Argentina’s renowned process to ensure justice is done for the crimes against humanity committed during the last dictatorship suffered a blow last week. The Supreme Court ruled that Luis Muiña, who was convicted of such crimes, could benefit from a sharp reduction to his prison term, which rendered the sanction against him insignificant. This split decision by the high court applied the so-called “2 for 1” law, in effect from 1994 to 2001, to his case – even though he committed the crimes prior to this period and his detention, trial and conviction all took place after it was repealed. The law stated that any year spent in pretrial detention after the first two years should count doubly, effectively reducing prison terms. Right after the ruling, perpetrators of similar crimes began filing their petitions to be released.
According to international human rights law, crimes against humanity are not everyday crimes, they have no statute of limitations, and they cannot be pardoned. This law was never meant to be applied to crimes against humanity, and the Supreme Court decision sparked outrage across the ideological spectrum in Argentina. Human rights organizations reacted immediately, as did a host of politicians, lawyers and judges, television personalities, and so on. The consensus was clear: impunity over crimes against humanity would not be tolerated.
In record time, Argentina’s Congress unanimously passed a law that seeks to ensure the “2 for 1” law is not applied to perpetrators of these crimes. This sent a strong message to the Supreme Court and the judiciary as a whole. However, politicians reacted a step behind society, as has tended to happen throughout the process of justice and truth. They scrambled to pass the law before a massive march on the emblematic Plaza de Mayo began yesterday evening.
An estimated half a million people took to the streets on Wednesday, rallying under the slogan of “Judges: Never Again. No mass murderers freed.” This show of force marked a new milestone in our country’s process of memory, truth and justice – which has been recognized internationally for its prosecutions in ordinary tribunals that respect all due process guarantees. Once again, Argentines showed they were not willing to make any concessions, or accept any rollbacks, in sanctioning the dictatorship’s crimes. Nunca Más.