LA PAZ – President Evo Morales announced on Tuesday a number of reforms to the Bolivian justice system that aim to eliminate corruption and delays, and which include new sanctions on judges, lawyers and prosecutors, and the employing of undercover agents to investigate corruption cases.
At an event at Government Palace with justice authorities and government officials, Morales said “the judge who suspends a hearing will be dismissed and tried” and “non-attendance by a prosecutor will be cause for replacement, being handed over to law enforcement and/or dismissal.
He said these measures will help do away with court cases getting bogged down, adding that there will also be sanctions on defense attorneys who fail to attend court sessions of their cases, which could even entail having their professional licenses suspended.
In addition, absence at a hearing of a plaintiff implies that the case has been dropped and that hearings can continue without the accused being present, though his or her presence could be assured by law enforcement if necessary.
All these measures are derived from the National Summit of Plural Justice in Bolivia, which gathered proposals from around the country throughout 2016 to combat the system’s structural problems.
In the struggle against corruption in the justice system, Morales announced that the position of undercover agent will be created to investigate such cases, while video recordings will be accepted as valid evidence of crimes involving members of the judiciary.
The president announced that reforms will incorporate verification of the net worth of public servants and their family members, while making public the names of justice system members who have been sanctioned
He also announced that he will undertake “the structural transformation of the penal system with a model of horizontal organization of judges,” which will include the creation of offices to manage hearings along with channels for supervising preventive measures, sanctions and protective measures.
Cases of femicide will have a special procedure, so the trial can last up to six months, or 90 days in cases where the criminal was caught in the act.
Morales also proposed a reform of the law regulating the legal profession that will sanction attorneys who commit infractions, including the suspension of professional licenses for up to 10 years and fines up to 12 times the minimum wage (some $250).