Wednesday, December 6, 2023

My humble proposal on the Ministry of Justice

On May 4, the Executive Power submitted to the National Congress, specifically to the Chamber of Deputies, the bill that would create a Ministry of Justice. The initiative is positive from the point of view of its intention: to remove administrative powers from the Attorney General’s Office, so that it can focus on its raison d’être, which is the prosecution of crime.

But these attributions, although they seem merely administrative, are not. For example, there is the case of the administration of the prison system, which certainly should not be the responsibility of the Public Ministry. But there is also the case of the administration of assets seized by the Public Ministry from persons subject to Justice. These assets must be protected and managed, in the cases of companies in progress.

Additionally, there is an area of ​​high sensitivity, which is not administrative, but of a scientific and decisive nature in the gathering of evidence. This is related to the National Institute of Forensic Sciences (Inacif). This body is where the tests are carried out on seized controlled substances, regarding autopsies on corpses to determine causes of death and other important expertise.

It is not possible that, if the Public Ministry is the persecutor of the crime and submits someone to Justice, it is the one who manages the institution where the analysis of evidence is carried out that must serve both the prosecutors and the defense lawyers of the accused. For this reason, Inacif must be under the control of an independent body.

So, given that the proposal is to pass all these powers and others to a Ministry of Justice, one wonders, what will its independence be? On the contrary, there would be less independence, because a State ministry is a direct centralized dependency of the Executive Power.

Seen in this way, the ideal is to pass these powers to a body with greater autonomy, both administrative and economic, as well as notable independence and based on the Constitution of the Republic itself.

For that, it is not even necessary to create a new institution. I believe, from this column, that these powers could well be transferred to the figure of the Ombudsman, who is an independent extra-power body, protected by the Constitution, with immobility of its holders for a period of six years, who are not appointed directly by the President of the Republic.

This proposal would not only avoid creating a new institution, which implies more state bureaucracy; it also prevents the delicate attributions that would be taken away from the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic from passing to a direct dependency of the Presidency of the Republic, which would be counterproductive and ineffective.

In addition, the transfer of these powers to a body such as the Ombudsman, would also give a more justified reason for being to this constitutional figure, which currently seems to be underutilized, since it apparently contributes little.

I do not believe that there is a more suitable and independent institution than the Ombudsman to administer the country’s prisons, ensure the care and administration of assets seized from those accused of crimes, as well as control of the powers and delicate functions of the Inacif.

It is possible that this proposal remains in the air, that nobody considers it, but its foundation is in the fact that although it is positive to strip the Public Ministry of a series of obligations that affect it in its functions of a direct nature, it is also It is true that these attributions cannot go to a direct dependency of the Executive Branch, since autonomy would be lost and there would be no assurance that the tests that come out of Inacif have not been contaminated by government influences of the moment.

When decisions as delicate as these are going to be made, one cannot think about who is currently governing, but about those who would come later, who perhaps do not have the same respect for the institutional framework. Therefore, if this change is to be made, the ideal is that it be done well, with a vocation for future permanence. It is the ideal.


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