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Guatemala: UN expert concerned by process to appoint judges

18 February 2020


GENEVA (18 February 2020) - A UN human rights expert urged Guatemala to adopt all necessary measures to guarantee an independent and transparent process for appointing new high court judges, saying the current procedure is in crisis.

"The election procedure through the Nominating Commissions seems once again to seriously hamper the independent, transparent and objective judicial process. These weaknesses could have facilitated undue interference,” said Diego García-Sayán, UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers.

"Despite some efforts to respect the steps established in the national legal framework, I am concerned that the commissions for the Supreme Court,the appellate courts and the supreme electoral tribunal, have not properly assessed the suitability and probity of the applicants.

"The weaknesses identified in these selection procedures, as with previous selection procedures, confirm that the model of election and appointment of judges is in crisis,” the expert said. “The selection process should be contributing to a strengthening of the independence of the judiciary."

The Rapporteur will continue to monitor the development of the election processes and calls on the Congress to ensure that the elections are conducted in an individual, informed, transparent and objective manner, through mechanisms such as public hearings or other forms of public participation.

The Special Rapporteur suggested organizing a national discussion and reflection with broad social participation to discuss the selection process, including "a comprehensive reform of the legal framework for the selection and appointment of officials in the judiciary, in accordance with international human rights standards."

The Special Rapporteur is in contact with the authorities of Guatemala on this issue.


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 media inquiries related to other UN independent experts: The Media Unit ([email protected])

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