Press Release

In light of the situation in El Salvador, IACHR emphasizes importance of the principle of independence of the Judiciary

July 16, 2012

Washington, D.C. – In light of the situation in El Salvador, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) emphasizes the importance of the principle of separation of powers and the independence of branches of government, as an essential component of the rule of law.

According to the information received, on April 24, 2012, the Legislative Assembly of El Salvador chose five magistrates of the Supreme Court of Justice through legislative decrees. It also designated one of them as Chair of the Constitutional Chamber, and ordered a transfer to another chamber of the Supreme Court for the magistrate who has that post. The information available indicates that on June 5, the Constitutional Chamber declared the legislative decrees issued by the Legislative Assembly unconstitutional. The Constitutional Chamber argued that the current Legislature had participarted in an election of magistrates, and that it would therefore be preventing the new Legislature to exercise its competences in the matter. It also argued that the transfer of the Chair of the Constitutional Chamber constituted a measure contrary to the guarantee of security of tenure of judges.

The Inter-American Commission has emphasized that one of the main objectives of the separation of powers is to guarantee the independence of judges. One essencial element in preventing abuses of power by other agencies of the state is a correctly functioning 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 also be independent of the other branches of government – that is, free of all influence, threats, or interference, irrespecive of their origin.

The IACHR hopes that the diferences between the branches of government in El Salvador be overcome in full respect to the international standards in relation to the principle of separation of powers and independence of branches of government, an essential component of the rule of law. In addition, the Commission urges the State to ensure the necessary conditions for the correct functioning of the Judiciary.

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. 88/12