IACHR Urges Guatemala to Comply with International Standards in the Selection Process for the Constitutional Court

April 11, 2022

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Washington, D.C. — In view of the ruling handed down by the Constitutional Court (CC) of Guatemala annulling the appointment of Gloria Porras for a new term as a judge and ordering that the selection process be repeated, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urged the State to ensure that international standards are complied with during the election of the next head of the CC for 2021–2026.

On March 29, the CC issued an injunction against the appointment of Gloria Porras for the 2021–2026 term. Ms. Porras was a CC judge until 2021 and is a beneficiary of precautionary measures granted by the IACHR.

In view of this ruling and given the context of the delay of more than three years in the election of judges to the Supreme Court of Justice and High Courts for 2019–2024, the IACHR urged the State of Guatemala to ensure that the appointment of the new incumbent can move forward with the utmost diligence, within the established deadlines, and in compliance with international standards on the matter.

In April 2021, the Congress of the Republic swore in the judges elected to the CC for this period, with the exception of Ms. Porras, who was a judge at the time and had been elected by the Superior University Council (CSU) of the University of San Carlos for a new term. In its ruling, the CC annulled the procedure carried out by the CSU to appoint Ms. Porras and ordered that a new selection process be carried out. The State reported that the CC ruling derives from two amparo rulings that argue that there were irregularities in the election process for the representative of the University of San Carlos of Guatemala before the CC. Given the latent risk of criminal prosecution as a result of several lawsuits and complaints filed against Ms. Porras in connection with her role as a CC judge, she has been forced to flee Guatemala and currently remains in exile. The State claimed that Ms. Porras decided to leave the country on personal grounds and that protection measures were in place for her.

The IACHR noted that an appropriate appointment and selection process is a necessary prerequisite to guaranteeing the independence of the judiciary. On this point, report entitled Guarantees for the Independence of Justice Operators provided detailed descriptions of the guarantees that should be observed during the selection and appointment process. It also emphasized that the purpose of this process is to choose candidates based on personal merit and professional capacity, as well as the uniqueness and specific nature of the functions they are to perform. To this end, objective criteria must be established in advance to evaluate and rank candidates so as to prevent any discretionary action on the part of the authorities involved in the selection process. In this regard, the Guatemalan State indicated that the selection criteria are set out in Chapter IV of the Political Constitution, "Constitutional Court," and in articles 151 to 155 of the Law of Amparo, Personal Exposure, and Constitutionality.

Finally, in compliance with its mandate to promote the observance and defense of human rights and in view of the essential role that the judiciary play in accessing justice and upholding the rule of law, the IACHR urged the State to ensure that the authorities involved in the selection and appointment processes comply with the minimum standards of merit, capacity, suitability, and honesty set out in Article 113 of the Political Constitution of Guatemala and international human rights law, in order to ensure their independence.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 078/22

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