Press Release

IACHR Urges Guatemala to Ensure Transparency and Meet Minimum Standards in the Appointment of Justice Operators

April 21, 2014

Washington, D.C.—With the imminent appointment of an Attorney General and the upcoming selection of judges for Courts of Appeals and the Supreme Court, the IACHR urges the State of Guatemala to ensure that these processes are transparent and ensure the independence of the justice operators who are selected.

In recent months the Commission, through its various mechanisms, has been following the selection procedures for justice-sector operators in Guatemala. The IACHR learned that the person who will become Attorney General will be appointed in May. That selection comes in the context of a decision by the Constitutional Court of Guatemala, which determined that the term for which Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz was appointed will come to an end on May 17, 2014, instead of December 2014. In addition, the IACHR received information indicating that judges for the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court will be chosen in October by Guatemala’s Congress of the Republic.

In addition, with respect to the recent selection of judges to the Supreme Electoral Court, the Commission was informed that certain segments of civil society called into question the selection process for not providing sufficient guarantees to ensure the qualification and suitability of the appointees, since the Congress reportedly chose them by means of lists that had been agreed upon politically. As a result, a private attorney filed a challenge to the selection process, which is awaiting a decision by the Constitutional Court.

In its recent report “Guarantees for the independence of justice operators: Towards strengthening access to justice and the rule of law in the Americas,” the Commission referred to the guarantees that must be observed in selection and appointment procedures. The IACHR stressed that the goal of any process to select and appoint justice operators must be to select candidates based on personal merit and professional qualifications, taking into account the singular and specific nature of the duties to be performed. To that end, the Commission believes it is essential to have objective, pre-established criteria to assess and evaluate candidates, to prevent the use of discretionary criteria by the persons or bodies involved in the selection process.

Any law regulating access to public service must guarantee the mechanisms that best ensure equal access to positions, while respecting the principle of equality and non-discrimination. Likewise, nongovernmental organizations and other interested parties should have the opportunity to see what the selection criteria are and to express their opinion on the candidates.

The Commission believes that if certain basic parameters are not observed, the selection and appointment process might enable the authorities participating in the process to exercise an overly broad margin of discretion, with the result that the persons selected might not be the most suitable or capable.

In exercise of its mandate to promote the observance and protection of human rights, and bearing in mind the key role justice operators play in ensuring access to justice and preserving the rule of law, the IACHR strongly urges the State to see that the entities involved in the selection and appointment processes observe the minimum standards established under international human rights law so as to guarantee their independence.

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. 41/14