Argentina: Opening Up the Governance of the Judiciary

13 January 2012

By Natalia Torres

Torres is Senior Researcher at the Center for Studies on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information  (CELE) in Argentina. See this article Spanish.

At the end of December 1999 the National Congress approved the National Law of Ethics in the Practice of Public Functions.  This established, among other things, a process for the presentation of affidavits of public officials.  The first resolution of 2000, or, that is to say, the first activity of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation was to undermine the text approved in Congress and to affirm that the judiciary should be exempted from the legislation as anathema to the division of powers.  

A decade later, largely composed of new members, our country’s main court of justice continues to differentiate itself from its predecessor.

 A few days ago the Court launched the Web site for the Open Government Initiative (www.cij.gov.ar/gobiernoabierto), “an initiative that aims to encourage citizen’s participation in the administration of justice, to promote the transparency of government acts and to intensify the work that has come out of the Highest Court with regards to access to information,” according to the body’s announcement. 

The site aims to publish in a proactive manner the decisions that make up the administrative management of the court: its acts of governance, the budget and its execution, the purchases and hiring processes and the administration of personnel.  It also aims to be a window for the participation of citizens: “Open Government also offers all citizens the possibility of having their voice heard, thanks to the latest technological advances that permit us to construct instruments that can make institutions more democratic and take advantage of the collective intelligence.” 

It’s true that accessing judges’ affidavits continues to be a complex process, and that the resistance found in some members of the Judiciary is in contrast to the initiatives begun by the Supreme Court. 

But the Open Government Initiative and its main precedent, the Center for Judicial Information (http://www.cij.gov.ar/inicio.html ) are policies that we should celebrate, and make us think that thorough regulations and a comprehensive right-to-know law in our country are not very far away. In contrast to a decade ago, today’s Argentina also boasts similar initiatives:

           in the Executive Branch, Decree 1172/03 that regulates access to information in its scope;

           in the Legislative Branch,  where they have created the Offices for Public Information; and

           in widespread recognition of the right to know in the sub-national realm, where almost half of the provinces have moved forward in approving norms aimed at regulating public information. 

We’re waiting for the long-awaited national law to arrive. 

Unfortunately Congress lost the opportunity to pass it in 2011.  Now we must start again.  Who knows, maybe 2012 will be the year of the right to information.

Be Sociable, Share!

Filed under: Latest Features