Root and branch judicial reform urged by top academic

5 August 2018

Eduardo Dargent from Lima’s Catholic University (PUCP) is someone who has long studied the Peruvian judiciary. His opinion piece, published in La República on 4 August, is worth reading. 

In it, he traces the nature of judicial corruption back to the 1980s and how it has developed since. He identifies three periods. In the 1980s, judicial corruption was organised through political parties, or at least those with access to power. Mentioning no names (one can easily guess whom he has in mind) he talks of “individuals” within the party system with close ties to the judicial mafia.

In the 1990s, with the collapse of political parties, the mechanisms of judicial corruption changed. “Magistrates who operated the judicial system”, he says “responded to the interest of the president [Fujimori] in re-election, his majority in Congress and the SIN [Servicio de Inteligencia Nacional]. This led to systematic and institutionalised corruption.

He goes on to argue that today’s judicial mafia enjoy much more autonomy, “a mafia linked to a series of illegal and informal interests [...] but also a mafia disposed to issue judgements for formal sector firms, that works in private-sector corruption and which provides political favours”. The system works through the ability to control appointments to the Consejo Nacional de la Magistratura (CNM), the entity responsible for appointments to judges, prosecutors and other leading state officials.

Taking his cue from the language used in the recordings of conversations between members of the judiciary and those in their thrall, Dargent sees these as no longer coming from the top drawer of society. Indeed, some justify their activities on the grounds that they do not belong to the ‘caviar set’, the phrase often used to describe the upper crust, whether left-wing, liberal or even right-wing.

How to clean things up? It is no longer just a matter of changing laws. Dargent argues that there needs to be an overhaul of the way in which appointments are made to ensure that people are put in senior positions who are willing and able “to shine light into where there is darkness” and to show that “honesty is not something that is subject to negotiation”.

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