IACHR Is Concerned About Congressional Interference With Other Branches of Government in Peru

June 7, 2024

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is concerned about reports of a series of moves to tamper with the system of checks and balances that may weaken the rule of law in Peru. The IACHR asks the State to preserve democracy and human rights in this context. The Commission calls for respect for the independence of the judiciary and the electoral system as well as for human rights, all of which strengthen democracy.

In recent months, the IACHR has received reports of actions that have amounted to political interference by the Peruvian Congress with judicial organs and other democratic institutions active in the fight against corruption, affecting the efforts of all these institutions to comply with their mandates. In particular, the IACHR is concerned about all interference with the operations of authorities whose mandates are essential to preserve democracy, like the National Board of the Judiciary (JNJ), the national electoral court (JNE), and the offices of public prosecutors in charge of investigations in corruption cases.

Requests for sanctions filed by Congress, including constitutionality complaints, have led to the disqualification of individuals in charge of investigations in corruption cases that often involved members of Congress and other political leaders. Further, at least two bills seeking constitutional reform have been introduced in Congress—one to ask that the JNJ be replaced by a national school of magistrates and one to ensure that the JNJ and the Public Prosecutor's Office are restructured, which would in turn lead to the dismissal of the current leaders of both institutions.

In this context, the IACHR is particularly concerned about proceedings targeting public prosecutor Delia Espinoza. At least 14 procedures targeting the JNJ have led to the disqualification of two JNJ members, in proceedings that have been shrouded in allegations of violations of the legality principle and the separation of powers.

The IACHR further notes measures taken against the electoral system, which have affected its independence. The chair of the JNE has had to respond to at least 10 complaints before the plenary of Congress. Allegations of political motives and insufficient legal grounds have been made concerning sanctions procedures promoted by Congress.

The State noted that most of the disqualification procedures launched by Congress had eventually been shelved and that the individuals who had actually been disqualified could appeal to the judiciary or to the Constitutional Court with all the safeguards of due process. The State stressed that the "appropriate behavior" of public institutions was ensured by oversight mechanisms and by the checks and balances in place. The State further noted its commitment to human rights and democracy, including respect for the separation of powers and for the autonomy of the various institutions involved.

The IACHR stresses that respecting democracy requires ensuring the application of a system of checks and balances. According to this model, different powers of the State must be exercised by different institutions that are independent from each other and balance each other, to ensure adequate restrictions of the exercise of power and to prevent arbitrariness. The State must ensure that all authorities exercise their powers with full respect for legality and for the public interest. In contexts involving a high degree of corruption and impunity, States must enforce their commitment to fighting those issues by strengthening their justice systems.

In recent years, the IACHR has noted the deterioration of democracy in Peru and raised awareness about it. The way the powers of the Peruvian Congress have been exercised can potentially put the rule of law in the country in critical danger. The exercise of power has affected autonomous institutions that play a crucial role in the democratic life of the State, which at the same time entails a threat against human rights. Urgent measures are therefore needed to ensure the constitutionally required separation and independence of the various branches of government.

The Commission urges the State to evidence its commitment to the principles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter and to Peru's international obligations concerning human rights. The State must take urgent measures to strengthen the rule of law, including moves to brace the fight against corruption from all spheres of public power along with safeguards of judicial officer independence. Further, Congress must urgently stop exercising its auditing and sanctioning powers in discretionary, manipulative ways and refrain from seeking reforms that threaten the independence and autonomy of other State institutions. This is essential to restore citizens' trust in public institutions and to preserve the rule of law. 

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. 130/24

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