Press Release

IACHR Calls on States in the Region to Strengthen Judicial Independence

March 7, 2016

   Related links
   Contact info

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

   More on the IACHR
A+ A-

Washington, D.C.—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urges the Member States of the Organization of American States (OAS) to strengthen judicial independence in their respective countries through appointment procedures that are in line with international standards.

The IACHR has closely followed the situation in the region, and specifically in several countries such as Argentina, Guatemala, and Honduras where judges have been selected or are in the process of being appointed to the highest courts. Information received by the IACHR points to risks in the selection process that could affect the independence of those who have been selected or could come to be selected. Such risks include: direct appointments by the executive branch, without the participation of another public body or without receiving observations from civil society actors or other interested parties with respect to the candidacies; a failure by the agencies responsible for designating judges to publish vacancy announcements and procedures; and the lack of public access to information concerning the candidates so as to enable the effective participation of society, in compliance with the principle of civil society participation.

Given these risks, the IACHR believes it is essential for the States to review their selection procedures to ensure that these are clear and that they respect the principles of transparency and public scrutiny; that they guarantee participation by diverse individuals and social groups, ensuring that women in particular are equally represented; that they include an objective review of the candidates based on their professional merits, applying predetermined criteria, so as not to leave it up to the discretion of the individuals or agencies involved in the selection; that safeguards are established so that the selection process is not carried out based on individual or partisan interests that could undermine judicial independence; and that they provide sufficient financial and human resources to the appointing bodies so that they can perform their duties properly. In addition, the IACHR emphasizes that judicial selection procedures should be open to public scrutiny, which significantly reduces the degree of discretion exercised by the authorities in charge of the selection and appointment process, and enables candidates’ merits and professional qualifications to be more readily identified.

These factors, detailed in the IACHR report Guarantees for the Independence of Justice Operators (2013), should be taken into account to ensure the independence of the judiciary, which in turn will allow justice operators to perform their essential role in enabling access to justice and guaranteeing due process for victims of human rights violations. Moreover, the IACHR calls to mind that violations of judicial independence can produce negative consequences for the effectiveness of the rule of law and the strengthening of democracy.

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. 030/16