Thursday 23 September 2021

OIJ Seeks Authorization To Remove Bodies and Make Raids Without Presence Of Judge or Prosecutor

"The country has to modernize. We can not think like 45 years ago. We cannot close a highway for hours to remove a body," says the director of the OIJ

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The removal of bodies from a crime scene or a fatal accident can sometimes last for hours because the Organismo de Investigacion Judicial (OIJ) has to notify a judge and the prosecutor or urgent raids that are delayed while waiting for the arrival of a judge on scene.

Before a body can be removed from a crime scene or a traffic accident, a judge and prosecutor has to be present to authorize the judicial police

These are situations that the director of the OIJ, Wálter Espinoza, wants changed, as explained during his appearance before the Comisión Legislativa de Seguridad y Narcotráfico (Legislative Commission on Security and Drug Trafficking).

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To achieve the goal of faster procedures, the Commission is working on a proposed bill within a list of ambitious reforms that would give the judicial agency greater independence in decision-making and even possibilities to manage their own budget.

Espinoza said that they need greater possibilities of autonomous investigations and own initiative, always in coordination with the Ministerio Publico (Public Prosecutor’s Office), under which the OIJ functions in law.

For example, for the removal of bodies, the entity would send the report to the judge and the prosecutor within a maximum period of 24 hours.

“With that, we can work faster. The country has to modernize. We can not think like 45 years ago. We cannot close a highway for hours to remove a body,” Espinoza said.

The OIJ director is referring to fatal traffic accidents that can block a major artery for hours, like the case of an accident occurring in the middle of the night of February 23, on the Circunvalacion in the area of the Ruta 27, where it took five hours to clear the scene, the majority of the time waiting for a judge to arrive to give the order to remove the body. Less than a month later, on March 15, on the Autopista General Cañas, in the area of Cariari, it took more than four hours for the judge to arrive.

The crash occurred shortly after 1:00 am Thursday. Photos from Facebook

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Lukewarm support. The pretensions of the OIJ is finding lukewarm support other judicial sectors. The possibility of removing bodies without judge or fiscal (prosecutor) seems to find no major objections, but in the case of raids, doubts do arise.

For Ronald Segura, member of the executive committee of the Federación Latinoamericana de Fiscales (FLF) – Latin American Federation of Prosecutors, what the OIJ asks is “perfectly viable” and the current system should be directed to make the necessary adjustments to the Criminal Procedure Code, given that 20 years have passed since any major reforms.

“We should go towards a purer accusatory system and many of the functions in which the Public Prosecutor’s Office is going to give functional direction, perfectly the police can do it,” he said.

“Imagine what it is like to close a road for six hours while looking for the judge and prosecutor. That hurts the economy of the country, due to the congestion, because we have a large infrastructure gap. That paralyzes the country, people cannot get to work and exports are also affected,” Segura explained.

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Prosecutors, he said, should be more in the legal part and not so much in the (field) investigation,” assured Segura.

Currently the Prosecutor’s Office tells the OIJ in which cases it is convenient to make a search or removal of bank secrecy, for example, but Segura believes that the OIJ is a mature entity, with great capacity and certified laboratories, so it should have the autonomy to make such requests in order to accelerate the processes.

Segura explains that the need for a judge in a raid is due to old remnants of distrust of the police, from the time of dictatorships. “The times have changed, we have to adapt to modern research techniques without affecting the guarantees of the accused in the process.”

On the other hand, Jorge Tabash, of the Asociación Costarricense de la Judicatura (Acojud) – Costa Rican Association of the Judiciary, does not agree with the OIJ to deal with raids, unless they are in offices or on public roads and do not require the confiscation of doctors files and others that are very personal.

For Tabash, when there is a raid on a private home, he warns, there must necessarily be the judge, it is the guarantee for respecting constitutional principles.

“For the human being the domicile is very important and to transgress it, I do think that there must be a judge’s order and that he/she be present, as well as the prosecutor,” he said.

Tabash expressed that to change that, first we must change the Constitution. The director of the OIJ, however, insists that the institution’s shackles be removed.

Source (in Spanish): La Nacion

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