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Cablegate: Ag Gonzales Meets with Prosecutor General

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBU #0297/01 0461730
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 151730Z FEB 07
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 7289

UNCLAS BUENOS AIRES 000297

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958:N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL SCUL OVIP KTER AR

SUBJECT: AG GONZALES MEETS WITH PROSECUTOR GENERAL
RIGHI AND OFFERS ASSISTANCE TO GOA FOR JUDICIAL TRANSITION

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales met with
Argentine Prosecutor General Esteban Righi on February 7 and
discussed the challenges that the GOA faces with its transition to
an accusatorial justice system. The AG offered U.S. assistance to
help with the transition, as well as training for extradition

requests. The AG invited Argentine prosecutors to visit the FBI and
USDOJ headquarters to learn more about how the USG prosecutes
terrorism cases and invited that GOA to join the G-8's 24/7 high
tech crime network to report cybercrime. END SUMMARY.

GOA supports Judicial Reform, But Will Take Time
--------------------------------------------- ---

2. (SBU) On February 7, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales,
along with the Ambassador and other senior members of the Department
of Justice met with Prosecutor General Esteban
Righi to discuss judicial reform issues. Righi began by
noting that the Argentine public has largely discredited the
inquisitorial system due to substantial delays in bringing
cases to trial. His office is working to shorten pre-trial
investigations in addition to working with the Minister of Justice
who has the lead in implementing the GOA's transition from an
inquisitorial to an accusatorial system. Initial reforms are
planned for federal criminal cases and those within the City of
Buenos Aires. Although no Constitutional change is required, laws
need to be passed and public debate is required to determine the
scope of the reforms, he said. Righi asserted that the GOA should
shape the debate by explaining that the reforms are necessary in
order to improve public administration and judicial efficiency. In
addition, reforms ensuring that justice is served will help combat
widespread public perception that elites regularly escape justice by
ensuring that justice is served.

3. (SBU) Adopting a U.S.-style system, where the prosecutor and
judge are separate and independent entities, takes time to have an
effect, especially when the GOA has to gain the support of those
charged with implementing the reforms, Righi continued. The
Argentine public, however, mistakenly expects that the changes will
instantly solve the judicial system's problems.

4. (SBU) While the GOA is committed to the reforms in principle,
Righi indicated that the Kirchner administration seems to have
placed judicial and procedural reforms on the backburner given that
2007 is an election year. He also observed that many are unaware of
the impact the reforms will have on secondary issues. One of the
major difficulties in the transition is the largely unexamined
impact the reforms will have on budget allocations, including who
gains and loses funds.


5. (SBU) When the AG asked how the USG can help, Righi answered that
Argentina needs to learn more about the U.S. justice system, and
change the common public perception that the start of a trial is an
indication of guilt. The GOA must learn more about the function and
use of plea bargains and Argentines must learn that very few
prosecutions end in a jury trial in the United States.
The AG stated that the USG has provided assistance to other
countries undergoing a similar transition in their judicial systems
and that the USG could provide similar assistance to Argentina.
Righi expressed appreciation for USG assistance.


AG Offers Trip to FBI HQ and Extradition and Prosecution Assistance

6. (SBU) On extraditions, Righi suggested that the GOA and USG
identify problems and explore solutions to expedite extraditions.
Most problems are technical, not legislative. He suggested that the
Prosecutor General's office would benefit from more training in how
to submit extradition requests. Alice Fisher, Assistant Attorney
General for the Criminal Division, stated that USDOJ's Office of
International Affairs could provide that kind of training. The
Attorney General added that the USG would help where it can while
respecting Argentina's sovereignty.


7. (SBU) The AG invited Argentina to join the G-8's 24/7 high tech
crime network to report cybercrime. Righi stated he would look into
it. AAG Fisher noted that the DOJ is sending, for two years, an
experienced prosecutor to the Tri-Border area to be based in
Paraguay who can assist Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay with
prosecutions. AAG Fisher also invited prosecutors from Argentina to
visit the FBI and DOJ headquarters to learn more about U.S.
counterterrorism prosecution efforts.

AG Praises AMIA Special Prosecutor
----------------------------------

8. (SBU) AG Gonzales concluded the meeting by praising the Special
Prosecutor for the 1994 terrorist bombing of the Argentine-Israeli
Mutual Association efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice,

with Righi asserting that the GOA has provided the necessary
resources to the AMIA Special Prosecutor to ensure justice is
served.

9. (U) The Attorney General has not cleared on the language of this
cable.

WAYNE

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