March 12, 2021

Statement of ABA President Patricia Lee Refo Re: Appointment of magistrates in Guatemala

WASHINGTON, March 12, 2021 – The American Bar Association is deeply concerned by media accounts and reports from human rights observers about widespread irregularities in the appointment of magistrates to the Constitutional Court of Guatemala. The ABA has been monitoring judicial selection proceedings in Guatemala for seven years. The ABA Center for Human Rights has documented significant weaknesses in the processes for examining the records of judicial nominees to ensure they do not have evidence of corrupt or unethical behavior.

Several newly appointed magistrates have been accused of wrongdoing that was not investigated or publicly addressed. The failure to properly evaluate these magistrates could undermine the credibility of the Court and the rule of law in Guatemala. The ABA urges Guatemalan authorities to conduct additional investigations before the magistrates assume their positions in April to ensure compliance with their constitutional requirement that candidates be selected based on their professional experience and recognized integrity.

The right to an impartial judiciary is enshrined in relevant human rights conventions to which Guatemala is a state party. Merit-based selection proceedings are critical to judicial independence and public confidence in the process.

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