Guatemala: Supreme Court of Justice undermines the rule of law

The Supreme Court’s election of a person who is not suitable for the position of substitute judge on the Constitutional Court is deeply concerning for the sound administration of justice and the effective application of the rule of law, the ICJ said today.

Ramon Cadena, the Director of the Central American office of the ICJ added: “with this election, the SCJ has contributed to deepening the crisis in the judicial system and it will affect the little credibility that the Guatemalan people still retain in the justice system.”

The position of substitute judge on the Constitutional Court (CC) had become vacant when the former substitute judge was appointed Attorney General by the President, Jimmy Morales.

The eight judges of the SCJ who voted in favour of the substitute judge of the CC did not comply with international norms and standards on the administration of justice.

The Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary state that “Persons selected for judicial office shall be individuals of integrity and ability with appropriate training or qualifications in law.”

The ICJ has been able to verify that the SCJ judges elected a person who:

  • in 2010 was dismissed as Attorney General by the CC shortly after assuming office because the person was deemed not suitable;
  • openly opposes the International Commission against Corruption and Impunity (ICCIG) despite the good work that the Commission undertakes to address corruption and impunity;
  • in 2010, after assuming the office of Attorney General was accused of intervening in cases concerning corruption and impunity and impairing evidence in these cases.

The ICJ recalls that the CC stated that the acts carried out by Congress on 11 September 2017 were susceptible of causing “irreparable harm to the justice system”.

The ICJ considers that the election by the SCJ of the substitute judge to the CC should also be considered an act of irreparable harm to the justice system.

The ICJ therefore urges the CC to once again protect the rule of law in Guatemala.

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