The UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers urged [press release] Argentina Tuesday to ensure the Judicial Council's independence by reconsidering two draft bills that were approved last week. The two bills reform the Judicial Council and regulate precautionary measures. One bill alters the council candidacy requirements and reduces the majority number requirements for decisions. Elections are held by direct popular vote, and judges can be removed without the option of appeal. UN expert Gabriela Knaul expressed concern over the "partisan election" provision and called on Argentina to establish clear procedures and criteria for judge dismissals, as well as a remedy to challenge the decision. She said, "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 rule of the law."
Argentina has been prosecuting those accused of committing human rights abuses during the nation's 1976-1983 "Dirty War" [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. During the "Dirty War", an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 people were forcibly kidnapped or "disappeared" in a government-sponsored campaign against suspected dissidents. In March Reynaldo Bignone was sentenced to life in prison [JURIST report], along with four other former soldiers found guilty of crimes committed against 23 victims. In March 2011 an Argentine court commenced the trial of former dictators Jorge Videla and Bignone for allegedly overseeing a systematic plan to steal babies [JURIST report] born to political prisoners during the "Dirty War."