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Spain: UN expert concerned about five-year delay in appointing General Council of the Judiciary

19 January 2024

GENEVA (19 January 2024) – A deadlock among political forces in the Spanish Parliament has resulted in the General Council of the Judiciary being hobbled, a UN expert warned today.

The mandate of the 20 members of the General Council of the Judiciary expired in 2018, and due to political disagreement, the new required appointments have not yet been made.

The General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) is a body of 20 members in charge of appointing judges and guaranteeing the independence of the judiciary. According to the Spanish Constitution, the CGPJ must be renewed every 5 years. However, the lack of agreement between the majority political parties has prevented this renewal since 2018. Without these appointments, the Council cannot function.

“The failure to appoint members of the CGPJ has translated into a substantial delay in the appointment of judges across the country,” said Margaret Satterthwaite, UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers. “This hinders the functioning of the Spanish judiciary as a whole.”

The General Council of the Judiciary is entrusted with key functions involving judicial appointments, promotions, and transfers, as well as the discipline of judges and inspection of courts and tribunals. Such judicial councils are essential to ensure judicial independence and separation of powers.

“Parliamentary delay has ironically led to the inability of an independent body to play its non-partisan role in ensuring the rule of law in Spain,” Satterthwaite said.

“The right to a fair trial requires an impartial judge. In Spain, this impartiality is closely linked to the free and independent functioning of the General Council of the Judiciary,” the expert said.

In late December 2023, Spanish authorities asked the European Commission to facilitate conversations to advance on the subject. The European Justice Commissioner Didier Reyners had already visited Spain to engage on this issue in 2022.

“I welcome the possible renewal of conversations aimed at resolving the deadlock on this subject and urge the Spanish Parliament to address this unprecedented crisis in the judiciary with the utmost seriousness,” Satterthwaite said.

The Special Rapporteur has been in contact with the Government of Spain regarding these concerns.

*The expert: Ms. Margaret Satterthwaite, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers. She was appointed as United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers by the Human Rights Council in October 2022. Professor Satterthwaite is an international human rights scholar and practitioner with decades of experience in the field. She is a Professor of Clinical Law at New York University School of Law.

The Expert is 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 of any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page - Spain

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