The Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) presented its “Report on the acts of violence and human rights violations between September 1 and December 31, 2019” in Bolivia a few weeks ago. With more than 500 pages, the devastating document shocks Bolivian society in several ways.
One of them relates to justice, its mismanagement and its exploitation by political power. The GIEI warns that the lack of independence of the administration of justice persists as a structural problem in Bolivia.
“Monitoring the functioning of the judicial system has resulted in judges, judges and prosecutors being exposed to pressure and outside influence, particularly from political spheres, in the exercise of their functions, as the analysis of investigations and judicial proceedings shows.” Throughout the report “, it says literally in the document.
Since the GIEI report is binding, i.e. its recommendations are binding, the government reacted and this week proposed a judicial reform on the basis of six axes.
However, the proposal put forward by Justice Minister Iván Lima is criticized and watched by analysts, lawyers and constitutionalists, mainly because it does not affect the source of the problem, namely the way judges are selected. and that happens through the opening of the constitution
State Policy (CPE) to introduce the reforms.
Another observation they make is their superficiality. Critics point out that these are not structural changes, as justice takes profound changes.
In an interview with the ANF, lawyers and analysts Germán Gutiérrez and Juan del Granado scrutinized the six proposals for judicial reform made by Justice Minister Iván Lima.
The 6 axes of Lima
1.- Balance the conflict. It consists in the uniform and strategic distribution of judges in the country according to population size and legal disputes.
For the lawyer Germán Gutiérrez, the fundamental question that the government does not address is the choice of the high authorities of the judiciary.
“It is venerable nonsense because I believe that one of the elements of these authorities’ relationship with political power is the form of their choice,” he said.
He pointed out that it is not true that all candidates have an independent, impartial and segregated attitude, for example from social movements. These “are the ones who promote all these candidates and of course there is some dependence on that political power because they have to collect the bill,” he said.
Jurist Juan del Granado noted that the Ministry of Justice’s proposal does not highlight the need to increase the number of judges. “What are we doing with 1,098 judges for 11 million Bolivians and half of the communities that have no judges or prosecutors?”
Lima’s proposal is a “general public that will not solve anything,” he said.
2.- Access to justice. This is intended to promote equal access for the entire population, especially those in a situation of vulnerability and with limited resources.
On this point, Gutiérrez said that it is an issue that has always been raised and even in the current legislation there is dispute resolution through mediation and arbitration. However, this does not work because, despite appropriate mechanisms that enable this solution, there was no serious government policy.
Del Granado said that the state approach does not ensure efficient access to justice because of the small number of judges who are poorly paid, unsuitable and subordinate to political power.
3.- Judicial independence. Judicial independence is to be strengthened by promoting and monitoring performance-oriented and transparent procedures.
Gutiérrez pointed out that this is always suggested and that he agrees with the meritocratic procedures for the election of high judicial authorities, as has been practiced in the past, but this has been shortened with the vote.
He said that one element “makes the independence of the judiciary” impossible “in the country, the definition of” decolonization and depatriarization of the judiciary “, which he considers to be an” unfinished political concept “.
Del Granado questioned that in raising “judicial independence” Lima “made no reference at all to the appointment of chief judges, which is the origin and cause (of the problem), which then spreads to the entire judiciary”. The chief judges were partisan and politically appointed by two-thirds of the MAS.
4.- ICT solutions. The government’s strategic plan aims to promote the digital transformation of the justice administration model through the intensive use of interoperable computer platforms, expert systems and artificial intelligence.
For Gutiérrez, the digital transformation of the judiciary has already been carried out in different rooms and he found it very appropriate.
Del Granado said that information and communication technology (ICT) solutions are “a step forward”, but financial resources are also required if a comprehensive vision of a computer system is to be sought.
5.- Regulation development. In this area it is planned to develop and implement public policies and specific regulations to reform the judicial system.
Gutiérrez stated that he continues to aim to change laws like the Marcelo Quiroga Santa Cruz or the Civil Liability Court Act, which aims to “have more judges to remove the filth from half the world that opposes political power “.
Del Granado questioned the fifth axis, stating that normative development was reacting to the “old erroneous theory that changing the law will change justice”.
He illustrated that in the past three decades the criminal procedure has been changed three times, but crime continues to increase.
6.- Transparency. The aim is to promote ethics and transparency in public administration and to intensify the fight against corruption through access to information.
Gutiérrez asked how ethics and transparency should be promoted and how the fight against corruption should be stepped up, as proposed by Minister Lima.
“I ask how, because if someone goes beyond what’s already been perverted, multiple judges and multiple prosecutors, it’s political power, it’s an order; You say you will do this, you will pursue this one, you will pursue some, and the very clear example is what is happening today with Mrs Añez, with the former vice ministers, with the former ministers, ”he said.
Del Granado criticized Minister Lima’s speech: “What ethics and what fight against corruption can there be? When judges and prosecutors are submissive and obedient to the government of the times and believe that they will go unpunished to cause innumerable mischief, who can do it ? “It is sanctioned if they are government employees and are protected by them”.
MISTRUST IN JUSTICE
One of the conclusions of the GIEI reads: “The administration of justice and the security forces, which are directly linked to the enforcement of human rights, are lagging behind in the process of change. Citizens do not trust them, they perceive them as hostile, far removed from their realities and interests, and reproduce discrimination ”.
According to the document of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI), various Bolivian civil society organizations denounced a variety of deficiencies in the judicial system that hinder the independent and effective development of their functions.
Several factors contributed to political interference in the judiciary. This includes the fact that the majority of judges and prosecutors currently hold temporary positions, coupled with the lack of independence of the institutions responsible for appointing these officials. Another factor that indicates political interference is the tight budget for the judiciary.
On the first point, reforms introduced after the adoption of the 2009 Constitution have gradually undermined the stability of the judiciary’s position and weakened the guarantee of a legal career.
The GIEI is also concerned that the independence of the judiciary has been weakened due to the inadequate budget for this sector. Based on information systematized by civil society, the budget for this sector between 2014 and 2019 was less than 0.5% of the total consolidated government budget.
For the 2019 management, the budget allocated to the justice sector was 0.49%. In 2020 there were new budget cuts that reached 15.37% of the forecast amount, which, according to the presidents of the Supreme Court, the Agro-Environment Court and the Magistrate Council, directly affected “the independence of the judiciary and budgetary autonomy” constitutionally “.
In his interview with the GIEI, the attorney general pointed out that the state ministry was unable to hire new staff due to the 15 percent budget cut for 2021 and was forced to cut salaries.
LAWYER LANCHIPA, “IN THE BANQUILLO DE LA SHAME”
The lawyer and former mayor of La Paz, Juan del Granado, said that there is currently protection for the judicial and financial authorities because “they are their operators, they are quasi government employees, almost because they are members of an independent judicial authority that it is not, or an autonomous public ministry that it is not, “he said. He added that the change in judicial authorities would have to be due to a reform of the state’s political constitution,” with that I agree ” it is imperative to change the electoral method of the Chief Justice “because they were elected with two-thirds of the MAS”, which does not guarantee their independence and impartiality.
In the case of Attorney General Juan Lanchipa, Del Granado was more restrictive, suggesting that that agency should resign, even more after the GIEI report that “put him on the bank of shame”.
The lawyer and politician from Chuquisaca, German Gutiérrez, called the judicial reform proposal submitted by Justice Minister Iván Lima as incomplete and sees no guarantee that this process will take place. He also observes the government’s lack of will for a consensus process which, on the contrary, “only creates confrontation”.
“It is an incomplete proposal, it does not touch the key issues,” he said.