A Double-Edged Sword: Judicial Independence and Accountability in Latin America


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Amid growing international concern over Latin America’s lack of commitment to safeguarding judicial independence, the IBAHRI has published a new report titled A Double-Edged Sword: Judicial Independence and Accountability in Latin America. The report highlights the challenges and threats facing judges in Latin America and sets out four recommendations for balancing judicial independence with judicial accountability.

Reports of judges being discredited and intimidated by governmental forces are creating an atmosphere of fear amongst the judiciary which is impairing its ability to carry out its duties freely and fairly. The report references instances of judges being removed en masse from their posts, subjected to unreliable lie detector tests and, as in the case of the trial of Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni, imprisoned and tortured. 

“[Many] stories paint a picture of judges as victims of government attacks that threaten the constitutional order of countries across the region.”

Recent studies carried out in Latin America (Latinobarómetro 2015) suggest that the public lack confidence in the judiciary as judges are widely perceived to be corrupt. The paper identifies this as the first major challenge facing the judiciary.

“A lack of trust in the judiciary, however, whether or not well founded, is problematic in itself, not least because it makes the judiciary vulnerable to attacks from the government.”

The IBAHRI report provides four key recommendations to protect the judiciary from political interference and increase public trust in the judiciary:

  1. Promote personal and institutional judicial integrity
  2. Increase the transparency of the judiciary
  3. Clarify the rules and procedures of disciplining judges
  4. Ensure the transparency and impartiality of disciplinary processes