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Guatemala: Attacks against Constitutional Court and delays in appointment of judges to high courts must stop

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GENEVA (19 November 2020) – The UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Diego García-Sayán, expressed concerns at continued attacks, and arbitrary and undue legal action against members of the Constitutional Court of Guatemala.

In May 2020, the Constitutional Court made a decision on a roadmap for the appointment of members to the Supreme and Appellate courts. Subsequently, the Constitutional Court and its judges have faced attacks from the Supreme Court of Justice, the Office of the Prosecutor and from Congress.

Decisions rendered by the Constitutional Court, pursuant to its competencies, ordering the ceasing of undue accusations have not been complied with by Congress or the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, many judges of the Constitutional Court face multiple criminal charges and requests for the removal of their immunity from suit, following the decision to expedite the appointment to the Supreme and Appellate courts. Pursuant to an earlier decision by the Supreme Court, Congress established a commission of inquiry to examine the Constitutional Court.

“The State is under an obligation to prevent attacks against judges for carrying out their functions and must avoid political interference in the Constitutional Court,” said García-Sayan.

In addition, the Special Rapporteur expressed his concern on the repeated delays by Congress in the selection of members to the Supreme Court of Justice and the Court of Appeals. “I observe with concern that the programming of sessions in Congress to advance the process of the selection of judges is indefinitely prolonged and has not resulted in the elections taking place”, said García-Sayán.

“Actions by Congress are not only in violation of the order by the Constitutional Court. More generally, it constitutes an attack delegitimizing the function of the institution in a way that is unacceptable in any society governed by the rule of law,” said the expert. “The State cannot abrogate its responsibilities to ensure that members to the judiciary are appointed and it must ensure the transparency of the procedure.”

The expert called on all branches of Government to cease the ongoing attacks against the Constitutional Court and its members and to comply with the orders issued by the Constitutional Court.

ENDS

Mr. Diego García-Sayán took up his functions as UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers in December 2016. He was formerly a judge of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for two consecutive terms. During his tenure, he was elected Vice-President of the Court (2008-2009) and President of the Court for two consecutive terms (2009-2013). He has long-standing experience working on human rights issues in a variety of settings, including for the United Nations and the Organization of American States.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and media requests, please contact Stefano Sensi at: srindependencejl@ohchr.org
For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Renato de Souza (+41 22 928 9855 / rrosariodesouza@ohchr.org)

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.

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