Argentina and the Judiciary: subverting the rule of law

Argentina and the Judiciary: subverting the rule of law



The upper house in Argentina’s Congress has approved a series of laws proposed by the government that allow the executive branch to exert considerable influence over the judiciary, threatening the already limited independence of the country’s judicial system.

Under these reforms, the Council of Magistrates (Consejo de la Magistratura), which is in charge of several key functions in the judiciary including proposing candidates and removing them, will be elected by citizens.

133 out of 144
Argentina ranks 133rd out of 144 countries for judicial independence

This gives undue influence over the judiciary to the party in power. In the Transparency International 2011 Global Corruption Barometer people in Argentina identified political parties as the institution they perceived as most corrupt. In addition, judges that run on the ticket of the ruling party will have a significant advantage because the government can more easily promote its nominees in a process that will be unfamiliar to the electorate.

The government has claimed that the new laws are “democratising the judiciary”, but in reality rather than promoting democracy they threaten the country’s rule of law by concentrating too much power in the executive branch.

The timing of the new law, which will have to be passed by the lower house, highlights the tension between the political and the judicial branches of the state. In recent months, the courts have refused to allow legal moves by the government to break up media groups seen by President Cristina Kirchner as monopolistic and biased.

The latest proposal was roundly criticised by civil society and the press. Poder Ciudadano, the Transparency International chapter in Argentina, issued a statement calling on the Senate to reject the laws.

Argentina executive and judiciary: a tale of undue influence


In a high profile scandal, in 2012 Vice President Amado Boudou was accused of illegal enrichment, money laundering and influence peddling to allegedly prevent the bankruptcy of a mint and printing company. Rather than leading to legal consequences for the accused, so far the allegations have resulted in the removal of the presiding judge and resignation of the prosecutor. This followed Boudou’s alleged business partner’s accusations that the presiding judge lost his objectivity. Criminal charges were brought against the prosecutor by Boudou himself.

Read more from Argentina’s country profile here

 

The move by Congress comes just one day before a march against the government that is expected to bring large crowds on to the streets of Buenos Aires and other major cities, the second such protest in less than six months. Many people in Argentina are dissatisfied with the high levels of corruption and impunity in government circles.

An independent judiciary, unafraid to hold government to account, is an essential element of any strong system to fight against corruption. Without credible rule of law government officials, particularly in the executive, cannot be held accountable for their actions. A judiciary beholden to the ruling party cannot be counted on to act impartially. 

Reforms in the judiciary to strengthen its independence should be made a priority – Argentina ranks 133rd out of 144 countries for judicial independence, according to a 2012-2013 report by the World Economic Forum. However, the current package of reforms will only further curtail independence in the judiciary.

Judicial reforms: Recommendations for Argentina

Judicial corruption is a threat in many countries, as noted in the 2007 Global Corruption report on the judiciary. Argentina was singled out as a country where government control of the judiciary is too strong. The recent reforms reinforce and broaden the government’s powers. We recommend the following:

  • The separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary needs to be strengthened
  • Citizens must be guaranteed access to justice fairly, without fear of political interference, and in a timely manner.
  • There must be a broad discussion on the nature of the reforms, which includes input from civil society.

 

For any press enquiries please contact press@transparency.org

Latest

Support Transparency International

Fighting land corruption in Sub-Saharan Africa: Widows tell their story

See a short film created by Ghanaian widows evicted from their land who decided to organise and challenge official indifference.

Corruption in Asia Pacific: what 20,000+ people told us

We spoke to nearly 22,000 people about their recent experiences with corruption in 16 countries and territories in the Asia Pacific region. See what they revealed.

FIFA must do more to win back trust of football fans

It’s been one year since Gianni Infantino was elected president of FIFA with promises to clean up football. How do football fans think he's doing?

17 commitments for a clean Bulgaria – will politicians sign on?

Bulgaria’s voters will head to the polls in a snap election on 26 March. Our chapter is urging politicians to commit to needed reforms.

Applications now open for the Transparency Summer School on Integrity 2017

Apply now for the Transparency School on Integrity (TISI), taking place during 10-16 July, 2017 in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Open data: promise, but not enough progress from G20 countries

G20 countries made commitments to publish data that could help curb corruption. How well are they keeping their promises?

República Dominicana marcha para acabar con la impunidad

Desde que salió a la luz el escándalo de corrupción en torno al constructor Odebrecht, miles de dominicanos salieron a la calle para denunciar la impunidad y luchar contra la corrupción.

Social Media

Hundreds of anti-corruption protesters arrested in Russia after mass demonstrations

Hundreds of people have been arrested in a crackdown in Russia after thousands gathered for massive anti-corruption protests Sunday in the nation's capital, and other demonstrations were held in dozens of cities across the country.

abcnews.go.com

A Life Sentence in Cambodia, but Kem Ley’s Murder Is Far From Solved

The man on trial had admitted shooting Mr. Kem Ley, a government critic. But glaring holes in the case, which recalled past assassinations, raise troubling questions.

nytimes.com

Follow us on Social Media

Would you like to know more?

Sign up to stay informed about corruption news and our work around the world