Independent Experts Call for Transparent Review of Inter-American Court Elections

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WASHINGTON, D.C.—An independent expert panel has released an assessment of the nominees to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, while also providing recommendations for more transparent and inclusive election processes.

The new report, launched by the 2018 Independent Panel on the Election of Inter-American Human Rights Judges, comes as three new judges will be elected during the 48th session of the Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly, held in Washington, D.C., from June 4 to 5.

The Inter-American Court is one of two bodies set up by OAS to monitor human rights throughout the region. The 2018 panel is part of an ongoing effort by civil society groups to push for more transparent and rigorous nomination and election processes among Inter-American Court judges.

The court elects seven judges for six-year terms, and the outcome of the 2018 elections stand to influence the court for years to come and throughout the Americas. Included in the panel’s report is an independent assessment of the four nominees standing for judicial election—Eduardo Ferrer Mac-Gregor Poisot (Mexico), Nardi Elizabeth Suxo Iturry (Bolivia), Ricardo Pérez Manrique (Uruguay), and Humberto Antonio Sierra Porto (Colombia).

The panel’s report also calls on OAS and its member states to take concrete steps towards a more transparent selection and election of judges to the Inter-American Court.

Key recommendations include the following:

  • States should issue public calls for nominations spelling out the criteria and processes for the nomination and election of candidates.
  • States should create a formal, independent, and nonpolitical body at the national level to publicly assess and interview candidates and to ensure that they satisfy the nomination criteria.
  • States should nominate a minimum of two candidates for election and at least one nominee should be a woman.
  • States should consider the commission’s need for a wide range of experiences among its members—including different and complementary skills—when nominating candidates for election.
  • OAS should set up its own consultative committee that is responsible for reviewing and ensuring the suitability of all nominated candidates, a model now embraced by the European Court of Human Rights and the International Criminal Court.

The 2018 panel is comprised of four renowned academics with expertise in human rights and the Inter-American system: Carlos Ayala (Venezuela), Ximena Medellín (Mexico), Juan Méndez (Argentina), and Naomi Roht-Arriaza (United States).

The panel was convened by the Open Society Justice Initiative, the Center for Justice and International Law, and the Due Process of Law Foundation, and it has been endorsed by over 70 human rights groups, nongovernmental organizations, and universities throughout the region. These organizations share a common commitment to strengthening the Inter-American human rights system through the principle of fair, transparent, and inclusive elections, and through the nomination of qualified and independent candidates.

The 2018 panel’s assessment includes a review of publicly available information, together with responses to a questionnaire submitted to each candidate by the panel, each candidate’s declarations at the presentation before the OAS Permanent Council and during the conversation with civil society at the Washington, D.C., Inter-American Dialogue, and interviews conducted with three of the four candidates.

The panel’s final report is now available in Spanish. An English version will be released in the coming weeks.