Sunday
June 25, 2017
Thursday, April 13, 2017

Not one less

The shocking murder of the young Entre Ríos social activist Micaela García by a convicted rapist risks becoming a classic case of fools rushing in where angels fear to tread. President Mauricio Macri was very quick to pinpoint the blame on the judge granting the criminal parole, reflecting a broad segment of public opinion and echoed by members of his government. Yet whatever the interpretation, singling out the judge does not dig deep enough — while certainly not inculpable (having being advised from various sides not to let this particular criminal go), the judge was only following a fairly standard judicial practice in granting conditional freedom to a convict who had already served around 80 percent of his sentence. Applying the normal to the abnormal proved tragically wrong in this case but would probably have happened a couple of years down the road when the man had served out his term. The whole system needs to be questioned — if nine years is a fitting sentence for two rapes and whether crimes like murder and rape should be placed on a par with stealing apples in terms of rights to parole or whether those guilty of such extreme crimes have not crossed a line with society and waived such rights.

Nevertheless, these questions should not just be asked by a centre-right government or the law and order brigade. Micaela García belonged to the Ni Una Menos (Not one woman less) movement and a march is no longer enough — those behind that movement need to enter the legal and institutional debate of these issues before the questions are given the wrong answers by the wrong people. Because the hard-line approach to crime-fighting only leads to other innocent lives being lost for other motives. But beyond resisting philosophies which also include indulgent attitudes towards trigger-happy police, the sentencing of extreme crimes also needs to be addressed. Here international experience is a valuable guide and it might come as a surprise to learn that the prison terms imposed in Argentina are not unduly mild when compared to the penal codes of most civilised countries. This is a central complexity of an issue where a simplistic approach is always dangerous — how to reconcile the firm stand against femicide demanded by the Ni Una Menos movement with the norms of most advanced countries.

A judge is being held responsible for the cruel death of an idealistic young girl (and nor is he the only fallible and culpable member of his profession) but it is also the government, the entire judicial system and society as a whole which need to ask and answer questions. w

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