President Alberto Fernández on Thursday signed decrees formalising the outcome of a Senate vote that will see three judges involved in corruption cases against Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner removed from their posts and returned to previous positions.
Fernández’s move, annulling similar decrees issued during the Mauricio Macri presidency, will see the three magistrates – federal appeals court judges Leopoldo Bruglia and Pablo Bertuzzi and judge Germán Castelli – return to their original tribunals, although Supreme Court ratification has yet to be clarified.
Decrees 750, 751 and 752 were published on Thursday with the presidential signature in the Official Gazette, overturning the transfers during the previous presidency on the grounds that they had not been endorsed by senators.
The judges needed the ratification of the government-controlled Senate to remain in their current positions, but the result of Wednesday’s videoconference vote – which took place after an opposition ‘virtual’ walk-out – means they will now be transferred to other courts.
The Supreme Court must now resolve a challenge presented by the magistrates Bruglia and Bertuzzi, which requested "immediate intervention" to halt the Senate session. The Court responded that it could not rule on an issue ahead of the event.
CFK graft cases
Bruglia and Bertuzzi are members of the first chamber of the Federal Appeals Court while Castelli is a magistrate in Tribunal Oral Federal 7 (TOF 7). If the annulation of their transfers is confirmed, Bruglia must return to TOF 4 and Bertuzzi to the TOF 1 of La Plata, though both point out that those benches are already occupied. Castelli would have to return to the Tribunal Oral Criminal Federal No. 3 in San Martín.
All three of the removed judges are overseeing cases investigating charges of corruption involving Fernández de Kirchner and a host of ex-government officials and other linked figures.
Fernández de Kirchner, Argentina’s president between 2007 and 2015, is indicted in nine cases (mostly corruption) and maintains that the trials are nothing more than the result of political persecution against her by the Macri administration.
Wednesday’s vote to reject the transfer was passed by 41 of the 72 senators in the absence of the Juntos por el Cambio opposition, which abandoned the session (held virtually due to the health restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic) knowing that the ruling coalition had the numbers to push it through.
Opposition senator Martin Lousteau criticised the vote as he exited the online session, declaring that “today’s agenda is to sideline three judges hearing cases involving the vice-president.”
Opposition Senator Laura Rodríguez Machado, denounced “a political decision to influence the handling of justice in Argentina."
“These are three judges who are sitting on top of cases that Kirchnerism evidently resents because they are in the hands of independent judges," said the PRO party politician.
The senator argued that the transfers of the judges had been made "according to the law" and took place after consultation with the Supreme Court.
Frente de Todos officials counter that the judges were promoted and therefore require approval from the Senate.
“To endorse this transfer, without it having gone through the National Senate, is to accept that in Argentina there are two systems for selecting judges: that of the National Constitution and the selection of judges on demand, as the previous government did,” said government lawmaker Anabel Fernández Sagasti.