Assembly debates criminal code changes, including a proposal that could grant impunity to Correa

Feb 15, 2024 | 0 comments

The National Assembly continues debate Thursday on changes to the criminal code, with some members warning of a provision that could allow criminals to go free. In a late addition to the legislation, the Assembly’s Justice Commission, controlled by the Citizens Revolution, proposes opening criminal investigation records to the Assembly and other public entities.

The National Assembly’s Justice Commission is proposing changes to the criminal code to allow access by the Assembly and other public officials to police and prosecutor records, which are currently confidential.

The Justice Commission’s change would allow access by the Assembly, Ombudsman’s Office, Judicial Council and National Comptroller, to police and prosecutor files, which are currently confidential. It would apply to ongoing as well as completed investigations.

According to members of the Assembly’s Social Christian and Construye blocs, the change would jeopardize judicial functions and politicize criminal investigations. “Let’s be clear, this is yet another attempt by his followers to overturn the conviction of [former president] Rafael Correa and bring him home from his fugitive redoubt in Belgium,” said Construye’s Jorge Peñafiel. “It amazes me that Citizens Revolution would put at risk the country’s entire judicial process — and the safety of citizens — for the benefit of one criminal. No one should be granted impunity.”

The Attorney General’s office also objected to the proposed change. “This is an attempt to distort Ecuador’s criminal justice system through a process that could grant impunity in criminal cases that already have enforceable convictions,” the office said in a statement.

In a social media post, Social Christian Assemblyman Vicente Taiano claims the Justice Commission’s proposal violates the presumption of innocence in criminal cases by opening confidential records. “This principle is enshrined in the constitution as well as international law and it seems amazing we would consider abandoning it for narrow political reasons,” he said.

He added: “More important, this subverts the objective of other changes we are making to criminal code, which will increase penalties for those convicted of organized and drug trafficking crimes.”

Among other changes to the criminal code being debated are increasing the maximum sentence for contract killings from 26 to 30 years; for the crime of terrorism from 13 to 18 years; and for organized crime from 10 to 13 years. Other proposed changes would eliminate prison benefits for those convicted of murder, femicide, contract killings, kidnapping, extortion, human trafficking and drug trafficking.

In addition, those convicted of these crimes would be required to serve their entire sentences.

Peñafiel feels confident the Justice Commission’s proposal will never become law. “I believe we have the votes to defeat it and even if we don’t, it would be vetoed by the president,” he says. “What is alarming, however, is that the Correistas are so brazen that they would allow drug traffickers and mafiosos to go free for the benefit of their dear leader.”

He added: “No, the old man is not coming home, not any time soon.”

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