Peru Election 2006

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Judicial Reform is Dead

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Maxwell A. Cameron
January 8, 2006

There are important insights in a feature story from El Comercio, entitled “La Reforma Judicial Sigue Durmiendo,” January 8, 2006, pp. A1, A8-9-10. The basic thrust of the story is that judicial reform has simply gone into sleep mode. Notwithstanding comprehensive reforms recommended in a report by the Comision Especial para la Reforma Integral de la Administracion de la Justicia (known by its acronym CERIAJUS), Peru’s judicial power remains as inefficient, corrupt, and backlogged as ever.

Consider the facts:
– There are 33,630 prisoners in jail, which is 62 percent above penitentiary capacity. One prison, Lurigancho, is 300 percent over capacity.
– 70 percent of all prisoners have not been sentenced, and most wait 4 to 5 years for a sentence.
– It takes so long to get a sentence, that a public official can be elected using illegal vote-buying methods and by the time a sentence is given the term in office is over.
– Judges have been influenced by as little as 20 to 30 soles (34 soles = $10 US). Normally, however, it cost more like $5,000 to have a case dismissed, or as much as $20,000 if important people are involved.
The problems is not just money. Congress has appropriated 787 million soles in 2006 for the judiciary, up from 444 million in 2001. This is nowhere near adequate, but just as problematic is the fact that much of the money is misspent. A top-heavy bureaucracy of judges has been created, while the human and physical infrastructure of the judiciary collapses.
The best part of the report was the following quote:
“A few years ago my lawyer told me that $20,000 would be needed to arrange things [this is code for bribe] with some judge and when I gave him that I was sure the decision would come out, but today with this amount we no longer have a sentence secured because the other may offer double…not even in corruption is there juridical security.“

Written by Michael Ha

January 8th, 2006 at 10:21 pm

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