Strengthening from Within: Law and Practice in the Selection of Human Rights Judges and Commissioners

Regional human rights courts and commissions—including the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights, the European Court of Human Rights, and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights—are essential safeguards for the rule of law. Yet despite their importance, the process of selecting the judges and commissioners who sit on these bodies—how they are nominated, vetted, and ultimately selected—remains largely unknown and often shrouded in secrecy. Coupled with broader political efforts to erode international judicial institutions, this secrecy underscores the pressing need to focus on strengthening these systems from within.

This joint report with the International Commission of Jurists shines a light on the processes that governments use to nominate and select human rights judges and commissioners. By analyzing the nomination practices of 22 countries, it documents the ways in which nomination procedures often fall short of the legal frameworks and international standards that should guide them. It also identifies promising practices and offers recommendations for improvement grounded in experience.