Drug Policy Reformer Nominated to Supreme Court in Argentina
Eugenio Zaffaroni Proposed by President Kirchner
By Luis Gómez
Narco News Andean Bureau Chief
July 2, 2003
He supported the cause of the Argentine poet Juan Gelman in finding his granddaughter (who had been stolen, like many babies, by the soldiers of the last military dictatorship in Argentina). He was a Constitutional Congressman in 1994 to reform his country’s Constitution, and he is one of the authors of the Magna Carta of the City of Buenos Aires.
He has been a judge and has also fought against the laws that, for years, impeded taking genocidal military officials from the aforementioned dictatorship to trial… The list of notable works that Eugenio Zaffaroni has completed is long…
And, also, he’s an advocate for a more humane drug policy, one that breaks the chain of failures and hypocrisies that is the War on Drugs… and he has just been nominated by President Néstor Kirchner as a new member of the Supreme Court of Argentina.
Read it well, kind readers: a brilliant and honest reformer could become part of what he himself called, in a Radio Mitre interview, “the brain of the judicial branch.” And amid the crises that affect the judicial structures in Latin America (in Ecuador, Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, and Argentina, to mention a few), it is a hopeful sign that, within a month, Eugenio Zaffaroni could take the seat as one of the principal judges of his country… So let’s look at his material and get to know this personality..
A week ago, on Wednesday, June 25th, the book “Drugs Between Prohibition’s Harm and Failure: New Perspectives in the Decriminalization and Legalization Debate” was unveiled. The event was part of a national campaign titled “Just Say No to the War Against Drug Users,” sponsored by the Argentina Harm Reduction Association (ARDA). During the presentation in the University of Buenos Aires Law School, there were some bright lights: the journalist Horacio Verbitzky, editor of the prestigious daily Página 12 newspaper, and Dr. Zaffaroni, who is, also, the author of the book’s prologue.
In that prologue, Zaffaroni elaborated an analysis of legal history, revising the contents of the book and asking severe questions about the repression generated by drug prohibition:
“We don’t know exactly if the poisons or the attempts ot repress them (that, in practice, is nothing more than a regulation of the market price) have produced more deaths. But anyone can verify that it has generated a global web of organized crime rarely seen and a volume of illicit money that, at its magnitude, has macro-economic functions. Before these facts it is impossble not to ask one self why a path that reproduces crime’s potency and aggravates the problem it pretends to resolve, all with high costs in human lives, is still pursued.”
Zaffaroni explains that an absolute prohibition, like that upon drugs, “justifies police repression without any legal limits,” and the policy becomes inquisitorial. Maybe that’s why this jurist and legislator agreed to write the prologue for ARDA
’s book, a book that opines: “Little can be added to what is expressed in the works published here. This volume counts with very valuable information.” Maybe that’s because, during his interview with Radio Mitre, he left it very clear that there is “a politically liberal criminal law and an authoritarian criminal law.” And when he says in the book, “here are the facts that demonstrate not only the failure of this path, but also the fueling of all the evils that the drugs can cause and, beyond that, the generation of a useless, counterproductive and incredibly corrupt repression.” We already have an idea of what side he’s on…
Or, if you prefer to have a clearer understanding of the judicial and civil rights questions, we present you two more paragraphs from the same text:
“The parallel with the Inquisition and the Witch Hunts cannot be more perfect: the simple users and addicts are penalized, because this is how the alliance with the drug – which cannot be punished, because it is an object invested with a seemingly superhuman power, but impotent to act for itself – is destroyed. It matters little that the user can only affect his own legal well being and that is part of his right of self-determination. Nor, in the case of the addicts who are treated as if they are ill: Either way, they are punished because they commit the sin of allying themselves with Satan. The demonologists argue over whether it was true that witches flew or whether this was only caused by hallucinations produced by the demon during dream. But, in any case, even concluding they were only hallucinations, they still had to be punished because they committed the sin of entering an alliance with the demon. And to pursue Satan there cannot be any limits or obstacles, because it is about nothing more or less than saving humanity, which is in a state of emergency because of it. If Satan (or the drugs) dominates everyone, making us witches (and addicts), humanity is over. Under so much pressure, everything is valid, rights must not interfere with the effort to defeat the devil (the drug).
“The process and penalties of the European Inquisition of the 15th Century have returned in all splendor, although they are presented as an expression of a pretended criminal post-modernity and are rationalized by accredited doctrinaire experts, accepted and made sacred by international organizations and treaties.”
As if this isn’t enough, Silvia Inchaurraga, ARDA
member and editor of the book, reminds us that Zaffaroni “was the first judge in Argentina to declare punishment for possession of drugs to be unconstitutional.” And in an article about his nomination, published today in the Argentine daily La Nación, it is recalled that on more than one occasion he has spoken publicly in favor of drug legalization.
And what about President Kirchner? Well, in spite of the fact that Zaffaroni has been a harsh critic of some of the policies and constitutional reforms promoted by Kirchner, so much so that the current Attorney General Gustavo Beliz once accused him of “defending delinquents,” the Argentine president has chosen him because he considers him to be, in the words of his Chief of Staff in today’s press conference, “a man of proven intellectual, professional, and moral qualities… He is an incorruptible man, and the President has certainty and security in knowing that.”
Is that all? No. Next, according to the mechanisms of Argentine government, about a month must pass for the nomination to pass through “all the political and social filters.” Zaffaroni’s nomination must be ratified by the Senate. Although, to tell the truth, beyond the general public acceptance of his nomination, Eugenio Raúl Zaffaroni is the only candidate for the job that is currently vacant in the Maximum Court of Argentina.
Continue with us, kind readers, because the scales of Argentine Justice seem to be returning to level and Narco News will continue reporting it all, as well as the news about the Harm Reduction and Legalization movements that each day, in Argentina, grow stronger.
With Zaffaroni a step from the Supreme Court, a path may have been found for accelerating the change
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