The ICJ condemns the imminent “trial” of Constitutional Court judges by Bolivia’s Senate, in proceedings that could see the judges sent to prison over politicians’ disagreement with a legal ruling.
The proceedings “violate the independence of the judiciary and the right to fair trial,” the Geneva-based organization wrote today in an open letter to all Senators and Deputies of the legislative assembly.
The charges in the trial, scheduled to begin on 21 October, are based entirely on a precautionary ruling by the judges that parts of a new law regulating notaries should not be implemented until the Court has an opportunity to hear a constitutional challenge to the law.
“The spectacle of dozens of politicians pretending to act as an independent and impartial criminal court, threatening to throw constitutional court judges in jail over a difference of opinion as to interpretation of the law, is incompatible with respect for human rights, the separation of powers, and the rule of law,” said Matt Pollard, Head of the Centre for Independence of Judges and Lawyers at the ICJ.
Constitutional Court Judges Soraida Rosario Chanez Chire and Ligia Mónica Velásquez Castaños are to be tried on 21 October, while proceedings against Judge Gualberto Cusi Mamani have reportedly been temporarily suspended for reasons of health. The judges were suspended from duty on 28 July.
An analysis brief published by the ICJ and sent to the legislative members concludes that the proceedings violate Bolivia’s international legal obligations under the American Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The brief also cites judgments of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that found violations of the American Convention as a result of defective parliamentary proceedings for removal of judges in other countries. The proceedings in Bolivia are poised to be even more egregious than the proceedings at issue in the earlier judgments, given the possibility for the Bolivian Senate (photo) to impose a criminal conviction and imprisonment.
“The ICJ urges the Senators and Deputies immediately to cancel the proceedings, to end the judges’ suspension from duty, to refrain from any other form of interference with judicial independence, and to reform judicial discipline and removal procedures to bring them into line with international standards,” said Pollard.
(update as of 21 October: the proceedings were postponed to 4 November after one of the judges collapsed on arrival at the Legislative Assembly and was taken to hospital).
English: Matt Pollard, Head of the Centre for Independence of Judges and Lawyers at the ICJ, t: +41 79 246 54 75; e: matt.pollard(a)icj.org
Spanish: Carlos Ayala, ICJ Commissioner, t: +58 212 952 8448; e: carlos.ayala(a)icj.org
BOLIVIA-Unfair trial of judges-News-Press release-2014-SPA (full text in PDF)
BOLIVIA-unfair trial of judges-Advocacy-Open letter-2014-ENG (full text in PDF)
BOLIVIA-unfair trial of judges-Advocacy-Open letter-2014-SPA (full text in PDF)
BOLIVIA-unfair trial of judges-Advocay-Analysis brief-2014-ENG (full text in PDF)
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