Head of the Senate, Federico PInedo. Photo via La Capital

The government’s caucus in the senate will spearhead a bill to narrow down the criteria used to apply the procedural benefit popularly known as “two for one,” which indicates that the time inmates spend in preemptive detention without a firm ruling will be calculated at a factor of two as part of their total conviction time, starting at the beginning of the second year of their imprisonment.

The initiative, which will be drafted by the Senate’s provisional president, Federico Pinedo, comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s controversial decision to apply it in a case against Luis Muiña, a former military member convicted of crimes against humanity committed during the last dictatorship.

This move is causing quite the stir among legal scholars and human rights groups because the Supreme Court’s decision is based on a law that was abolished in 2001. The discoid is crutched on the “most benign law” principle which, as the name indicates, stipulates that that the courts will always use the law that benefits the accused person when sentencing the conviction.

Photo via El Intransigente
Photo via El Intransigente

However, it was the fact that the “benefit” was applied to a case involving crimes against humanity, rather than arguments on its constitutionality, that caused widespread criticism from all sides of the political spectrum and human rights organizations. In fact, that was the argument used by Supreme Court President Ricardo Lorenzetti and Justice Juan Carlos Maqueda to reject the “benefit” be applied to Muiña.

“The principle [of the most benign law] is constitutional and requires an evaluation on whether the posterior law [the two for one] is the expression of a change in the consideration of the crime. This has not happened,” argued the justices in a joint vote. Justices Horacio Rosatti, Carlos Rosenkrantz and Elena Highton de Nolasco voted in favor of the ruling.

Prompted by the universal outrage, Pinedo anticipated that the Cambiemos caucus in the Senate will introduce a bill “which establishes that the ‘two for one’ benefit will only be applied to people who were in preemptive prison during the time the law was in effect, between 1994 and 2001.”

“The ‘two for one’ law was disastrous. When I saw the Court’s ruling I thought it could be applied to repressors who were detained during that period. I  believe the law could be applied to those who were imprisoned while the law was in effect, not after it was abolished.

The Court’s decision prompted thousands of convicted — several hundreds of them of crimes against humanity — to request the benefit be applied to them as well.

Even though Pinedo clarified that the Court’s rulings must be respected — “that’s what the justices decided and I respect the separation of powers” — he considered that this particular decision “reopens wounds, rather than prompting reconciliation.” Social organizations such as La Garganta Poderosa have called people to march on Wednesday and Thursday against the ruling.