts of Buenos Aires, rage got hold of most Argentines as the alleged perpetrators of the robbery gone bad were captured a few minutes after the attack.
The reported criminals were a 29-year-old man and a 15-year-old woman who benefitted from juvenile legislation. In that scenario, Mendoza National Deputy Luis Petri of the UCR (included in Together for a Change – JxC) Wednesday submitted a bill to make criminals accountable since the age of 14.
This stance has been long resisted by human rights groups. Hence the opposition's drive to capitalize on it ahead of Sunday's mid-term elections. The bill seeks to lower the age of accountability to 14 years, currently set at 16 years.
The main purpose of the juvenile criminal responsibility system is to foster in adolescents a sense of responsibility for their actions and to ensure their social integration. With this objective, this regime will include a comprehensive and interdisciplinary approach, Petri's bill says.
The draft also points out that it is necessary to establish a system of juvenile criminal responsibility, stripped of all tutelary aftertaste, establishing a criminal responsibility process from the age of 14.
Otherwise, it means establishing impunity for the crime in advance by legal means, closing any possibility of justice for the individual victim, even though the perpetrator was in a position to understand the criminality of the crime committed, Petri went on.
Argentina is a crime haven for teenagers. ”The vast majority of Latin American and European countries include minors in their Juvenile Criminal Responsibility regimes from the age of 14 (Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, Spain, Germany, Italy), 13 years (Uruguay, France, Guatemala, Nicaragua), or 12 years (Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru), among many other countries, Petri explained.
Crimes cannot go unpunished in Argentina when the person who committed them understood the criminality of the act. We must give the debate of a Comprehensive System of Juvenile Criminal Responsibility, which provides penalties and establishments for their differentiated compliance, which provides alternative measures to those of imprisonment according to the seriousness of the crime, guarantees the right to defence and due process, which eradicates all guardianship remnants and can avoid and prevent the criminal escalation of minors in conflict with criminal law, increasing the possibilities of re-socialization and granting effective judicial protection for the victims,” the Deputy insisted.