On July 19, 2006, Jorge González Nieva arrived at his home in located in the district of Merlo, Buenos Aires Province, after a day at work to find a group of police officers waiting for him. According to his account, the officers arrested him and took him to a police precinct where they beat him. They threatened to frame him for a robbery and murder earlier that year if he didn’t give them a large sum of money.
González Nieva refused to pay and thus was put in prison.
The first judge who investigated the events decided to put him in pre-trial arrest in 2006, and he has been there ever since, even though the case does not have a firm sentence — that is, it hasn’t been confirmed by all courts able to take the case.
This first judge in fact sentenced González Nieva to 25 years in prison for having taken part in the robbery and murder. The accused appealed, but didn’t see any action until his case was taken to the Supreme Court in 2015. Now, three years later, there still has been no change.
The case was brought to the limelight after the Innocence Foundation Project Argentina investigated the case and concluded that González Nieva was in fact innocent, something that prompted Amnesty International to send a letter to the Supreme Court.
Amnesty highlights that, according to the existing evidence — both present in the case and provided by the Innocence project — a person who actually was a part of the robbery admitted that González Nieva was not involved in any way and has subsequently been arrested; the eye-witness to the robbery who previously identified González Nieva admitted that he lied, and that the only reason he said that he saw him at the scene was because the police threatened him; the officials who initially arrested González Nieva and framed him were sentenced to jail for concealment, false testimony and extortion; the prosecutor on the case was suspended from office in 2017.
Nonetheless, Jorge González Nieva still stands behind bars to this day.
This case is far from unique. In fact, according to The National Prison Administration of Argentina (NPA or Procuración Penitenciaria de la Nación), 60 percent of all prisoners in the federal system have not been officially convicted. The Amnesty International letter indicates that this widespread use of pre-trial arrests infringes on the innate rights given to each human internationally.
“According to international human rights laws, all people enjoy the presumption of innocence, according to which a person is innocent until proven otherwise,” states Mariela Belski, the director of Amnesty International Argentina. “This implies that, except for extreme circumstances, everyone has the right to a sentence in freedom and must be guaranteed a right to defend themselves in court.”
The idea behind pre-trial arrest is to give judges power to imprison suspects if they have a firm belief that there’s a risk that the detainee will either flee the country or tamper with the investigation. Minister of Justice Germán Garavano had this to say on the matter in April:
“I don’t necessarily believe in putting people in jail without finishing their trial. Putting someone in prison before their sentencing has to be something exceptional and has to be evaluated fairly by each judge,” he posited.