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July 23, 2017
Friday, May 12, 2017

A decision which breaches international commitments

By Mariela Belski
For the Herald

Argentina has become a world leader in the struggle against impunity, making a substantial contribution to promoting the right to truth and justice at a local, regional and global level.

When faced with crimes against humanity, the state has international obligations: it cannot amnesty, it cannot pardon, it cannot plead a spurious double jeopardy or inflict token punishment and neither can it reduce sentences, a benefit which in practice is equivalent to commuting the punishment.

There is an overwhelming consensus — both national and international — over upholding the prohibition of amnesties and other steps towards impunity in the case of crimes involving international law, including crimes against humanity.

We at Amnesty International have constantly opposed all measures of impunity without exception since they prevent the truth from coming to light or a verdict of guilty or innocent being confirmed or full reparations being offered to the victims and their families. In this sense, we consider that crimes against humanity do not allow the Supreme Court the authority to make interpretations, as it did in the ruling known as “2x1.”

Law 24,390 (commonly known as the “2x1”) was approved in 1994 and established that for every day beyond two years a person was held in pre-trial detention (i.e. without a conviction), two days would be counted for the purposes of serving the sentence. This norm was introduced to alleviate prison overcrowding and was repealed in 2001.

During those years both the Due Obedience and Full Stop laws were in force, an impunity package which prevented crimes against humanity from being tried. None of the possible beneficiaries of this latest Supreme Court ruling was thus being held in pre-trial detention during those years.

In its Mazzeo rulings of 2007, the Supreme Court had understood that “international law and human rights in various treaties and documents impose on the entire international community the obligation to pursue, investigate and fully punish those responsible for committing crimes which constitute grave violations of human rights” and that this obligation urgently needs to be applied to Argentine jurisprudence. With the “2x1” ruling, the highest court is straying from that path.

On Wednesday, the most diverse sectors converged in the street to repudiate that ruling.

Amnesty International is now actively participating in the drafting of a United Nations Convention on Crimes against Humanity. Having a ban on any amnesties for the presumed suspects of crimes against humanity and having procedures which permit the victims of such crimes to obtain reparations are, among various other relevant issues, matters of serious concern for the organisation. Setbacks such as that occurring in recent days cannot tarnish that process.

Mariela Belski is the executive director of Amnesty International in Argentina.

@amnistiaar

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