The case of sexual exploitation of minors called Operation Ocean has so far 20 identified victims – the vast majority young minors – who had contact with adults and who, in many cases, had sex in exchange for money, which is punishable by the law. Prosecutor Darviña Viera managed to get 33 people charged for participating or contributing to this exploitation, in which one of the most recurrent crimes was the retribution or promise of retribution to minors for having sexual relations.
After an investigation of several months, which had its first formalization hearing in mid-May, Viera has ordered that tests be carried out on all cell phones and computer devices of those involved in the investigation – and has collected evidence that even supports the need to expand the allegations in more than half of those investigated. However, the prosecutor has chosen to exclude the victims ‘parents from her investigation, who according to several of the defendants’ lawyers could also have criminal responsibility as parents.
“There is clearly an omission of parental duties here, without a doubt,” said criminal lawyer Alejandro Balbi, one of the defense attorneys, who also assured that “there are clients who are asking to file a complaint” against the parents.
The crime of omission of parental authority applies to anyone who “intentionally fails to comply” with the obligations in “guardianship, caution or judicially conferred guardianship, endangering the physical, mental or emotional health of the persons his position ”, and is punishable by a sentence of three to 12 months in prison, as established in article 279 bis of the Penal Code.
However, the prosecutor Viera, who stated on several occasions that she did not consider that there was a crime, said The Observer that there may be some moral reproach against parents, but nothing more. “I believe that there is no criminal responsibility of the parents, although there may have been some oversight, some lack of attention, care, or absence of conversation with their children, so to speak,” he said. “But it does not seem to me that there is an abandonment.”
On the other hand, like Balbi, Cecilia Salom – another defender of one of the defendants – believes that it is “the prosecutor’s office” to inquire about the actions of the parents, as well as the role they have played in cases where the victims received money to maintain the encounters with the adults.
“The prosecution could, can and will investigate because, in addition, there are parents who have a tertiary level of education,” said the criminal lawyer. “When you are investigating a crime, the idea is to investigate all the points of the crime, if there was money involved, to which accounts that money was sent, unless it is a flawed investigation.”
Asked whether she was referring to the Operation Ocean investigation being shot, she said she has “no doubts.” “The prosecution – the body. I’m not talking about people – you have given an absolutely biased opinion of the facts. It has made a clean sweep of people’s rights to defend themselves. It violated the duty of objectivity and impartiality of the Prosecutor’s Office, ”he said.
On the other side, Raúl Williman, a lawyer from the legal office of the Law School of the University of the Republic, supports the position of the Public Ministry. It follows the reasoning that just as the victims are not responsible for what happened to them, neither are their parents. And among other norms, he cited numbers four and five of article 126 of the Child and Adolescent Code, which establish that the consent of the minor does not mitigate the responsibility of the accused, and that adolescents, “in the framework of a situation of exploitation sex or trafficking, they will not be criminally responsible for the facts or conduct related to those situations.
Williman –who is involved in the case as a defender of a group of victims– wondered “why the defendants are interested in the responsibility of the parents”, since that does not change the central investigation of the Public Ministry or the degree of participation in the investigation. crime of those investigated.
Viera not only agrees, but is also convinced that the strategy of the defendants’ lawyers consists of generating a distraction.
“That is wanting to divert the focus. What do parents have to do with the crime of the investigation? They are not going to remove or put anything, “he criticized.