Press Release

IACHR Urges Honduras to Ensure Transparency and Civil Oversight in its Judicial Appointment Process for the Supreme Court of Justice

August 27, 2015

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María Isabel Rivero
IACHR Press and Communication Director
Tel: +1 (202) 370-9001

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has been monitoring the situation of the independence of the judiciary through its various mechanisms over the past several years, as well as in follow-up to its December 2014 on-site visit to Honduras.

The IACHR has learned that the members of the Nominations Committee (Junta Nominadora) are to be named and assume their positions by September 1, 2015.  After this date, the Nominations Committee is to commence a process of nomination and selection of 45 candidates, the list of whom it will present on January 23, 2016 to the plenary of Congress. Congress will then select 15 of the 45 candidates on January 25, 2016 to serve as judges for the Supreme Court for the period of 2016-2023. During its on-site visit, the Commission learned of several situations that may affect the impartiality and independence of the judiciary and has since received information regarding civil society concerns over the transparency of the imminent Supreme Court appointment process. These concerns include that of the politicization of the process through the selection and nomination of candidates that would serve political or sectarian interests and not those of the greater Honduran society.

In this regard, the Commission highlights its 2013 report, Guarantees for the independence of justice operators: Towards strengthening access to justice and the rule of law in the Americas, in which it detailed the guarantees that must be observed in judicial selection and appointment procedures. The IACHR stressed in that report 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 considers it is essential to have objective, pre-established criteria to assess and evaluate candidates in order to prevent the use of discretionary criteria by the persons or bodies involved in the selection process. The selection process must also guarantee equal access to positions, respecting the principle of equality and non-discrimination, such that any person who believes he or she meets the requirements may apply for the position. Likewise, the public, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders should have the opportunity to see the selection criteria, challenge candidates, and express either their concern or support.

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 of Honduras to monitor the Nominations Committee’s observance of these minimum standards established under international human rights law so as to guarantee judicial independence. Once in office, the State must provide judges, including and especially those of the Supreme Court, with proper professional training, take steps to ensure that they are independent of other branches of government, and guarantee their security from external pressures, including threats and reprisals aimed directly at their person or families.

In light of the above, the IACHR urges the State of Honduras to ensure transparency and broad-based civil participation and oversight in its upcoming selection process of judges for the Supreme Court of Justice, as well as the independence and security of the justice operators who are selected.

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. 096/15