Justice system in crisis says civil society

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PANAMA’S Public Ministry (MP), with widespread backing from civil society,  will once again ask the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) to investigate whether ex-president Ricardo Martinelli committed any crime in the contract of the failed project of the irrigation system of Tonosí.

This was reported to La Prensa by MP sources, who reacted to the judgment of the Court in which it was decided not to go after Martinelli in the case for lack of suitable proof.

The judgment, which with Judge Ángela Russo as rapporteur, alleges that the Third Anticorruption, Public Prosecutor’s Office, at the time led by Zuleyka Moore, did not include the interrogation t of  former  vice-president Felipe Pipo Virzi, in which he revealed that Martinelli instructed him how to distribute  payments related to the project contract to Martinelli’s inner circle.

Russo’s ruling provoked an outcry among members of different sectors of civil society who warned, once again, about the crisis in the administration of justice.

Impunity perpetuated
The recent ruling seeks to perpetuate impunity in proceedings involving injury to the state’s heritage, they say.

“It is unfortunate that we have a country where the Judicial Branch is not up to scratch when it is wanted to prosecute those who were predators of public funds,” said ex comptroller-Alvin Weeden

Maribel Jaén, of the Justice and Peace Commission, said  that once again “it  confirms the perception of citizens that there is impunity and that the Judicial Branch is  going through a serious and deep crisis.”

The activist reiterated that citizens demand a reform in the administration of justice.

Annette Planells, of the Independent Movement (Movin), said: “The magistrates of the Court have the constitutional duty to investigate, but they prefer to shield themselves behind a discretionary qualifier called ideal test, in order to avoid fulfilling their duty and to perpetuate impunity”.

Weeden said that it is evident that while the Public Ministry Public tries to seek justice, “the Court and judges go the other way when it comes to prosecuting those who were predators of public funds”

He says that there are magistrates who have demonstrated their unsuitability with their failures.

He gave no names. But he suggested that President  Varela is aware of the error he has made with the appointment of judges of the  Supreme Court

In December 2015, Varela appointed Angela Russo and Cecilio Cedalise.On the day they took office they both voted to re-install the controversial Jose Ayu Prado as president of the Court.

Ayu Prado was appointed Attorney General by Ricardo Martinelli and, after allegations of witness tampering in the Financial Pacific  investigation when Martinelli’s “High Spirit” account was revealed, he was appointed  by Martinelli to the Supreme Court

In December of this year, Varela must name the replacements of Oydén Ortega and Jerónimo Mejía, who retire  as magistrates.

That is why Weeden warns that the Executive must put men or women that have citizen values in the search of justice.in these positions

Freddy Pittí, of the Together We Decide Movement, estimates that to know the truth about the different corruption scandals during the past government, there is a need for commitment and will of the whole justice structure.  He warned that so far what is perceived are actions that leave in impunity cases which injured the heritage of Panamanians.

Like Planells,Ex-judge  Raúl Olmos thinks that it is time to review the so-called ideal test. “For now it is being used at will by the judges of the Court to reject cases or not to conclude others” he warned.

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