IACHR: Costa Rica Must Ensure Transparency and Participation in the Recruitment of Judicial Officers to Guarantee Their Independence

October 28, 2022

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) calls on Costa Rica to ensure that recruitment processes to appoint the head of the country's Public Prosecutor's Office and several magistrates of the Supreme Court of Justice are transparent and participatory and comply with the applicable international standards.

The process to recruit the head of the Public Prosecutor's Office for the period 2022–2026 has been ongoing since August 2021. This person will need to be appointed by the Supreme Court of Justice in the coming weeks. The IACHR has been informed of several challenges observed in the process led by the nomination committee, including a failure to publicize documents concerning candidate requirements and assessments and the methodology and assessment criteria adopted during interviews, as well as the application of criteria that do not indicate professional capacity, like nationality and age.

According to the available reports, there are currently four vacancies at the Supreme Court of Justice—one in the Constitutional Law Chamber that is set to be voted on soon at the Legislative Assembly; one in the Criminal Law Chamber that is awaiting a final assessment; and two in the Civil Law Chamber, one of which has already been taken to the Legislative Assembly.

Judicial officers play an essential role to ensure access to justice and preserve the rule of law. In compliance with the applicable international standards and as noted in the report , all selection and appointment processes must be fair and non-discriminatory and must be based on merit, ability, suitability, and integrity to ensure the independence of judicial officers and prevent discretionary appointments. It is also essential to ensure an adequate representation of various social groups, particularly by enforcing gender parity in the make-up of judicial institutions.

The whole process needs to be duly publicized and has to be transparent, while broad participation from civil society and other stakeholders needs to be ensured so they know the selection criteria and are able to express their opinion on the different candidates.

Given these considerations, the IACHR calls on the State of Costa Rica to ensure that proceedings to appoint judicial officers reflect the applicable international standards, in order to prevent discretionary appointments and appointments based on the vested interests of specific individuals or parties that might undermine judicial independence. The IACHR also calls on the State to provide sufficient technical and financial resources and sufficient staff to the institutions involved, so they may do their work appropriately.

Finally, the Commission welcomes recent reform of the Rules of Procedure of Costa Rica's Legislative Assembly and of the Constitutional Law on the Judiciary, that requires that all votes held—including those to select magistrates for the Supreme Court of Justice at the Legislative Assembly and those to recruit the head of the Public Prosecutor's Office at the Supreme Court of Justice—need to be made public.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 241/22

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