Press Release

IACHR Urges Guatemala to Guarantee Transparency and Compliance with International Standards in the Selection Process for the Constitutional Court

February 11, 2021

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Washington, D.C.- In response to the start of the process to select and appoint the judges of the Constitutional Court (CC) of Guatemala for the 2021–2026 term, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urged the State to pursue a transparent process that complies with international standards to guarantee the independence of the judges who will be elected.

According to publicly available information, in the coming months, the five judges and five deputy judges who will make up the Constitutional Court of Guatemala will be selected and appointed and will then take office on April 14, 2021. According to the Guatemalan Constitution, these individuals are selected by the plenary of the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ), the plenary of the Congress of the Republic, the President of the Republic at a Council of Ministers, the Higher University Council of the San Carlos de Guatemala University (USAC), and the Assembly of the Guatemalan Bar Association (CANG). According to the available information, these institutions have begun the appointment process by publishing their respective calls for nominations.

The IACHR noted that an appropriate appointment and selection process is a necessary prerequisite to guaranteeing the independence of the judiciary. It described the guarantees that must be observed during these selection and appointment processes in the report entitled Guarantees for the Independence of Justice Operators. It also emphasized that the objective of any selection and appointment process should be to choose candidates based on personal merit and professional capacity, as well as the uniqueness and specific nature of the functions they are to perform. To this end, objective criteria need to be established in advance to evaluate and rank candidates and prevent any discretionary action on the part of the authorities involved in the selection process.

Furthermore, in compliance with its mandate to promote the observance and defense of human rights and in view of the essential role that the judiciary plays in accessing justice and upholding the rule of law, the IACHR urged the State to ensure that the authorities involved in the selection and appointment processes comply with the minimum standards of merit, capacity, suitability, and honesty set out in Article 113 of the Political Constitution of Guatemala and international human rights law, in order to ensure their independence.

Finally, the IACHR wishes to draw attention to the recommendations of the Special Mission of the OAS General Secretariat in Guatemala. According to the report published on January 27, 2021 [link in Spanish], "Guatemala has representative democratic institutions that are capable of guaranteeing stability, peace, and development for the Guatemalan population." However, among the "factors of concern that might undermine the rule of law and the country's democratic institutions," the Special Mission drew attention to "the need to guarantee that the process for renewing the Constitutional Court is a transparent one." The IACHR thus recommended that the Guatemalan State guarantee that the selection process is transparent; adopt institutional designs that ensure that the appointment process is transparent, participatory, informed, and includes accountability mechanisms; and that the selection process is implemented within the established constitutional and legal deadlines to prevent there from vacancies arising within the court.

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. 031/21