GENEVA / TEGUCIGALPA (22 August 2019) – Honduras needs urgent Government action to strengthen national capacities to fight corruption and reinforce the independence of its judicial system, says UN Special Rapporteur Diego García-Sayán at the end of a fact-finding mission.
“The independence of the judicial system and other crucial democratic principles, such as the separation of powers, remain a great challenge in Honduras,” said García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, presenting a preliminary report on his visit.
“The justice system, as well as the political class and other institutions of the State, are being called strongly into question by citizens. People are concerned about judicial delays, corruption, impunity, human rights violations, citizen insecurity and violence, among other issues. These problems, in turn, lead to questions about the justice and political systems as a whole.
“The institutional framework of Honduras itself presents very serious contradictions and gaps, even though its fundamental aspects are consistent with the principles of judicial independence and separation of powers.
“As it stands, however, it is not enough to guarantee the independence of the justice system. The country needs a new law on the Council of the Judiciary and the judicial profession to be implemented urgently, guaranteeing the independence of judges and magistrates,” he said.
García-Sayán also urged the Honduran Congress to consider reviewing the procedure for selecting and appointing Supreme Court judges, the Attorney General and his or her Deputy.
“Transparency and public scrutiny should guide the selection process of senior judicial officials and prosecutors through transparent procedures that guarantee the participation of society with a view to carefully examining the independence, competence and integrity of the candidates,” he said.
During the visit, the Special Rapporteur emphasised the importance of strengthening national capacities to deal with corruption. He noted the institutional efforts that had already resulted in concrete progress, such as the creation of courts and tribunals with national jurisdiction over corruption and extortion cases, and the creation of the Special Prosecutor's Unit Against Corruption Impunity (UFECIC) in the Public Prosecutor's Office.
"I urge the Supreme Court of Justice, in coordination with the Secretariat of Human Rights, to comply with the provisions of the Law on the protection of human rights defenders, journalists, social communicators and justice officials regarding the strengthening of the measures to provide protection, not just for the lives, but also the integrity of those who work in the justice system.
“It is also essential that offences against those working in the justice system are investigated with due diligence and impartiality and the offenders punished,” said García-Sayán.
The UN expert commended the invaluable work of the Mission of Support against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH) since it became part of the national justice system, urging the renewal of the Mission’s current mandate when it expires in January 2020, and calling for a consolidation and strengthening of its functions.
The Special Rapporteur will present a comprehensive report with his conclusions and recommendations to the Human Rights Council in Geneva in June 2020.
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. Among others, he was: Representative of the UN Secretary-General for the Peace Agreements at El Salvador and for the subsequent verification of the agreements reporting directly to the Security Council; member and Chairperson of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances during several years; member of the Redesign Panel on the United Nations System of Administration of Justice, appointed by the UN Secretary-General in 2006; Head of the Electoral Mission of the Organisation of American States (OAs) in Guatemala during the general elections (2007).
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: In Tegucigalpa (during the visit): Mr. Stefano Sensi (email: [email protected]) In Geneva (before, during or after the visit): Mr. Gotzon Onandia ([email protected]g)
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