Guatemala: UN voices concern over recent election of Supreme Court judges

5 October 2009

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and an independent United Nations human rights expert today voiced concern over the manner of the recent election of judges to the Supreme Court in Guatemala, saying the process was rushed and lacked transparency and objectivity.

Gabriela Carina Knaul de Albuquerque e Silva, the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, issued a statement in Geneva voicing concern at the way the Guatemalan Congress elected the judges on 30 September.

The Congress elected the judges at a plenary session, “without having established a methodology and a timetable for an election to assess and evaluate each candidate in accordance with Guatemalan legislation and international standards” on the issue, according to the statement.

“The recent election… ignored the principles of transparency, objectivity and expertise needed in this type of process,” said the Special Rapporteur.

She also expressed regret that Congress had not followed the recommendations of her predecessor, Leandro Despouy, on the election of Supreme Court judges after he visited the Central American country in July.

“The UN Special Rapporteur’s recommendations were aimed at overcoming the grave deficiencies in the country’s judicial system,” said Ms. Knaul de Albuquerque.

She called on the Congress to follow Mr. Despouy’s recommendations by guaranteeing civil society’s effective participation in elections for the Court of Appeal and ensuring that Guatemala’s High Courts consist of independent, honest and competent judges in accordance with international standards.

Mr. Ban issued his own statement through a spokesperson, saying he noted the concerns raised by the Special Rapporteur and by the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).

“This is an issue of great importance to the fight against impunity in the country,” the statement said. “The Secretary-General trusts the Guatemalan Congress will ensure that judges of unquestioned competence, independence and integrity are named to the country’s highest courts.”

 

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