Friday, September 23, 2011

Not-so-Special Justice

Last Friday, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Jorge Rivera Áviles, rescinded his order of August 8 prohibiting the naming of police officers as court officers in relation to cases that involve raids and the dislodging of campesinos from land.

His reversal followed his participation Tuesday in a meeting between representatives of the Supreme Court, Military Command, the Police, and the Ministers of Defense and Security.

Previously the appointment of police officers to oversee the proper legal actions in police operations of these types was seen as a bad thing. Now its not seen by the Chief Justice as a problem.

At the meeting on Tuesday it was decided that the judiciary and security forces would no longer rely on local judges for court orders in their operations in the Bajo Aguan. Instead they will use special court officers, jueces ejecutores ("distrainor" in English, defined as the legal officer who seizes goods for debts, apparently used with a slightly wider meaning in this instance).

With no local connection, these jueces ejecutores will be flown in to the area, then escorted back to where they came from.

Why do they need special justices?

The military believes there is a problem getting court orders to dislodge campesinos who have invaded the plantations of the large land owners in the Bajo Aguan. They claim that local judges are reluctant to issue the orders because they fear for their lives.

The judges issuing the orders must physically be present during the operations by the military. According to at least one story in La Tribuna, they have been not showing up, causing operations to be canceled. By bringing in legal officers from other areas, this presumably will be avoided.

But these will not be just any legal officers: they will be police officers, overseeing the actions of other police officers.

This is a bad idea.

Its a bad idea because it makes the Police both Judge and Executioner. The legal system is designed as a series of checks and balances; this removes one of the checks.

Ana Pineda, the Minister of Human Rights, was not included in the Tuesday meeting that led Rivera Aviles to reverse his original decision. Pineda was supposedly consulted by phone about the appointments and gave her approval. We can only assume she didn't know that Rivera Áviles was going to rescind his order against having police officers appointed to these positions.

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