The Lower House.

The Chamber of Deputies approved a bill to prevent the procedural benefit known as “two for one” be applied in crimes against humanity cases yesterday. The project comes on the back of the Supreme Court’s decision to do observe a law that would reduce the total amount of time war criminals would spend behind bars, something that generated widespread criticism from both ends of the political spectrum and human rights organizations both on a national and international level.

The Senate is set to approve the law in a special session today, before the beginning of the march human rights organizations called to protest the ruling issued by Justices Horacio Rosatti, Carlos Rosenkrantz and Elena Highton de Nolasco.

Consensus in the Lower House was almost unanimous: 211 of the 212 deputies present voted in favor of the initiative. The only one who voted against it was the ever controversial Alfredo Olmedo, from Salta. But considering that he has spoken in favor of the death penalty, against same-sex marriage — “I have my ass closed and my mind open,” he said at the time — called for the return of the draft and presented a project to wish “success” to U.S. President Donald Trump after being elected, his decision is not all that much surprising.

“We need to judge military members and terrorists as well. We have to provide justice evenly for both sides, I don’t want any more division in the country,” Olmedo said when leaving the chamber. By terrorists he was making reference to the leftist guerrilla group Montoneros who were active during the time of Argentina’s last military dictatorship.

The session was originally meant to discuss and eventually approve a series of international treaties, but the need of all parties to provide an answer to the unanimously criticized ruling changed the plans. However, and in line with the current political times, there was also time for finger pointing and crossed accusations even though everyone voted in favor of the project.

The Supreme Court. Photo via Agenda Diplomatica
The Supreme Court. Photo via Agenda Diplomatica

Civic Coalition (CC) and co-founder of the Cambiemos coalition, Elisa Carrió, sought to pin the blame on the Victory Front (FpV) for not passing a law to prevent the Supreme Court from having the ability to apply the benefit during the party’s time at the Executive branch. “The law comes to solve a mistake not only from the Court, but from this Legislative branch as well,” she said.

She went ton to talk about the elder former military members and requested to apply “humanitarian law, as revenge is not justice.” This statement was met with criticism from the FpV caucus and the Mothers and Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo present at the session.

“What justice are we talking about? We have been waiting for justice for 40 years,” replied Remo Carlotto, Evita movement Deputy. Other deputies criticized the fact that President Mauricio Macri hasn’t publicly spoken about the ruling. “Macri’s silence is stunning,” said Renewal Front (FR) leader Sergio Massa.

The bill only has four articles and establishes that the “two for one” benefit won’t be applied to cases of the crimes against humanity defined in the Rome Statute: Crimes against humanity; Genocide and War Crimes — the crime of aggression hasn’t been fully incorporated to the statute.

The law also indicates that the benefit will only be applied to those convicted who were held in preemptive custody during the period in which the law was in effect, between 1994 and 2001.

Numerous human rights organizations called a March to Plaza de Mayo today at 6 PM to protest against the Supreme Court’s decision. It’s expected the Senate will approve the law before it begins.

Yesterday, Federal Prosecutor Guillermo Marijuán formally accused Supreme Court Justices Carlos Rosatti, Carlos Rosenkrantz and Elena Highton de Nolasco of issuing a ruling that goes against the law for voting in favor of the benefit.

It will now be up to Federal Judge Daniel Rafecas to determine whether there is enough evidence to proceed in prosecuting the Supreme Court justices, and begin a formal investigation. “It’s an extremely delicate situation from an institutional point of view,” said Rafecas when asked for his thoughts about the ruling.

“We were positively surprised about the way society responded to the ruling. I think it’s a symptom of maturity from the democratic society,” he added.

Three other organisations pressed charges as a result of the ruling, but in these cases charges were filed against the Argentine State for allegedly violating the rights of the victims of state terrorism. This was done before the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IAHCR).