Press Release

In View of Situation in Honduras, IACHR Stresses Importance of Principle of Independence of the Judiciary

January 3, 2013

Washington, D.C. According to information received by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), in the early morning hours of December 12, the National Congress removed from office four of the five justices who make up the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court in Honduras. The IACHR has received information that the justices' dismissal was related to their votes on a decision that determined the unconstitutionality of a law authorizing, for a six-month period, special measures to clean up the police. Moreover, during the debate that ended with the dismissal of the justices, Congress was reportedly surrounded by military and police forces.

In view of the dismissal of justices of the Supreme Court’s Constitutional Chamber, the IACHR stresses the importance of the principle of separation and independence of the branches of government as an essential element of the rule of law.

The Inter-American Commission has stated that "the grounds for disciplinary...sanctions imposed on a judge should never be the legal judgment developed in a decision." The Commission has also noted that from an institutional perspective, the principle of independence requires that judges perform their functions without being subject to undue interference from the executive and legislative branches, the parties in the proceeding, social actors, or other bodies connected to the administration of justice.

Along these lines, the IACHR has stressed that one of the main objectives for of the separation of powers is the guarantee of independence of judges. One of the essential elements to prevent the abuse of power by other bodies of the State is the proper functioning of the judiciary. An independent judicial branch is vital in overseeing the constitutionality of actions by other branches of government, as well as serving as the agency responsible for administering justice.

The guarantees necessary to ensure the correct and independent operation of the judicial branch include the mechanisms whereby judges are appointed, the stability they enjoy in their appointments, and their proper professional training. In addition, the courts must be independent of the other branches of government—that is, free of all influence, threats, or interference, irrespective of their origin.

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 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. 3/13