GENEVA (16 June 2014) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, called on States to adopt and implement appropriate and effective judicial accountability mechanisms, but made it clear that “the use of judicial accountability as a mechanism of reprisals against the actors of the justice system is totally unacceptable.”
“Accountability, as a component of the rule of law, implies that nobody is above the law, including judges, prosecutors and lawyers,” Ms. Knaul said during the presentation of her latest report* to the UN Human Rights Council.
“However,” she warned, “accountability mechanisms and proceedings, whatever their form or nature, should never be applied arbitrarily and should always respect the fundamental guarantees of fair trial and due process.”
When proper mechanisms in line with the principle of the independence of the judiciary and other international human rights standards are in place, judicial accountability should and will contribute both to increasing public trust in the justice system and to reinforcing judicial independence, the expert noted in her report.
“The independence of the judiciary is not an absolute concept and should not be conflated with limitless power”, Ms. Knaul said. “While justice operators must enjoy privileges and immunities to ensure that they do their job with impartiality and independence, they must also be accountable to the law and the code of ethics and conduct of their profession.”
“An independent, competent and impartial justice system that is accountable to the public it serves and the domestic and international laws is of paramount importance to ultimately enforce and protect human rights,” the Special Rapporteur concluded.
(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s report to the Human Rights Council: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Judiciary/Pages/Annual.aspx
Gabriela Knaul took up her functions as UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers on 1 August 2009. In that capacity, she acts independently from any Government or organization. Ms. Knaul has a long-standing experience as a judge in Brazil and is an expert in criminal justice and the administration of judicial systems.
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