The Office of Family Violence Coordination of the Superior Court of Justice of the Province of Córdoba, Argentina

The actions taken by the Superior Court of Justice (TSJ) of the Province of Córdoba are transcendental. The members of this High Court: Dr. Aida Lucia Teresa Tarditti (President of the Association of Women Judges of Argentina, AMJA), Dr. María Marta Cáceres de Bollati and Dr. María de las Mercedes Blanc Gerzicich de Arabel strongly believe there is a need to adhere to new paradigms in the approach to family violence. Such paradigms are embodied in current legislation, which recognizes constitutional and conventional guarantees; focuses on the victim and her rights and aims at preventing re-victimization and ensuring dignified treatment throughout the proceedings of each case. 

In this sense, the TSJ is committed to providing the treatment of family violence with greater specialization. The TSJ understands that access to justice services constitutes the first line of defense of human rights, and therefore, in 2015, it created the Office of Family Violence Coordination (OVF), whose main aim is to generate action protocols and work guidelines that, approved through Regulatory Agreements, become biding in the provincial territory.

On this occasion, we would like to highlight the work carried out, on the one hand, by the Centralized Attention Office for the treatment of family violence cases at the trial stage and, on the other, by the Specialized Intervention Areas for the implementation of a system which makes the WhatsApp Business application available to victims and alleged aggressors to communicate with the Family Court.

  1. OAC – VF

Setting up the Office of Centralized Attention (OAC) involved the creation of a new model of judicialoffice to address criminal cases–when there are no people in custody–related to acts of family violence that have been brought to trial.

Establishedby means of the Regulatory Agreement of the Superior Court of Justice No. 1472 dated February 19, 2018, and operating under the Office of Coordination of Family Violence (OVF), the OAC assists the Criminal and Correctional Chambersof the city of Córdoba in the management of family violence cases. 

This Office offers accompaniment and support to the victims of the scourge of domestic violence all throughout the trial process. The OAC also provides the Crime and Correctional Chambers with updated information on each case, given the time which usually elapses between the initial complaint and the beginning of the of the trial, by conducting interviews with the victims via a specialized technical team and the compilation of background and technical reports prepared by the intervening technical teams of both the Judiciary and other institutions.

For this purpose, victims are summoned to the interviews by means of an electronic message to their cell phone, through the WhatsApp Business application. This electronic communication complements the sending of the paper citation to the victims’ latest postal address that appears in their file.

In addition, the OAC supervises the issue of personal panic buttons in cases of violence in which technical teams have determined a high risk situation for the victim.

The OAC also tracks those cases that are presented as isolated or of low severity instances of violence and in which the victim has entered (by disposition of the Criminal and Correctional Chambers or the Criminal Enforcement Courts and under the recommendation of the specialized technical team) the accompaniment stage. This stage is under the control of Police Officers of the Neighborhood Police, who—during the term and with the frequency ordered by the Chamber Member or Judge of Intervening Execution—visit the victim’s home and complete a closed survey that is then referred to the OAC.

It is important to highlight the work of the Office of Rapporteurs, which assists the Criminal and Correctional Chambers in the study of cases submitted to them.

2. AREAS OF SPECIALIZED INTERVENTION IN FAMILY COURTS – COMMUNICATION THROUGH INSTANT MESSAGING.

As described above, through Regulatory Agreement No. 1576, the Superior Court of Córdoba implemented the use of instant messaging through the Internet (WhatsApp Business) so that the Specialized Intervention Areas of the Family Courts of the city communicate with the victims of family violence and with the alleged aggressors.

These Intervention Areas—staffed by specially trained personnel—were created by Regulatory Agreement No. 1546 with the aim of giving priority attention to those statements made by victims of family violence and gender violence within a domestic context.

This new communication channel applies to those cases that are heard in the Family Courts and that have a history of family violence due to which the Family Violence Judges have issued provisional precautionary measures in reference to the provision of food, personal care, communication regime or use of housing, and that are going to be finally resolved by Family Courts.

It is important to note that in these cases, the precautionary measures decided by the Family Violence Judge are set forth at a hearing and the corresponding Act of Court is electronically sentto the Areas of Specialized Intervention of Family Courts which in turn communicate the decisions by WhatsApp to the parties involved. 

In this way, both the victim and the accused are immediately informed of where the case is being heard (that is, what Family Court is involved), of the documentation that must be submitted in case they intend to modify some of the provisional precautionary measures provided by Family Violence Judges or in the event of non-compliance with them, and of their right to free Legal Counsel. In order to ensure they have access to this right; they are also informed of what procedure to follow in order to arrange an appointment by phone or through the internet.

The advance notice of the documentation that is necessary to continue with the family proceedings prevents delays by providing the victim with all necessary information in advance, thus shortening the duration of the whole process. In addition, specialized treatment is provided to family violence victims within the framework of the institutional policy that the TSJ has been carrying out. 

The establishment of the Coordination Office of Family Violence has formalized numerous actions and working protocols in more than forty-three Regulatory Agreements issued by the TSJ to guarantee the improvement in the provision of the justice service and a thorough approach to the social scourge of family violence. 

This blog post was written by IAWJ member, Dr. Agustina M. Olmedo, Secretary of the High Court of Justice of the Province of Córdoba in charge of the Family Violence Coordination Office (OVF).