UN expert: The independence of judicial systems must be protected in the face of democratic decline and rising authoritarianism


A UN expert warned today that the role of independent justice systems in protecting participatory governance has come under attack from political actors who seek to limit or control judicial systems, including through ad hominem attacks by political leaders and the criminalisation of prosecutors, judges, and lawyers.

In her second report to the Human Rights Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Margaret Satterthwaite, set out a taxonomy of Government efforts to control judicial systems – from curbing bar associations and manipulating administrative functions to capturing courts and criminalising or attacking justice operators. The report also explores the vital role played by the legal professionals who comprise the justice system ­- judges, prosecutors, and lawyers, as well as community justice workers – in safeguarding democracy, in the 2024 context in which nearly half the world’s population will vote.

“Justice systems promote and protect a fundamental value that undergirds participatory governance: the rule of law,” the Special Rapporteur said. “This principle insists that all people, even state actors, are subject to the same laws, applied fairly and consistently.

“I call on Member States to do more to revitalise public trust in justice institutions and to defend justice actors and their indispensable role in safeguarding democracy,” she said.

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