Guatemala’s Constitutional Court has deemed the selection of more than 100 judges to the country’s Supreme Court and appellate courts was made legally, despite widespread criticism that the process was influenced by shady figures operating among the country’s political elites.
The Constitutional Court suspended the swearing in of the selected judges in order to review appeals presented by civil society organizations in October, which called for the nullification of the process. However, on November 20 the court rejected the appeals, citing a lack of convincing evidence or arguments, reported EFE.
According to an official document explaining the decision, the Guatemalan Congress complied with its legal duty of electing the judges by political consensus, based on the list of nominees given to them by the country’s postulation commissions, reported elPeriodico.
The Constitutional Court judge who oversaw the review process leading up to the final decision, Hector Hugo Perez, was the one judge who had voted against the initial suspension of the election process, elPeriodico reported earlier this month.
The new Supreme Court judges will be sworn into office in the coming days, according to El Periodico.
InSight Crime Analysis
The Constitutional Court’s decision will be a disappointing one, if not surprising, for both Guatemalan civil society organizations and international observers who have spoken out against corruption in the judicial selection process. One representative of a US-based NGO that promotes legal due process told EFE the ruling was “a disaster” for judicial independence in Guatemala.
As previously reported by InSight Crime, the postulation commissions responsible for drawing up the initial list of candidates for Congress to choose from are heavily influenced by special interests. The final congressional selection process is also politically motivated, since it is in the interests of corrupt politicians to maintain friendly judges in the high courts. Following the most recent selections, one appellate court judge resigned in protest of what she called a “perverse” process.
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Guatemala has a long history of impunity for the country’s elites, and those who have attempted to change things have rarely had their way. Guatemala’s former Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz earned international acclaim for her work, which included winning the conviction of former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt on genocide charges. However, the Constitutional Court soon overturned the decision, and Paz y Paz has since been persecuted in Guatemala for her efforts.