Appointment of Supreme Court and Court of Appeals Judges in Guatemala

April 2024

The process of appointing judges in Guatemala in 2024 will be complex, because the previous process in 2019 did not end with the appointment of the courts in the time established by the Guatemalan Constitution. That process set a bad precedent that extended the functions of the courts until 2023, when they should have instead handed over their positions in 2019. To date, Guatemala faces a serious issue with the criminalization of justice operators and human rights defenders, and the courts themselves have been the main actors characterized by a lack of independence. In addition, Guatemala has recently completed an electoral process for the election of president and vice president, marked by countless judicial actions, which put the democratic institutionality of the country at serious risk. These events prompted the international community to actively defend the rule of law and the peaceful transition of power.

How Guatemala elects its Supreme Court and Court of Appeals judges is critical for upholding the rule of law, ensuring the balance of power, and providing legal certainty. Newly appointed courts must act independently to curb power abuses by those previously identified and sanctioned for corruption and anti-democratic practices.

The Vance Center recognizes that the well-being of a society depends on a well-functioning rule of law, essential for exercising civil and economic rights and fostering a thriving national economy. Businesses exist only because of laws that permit their incorporation and grant them powers and responsibilities. Their activities thrive in states where “all persons, institutions, and entities, public and private, including the state itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and consistent with international human rights norms and standards.”

The lack of independent justice in Guatemala directly affects the level of impunity. In turn, high levels of impunity affect the exercise of civil, political, social, and economic rights, creating spaces for corruption and insecurity to flourish. These effects are structural causes of migration and insecurity, seriously impacting the region.

The Vance Center seeks to engage with key sectors of the Guatemalan and international legal profession to support and monitor this process and identify essential considerations to comply with national and international standards for selecting judicial officials. Additionally, the Vance Center seeks to contribute to discussing the process by which judges are appointed and a necessary reform of the justice system to guarantee true judicial independence.

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