UN expert calls on Guatemala to seize the opportunity to appoint exemplary apex courts


Guatemalan authorities and people living in Guatemala should seize the great opportunity before them to appoint the best candidates to the posts of Supreme Court Magistrates and Court of Appeal Magistrates for the period of 2024 to 2029, a UN expert said today.

“The independence and impartiality of tribunals is one of the essential guarantees of the rule of law required by human rights norms,” said the Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Margaret Satterthwaite. “The requirement of independence refers to the procedure and qualifications for the appointment of judges, and is closely linked to a timely, legal framework compliant, appointment of suitable candidates to apex courts. In Guatemala, this means that highly qualified profiles must be identified and considered for appointment.”

Magistrates currently serving on the Guatemalan Supreme Court and Court of Appeal will end their terms in October 2024. Congress should then elect new judges based on lists chosen by the Nominating Commissions.

The current judges had only been appointed in November 2023, “after almost four years of inaction from the Guatemalan Congress”, the Special Rapporteur said. The terms of these incumbents will end on 13 October 2024, necessitating the timely appointment of their successors,” she said.

“I am concerned about the context of mistrust that has been generated around the court appointment processes in the past, the allegations of corruption and influence peddling that accompanied the previous process and the lack of effective participation of civil society,” Satterthwaite said.

“I call on all those involved in the Nominating Commissions and in Congress to ensure that the appointments this year meet the criteria set out in law. Civil society must be able to participate fully and meaningfully in considering the candidates and monitoring the process,” she said. “At the same time, I stress the crucial importance of not repeating the past by failing to appoint judges for almost a full term.”

The expert provided the following benchmarks to be used by those participating in and monitoring the judicial appointments process in Guatemala. These benchmarks are based on human rights law and relevant international norms.

The Special Rapporteur has been in contact with the Government of Guatemala regarding these recommendations.

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