the backlog of cases. These posts were occupied by provisional and substitute magistrates, thus
reinforcing the provisional character of the judicial system.
Some important achievements in the area of judicial reform include introducing computerized systems
into the administrative and jurisdictional procedures, creating specialized tribunals in different areas of
the country, and establishing corporate offices to accelerate case processing. Other accomplishments
include training for jurisdictional, administrative, and auxiliary personnel. In addition, the judicial branch
budget and revenues were increased, improving judges' salaries. These measures, adopted in an
atmosphere of strong political control, sought to limit the natural self government mechanisms of the
judicial branch and to exclude judges from designating their own authorities. Reforms of the Public
Ministry, by contrast, have been minimal, in spite of the fact that (or perhaps because) institutional
leadership has remained concentrated in a single individual,
a situation that has worsened due to the
failure to implement a new Penal Code
Despite advances in judicial modernization, there remains a high degree of political intervention and
corruption in the judicial branch. The most critical problems include the following:
The politically tenuous position of provisional judges affords the government political control over
the judicial apparatus. The lack of job stability renders the provisional or substitute magistrate
vulnerable to political or economic pressure, since his/her tenure often depends upon not
contradicting judicial authorities. In many cases, the composition of a particular court was modified
or a judge changed when deciding cases affecting government interests, or a member was removed as
a punishment for failing to decide in favor of the government.
The persistence of military courts in the hands of military officers, most of whom have no formal
legal training. These courts continue to decide civilian cases of major importance, such as cases of
treason or terrorism. Its decisions are supreme; they are not subject to review by the judicial branch.
Military trials are speedy, but they ignore essential due process guarantees, and the secrecy of the
process allows little control over or knowledge of this tribunal's performance or of the legal grounds
of its verdicts, all of which makes the defense of the accused precarious.
The Constitutional Tribunal, after the Congress dismissed three of its seven magistrates, has been
rendered incapable of deciding on the constitutionality of laws. Meanwhile, Congress passes laws that
After the coup of 1992, the Government named Blanca Nelida Colan as Attorney General or director of the Public
Ministry. She was reelected for two consecutive terms, by means of laws expressly issued by the Congress in order
to assure her continuity, over the objections of most of supreme attorneys. In June 1996 she simultaneously
occupied the position of President of the Executive Commission and Director of the Public Ministry. When she
finished her last term in the Public Ministry, she was replaced by Miguel Aljovin, but his main powers were
clipped, turning him into a practically decorative figure until the recent culmination of his term. At present, Ms.
Colan has again been named Attorney General and retains her position of President of the Executive Commission.
After nearly eight years in charge of this institution, the lack of significant reforms can be claimed to be her direct
responsibility, as well as the notorious submission of the Public Ministry to the Executive, even greater than the one
noticed in the Judicial Power.
The new Penal Procedural Code was approved by the Congress and the Executive's Review Commission in 1991.
This law introduces the accusatory system, attorney's investigation and diverse guarantees for an appropriate penal
process. However, the Government enforced only a few articles of this Code, delaying enforcement until May 1994.
This enforcement has been continuously postponed until the present time, by virtue of express ban from the
Executive, influenced in turn by the Ministry of the Interior, the Police, and the state security bodies.
H:\INCOMING\July24\MSI Submission\Fn Email.doc