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The Independence of the Inter-American Judge

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Abstract This article describes and analyzes several safeguards of the independence of the Inter-American judge. It concludes that the system enshrined in the American Convention on Human Rights, the Statute of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the Court’s practice are not enough to guarantee the appearance of independence of the Court’s judges. The major problem is the process of nomination and election of judges. At both national and international levels the process is not clear, transparent, or accountable. Women and ethnic and cultural groups are underrepresented. Judges’ terms of office and the re-election possibilities should be revised. Lastly, some guidelines should be adopted in order to regulate judges’ outside activities, incompatibilities, and disqualifications. All these issues should by addressed by the Organization of American States, States Parties to the Convention, and the Court itself, and this article gives some recommendations in this respect.

1. FN11) Constitutional Court v. Peru. IACtHR, Series C No. 71 (2001), para. 73.
2. FN22) Apitz-Barbera et al. (‘First Court of Administrative Disputes’) v. Venezuela. IACtHR, Series C No. 182 (2008), para. 55.
3. FN33) Shetreet, S., ‘Standards of Conduct of International Judges: Outside Activities’, (2003) 2 The Law and Practice of International Courts and Tribunals, p. 129.
4. FN44) Ibid.
5. FN55) Posner, E.A. & Yoo, J.C., ‘Judicial Independence in International Tribunals’, (2005) 93 California Law Review, p. 27.
6. FN66) Pursuant to Article 2 of the Statute of the IACtHR, ‘[t]he Court shall exercise adjudicatory and advisory jurisdiction: 1. Its adjudicatory jurisdiction shall be governed by the provisions of Articles 61, 62 and 63 of the [ACHR], and 2. Its advisory jurisdiction shall be governed by the provisions of Article 64 of the [ACHR]’.
7. FN77) Pursuant to Article 61 ACHR, the States Parties and the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights have the right to submit a case to the IACtHR.
8. FN88) Pursuant to Article 62 ACHR, the Court is available to all States Parties to the Convention that have recognized its jurisdiction.
9. FN99) The Court was established in 1979 and it has jurisdiction over the States Parties that have recognized it, pursuant to Article 62 ACHR.
10. FN1010) Pursuant to Article 78 ACHR, States Parties may denounce the ACHR at the expiration of a five-year period from the date of its entry into force and by means of notice given one year in advance. Such a denunciation shall not have the effect of releasing the State Party concerned from the obligations contained in the Convention with respect to any act that may constitute a violation of those obligations and that has been taken by that state prior to the effective date of denunciation. If a state denounces the ACHR it is not allowed to submit a case against another state.
11. FN1111) See, Article 52 ACHR.
12. FN1212) Adopted by the Seventh Congress of the United Nations for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, held in Milan, Italy, from 26 August through 6 September 1985, and confirmed by the General Assembly in its resolutions 40/32 of 29 November 1985 and 40/146 of 13 December 1985.
13. FN1313) Reverón-Trujillo v. Venezuela. IACtHR, Series C No. 197 (2009), paras. 72–73.
14. FN1414) Ibid., para. 74.
15. FN1515) Adopted by the Study Group of the International Law Association on the Practice and Procedure of International Courts and Tribunals, in association with the Project on International Courts and Tribunals in June 2004, available at http://www.pict-pcti.org/activities/Burgh%20House%20English.pdf.
16. FN1616) See, Article 52 of the ACHR and Article 4 of the Statute.
17. FN1717) See, Organic Code of the Judiciary (Código Orgánico de la Función Judicial) of Ecuador; Statutory Law of Administration of Justice (Ley Estatutaria de Administración de Justicia) of Colombia; Organic Code of Tribunals (Código Orgánico de Tribunales) of Chile; Judiciary Career Law (Ley de Carrera Judicial) of Venezuela, and the Constitutions of Panama and Mexico.
18. FN1818) Article 8(1) of the Statute.
19. FN1919) Article 7(2) and (3) of the Statute.
20. FN2020) Article 8(2) of the Statute.
21. FN2121) Article 7(1) of the Statute.
22. FN2222) Article 9(1) of the Statute.
23. FN2323) Article 9(2) of the Statute.
24. FN2424) Mackenzie, R. & Sands, P., ‘International Courts and Tribunals and the Independence of the International Judge’, (2003) 44 Harvard International Law Journal, p. 278.
25. FN2525) Interights, Judicial Independence. Law and Practice of Appointments to the European Court of Human Rights, May 2003, p. 5, available at http://www.interights.org/documentbank/index.htm?id=259.
26. FN2626) Faúndez-Ledesma, H., ‘La independencia e imparcialidad de los miembros de la Comisión y de la Corte: Paradojas y Desafíos’ in Méndez, J. & Cox, F. (Ed.), El futuro del Sistema Interamericano de Protección de los Derechos Humanos (San José: IIDH, 2001), p. 187.
27. FN2727) CEJIL, Aportes para la reflexión sobre posibles reformas al funcionamiento de la Comisión Interamericana y la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (Buenos Aires: CEJIL, 2008), p. 18.
28. FN2828) OAS General Assembly, AG/RES. 2166 (XXXVI-O/06), 6 June 2006.
29. FN2929) CEJIL, op. cit., p. 18.
30. FN3030) Articles 176 and 177 of the Organic Code of the Judiciary (Código Orgánico de la Función Judicial) of Ecuador.
31. FN3131) INTERIGHTS, op. cit., p. 22.
32. FN3232) INTERIGHTS, op. cit., p. 4.
33. FN3333) Schönsteiner, J., ‘Alternative Appointment Procedures for the Commissioners and Judges in the Inter-American System of Human Rights’, (2007) 46 Revista IIDH, pp. 210–211.
34. FN3434) Principle 2(2) of the Burgh House Principles on the Independence of the International Judiciary.
35. FN3535) CEJIL, op. cit., p. 18, and Asociación por los Derechos Civiles (ADC), El fortalecimiento de la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, n/d, p. 6, available at http://www.adc-sidh.org/images/files/elfortalecimientodelacorteinteramericanadederechoshumanos1.pdf.
36. FN3636) The current and former composition of the IACtHR can be found at http://www.corteidh.or.cr/jueces.pdf.
37. FN3737) Advisory Opinion “Article 55 of the American Convention on Human Rights”. IACtHR, Series A No. 20 (2009), para. 49.
38. FN3838) González et al. (“Cotton Field”) v. Mexico. IACtHR, Series C No. 205 (2009), footnote 1.
39. FN3939) Advisory Opinion No. 20, op. cit., para. 50.
40. FN4040) Ibid., paras. 66–67.
41. FN4141) Ibid., para. 68.
42. FN4242) Ibid., para. 79.
43. FN4343) Ibid., paras. 80–81.
44. FN4444) Ibid., para. 82.
45. FN4545) Article 42(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
46. FN4646) Article 12(2) of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
47. FN4747) Article 103(1)(c) of the Rules of Procedure of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane, or Degrading Treatment.
48. FN4848) Article 17(2)(a) of the Rules of Procedure of the IACmHR.
49. FN4949) Article 22 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
50. FN5050) Advisory Opinion No. 20, op. cit., para. 85 and operative paragraph 2.
51. FN5151) In this respect, the Statute of the ICJ provides that ‘No member of the Court may exercise any political or administrative function’.
52. FN5252) Shelton, D., ‘Legal Norms to Promote the Independence and Accountability of International Tribunals’, (2003) 2 The Law and Practice of International Courts and Tribunals, p. 32.
53. FN5353) Moiwana v. Suriname. Order of the IACtHR of 15 March 2005, paras. 8–12.
54. FN5454) Yean and Bosico v. The Dominican Republic. Order of the IACtHR of 4 May 2004, para. 10 and operative para. 1.
55. FN5555) Baena Ricardo et al., Order of the IACtHR of 22 January 1999, paras. 3–6.
56. FN5656) La Prensa, 14 February 2008, available at http://mensual.prensa.com/mensual/contenido/2008/02/14/hoy/panorama/1264412.html.
57. FN5757) Heliodoro-Portugal v. Panama. IACtHR, Series C No. 186 (2008), footnote 2.
58. FN5858) Ríos et al. v. Venezuela, Order of the IACtHR of 18 October 2007, paras. 10–13, and Perozo et al. v. Venezuela, Order of the IACtHR of 18 October 2007, paras. 10–13. In both cases Judge García-Sayán recused himself, in order to preserve ‘the perception of absolute independence of the Tribunal’. Ibid., para. 14 of each order.
59. FN5959) Article 54(1) of the ACHR and 5(1) of the Statute.
60. FN6060) Antonio de Bustamante, quoted by Brown, C., ‘The Evolution and Application of Rules Concerning Independence of the “International Judiciary” ’, (2003) 2 The Law and Practice of International Courts and Tribunals, p. 77.
61. FN6161) Mackenzie, R. & Sands, P., ‘International Courts and Tribunals and the Independence of the International Judge’, (2003) 44 Harvard International Law Journal, p. 279.
62. FN6262) Meron, T., ‘Judicial Independence and Impartiality in International Criminal Tribunals’, (2005) 99 The American Journal of International Law, p. 362.
63. FN6363) INTERIGHTS, op. cit., p. 30.
64. FN6464) Caflisch, L., ‘Independence and Impartiality of Judges: The European Court of Human Rights’, (2003) 2 The Law and Practice of International Courts and Tribunals, p. 172.
65. FN6565) Mackenzie, R. & Sands, P., ‘International Courts and Tribunals and the Independence of the International Judge’, (2003) 44 Harvard International Law Journal, p. 273.
66. FN6666) OAS General Assembly, AG/RES. 2353 (XXXVII-O/07), 5 June 2007, and AG/RES. 2437 (XXXVIII-O/08), 3 June 2008.
67. FN6767) Shetreet, S., ‘Standards of Conduct of International Judges: Outside Activities’, (2003) 2 The Law and Practice of International Courts and Tribunals, p. 130.
68. FN6868) Meron, op. cit., p. 365. Additionally, Principle 9.2 of the Principles provides that: ‘Judges shall not serve in a case with the subject-matter of which they have had any other form of association that may affect or may reasonably appear to affect their independence or impartiality’.
69. FN6969) ICTY, Judgment of 21 July 2000, Appeals Chamber, para. 189.
70. FN7070) Brubaker, J.R., ‘The Judge Who Knew Too Much: Issue Conflicts In International Adjudication’, (2008) 26 Berkeley Journal of International Law, p. 134.
71. FN7171) Ibid., p. 140.
72. FN7272) Ibid., p. 135.
73. FN7373) Ibid., p. 139.
74. FN7474) Ibid., p. 141.
75. FN7575) Guillaume, G., ‘Some Thoughts on the Independence of International Judges vis-à-vis States’, (2003) 2 The Law and Practice of International Courts and Tribunals, p. 165.
76. FN7676) López Mendoza v. Venezuela. Order of the President of the IACtHR of 3 September 2010, paras. 17–19, and Chocrón Chocrón v. Venezuela. Order of the President of the IACtHR of 3 September 2010, paras. 17–19.
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/content/journals/10.1163/157180312x619051
2012-01-01
2015-08-03

Affiliations: 1: Ghent University Belgium

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