Vance Center and FECAJUD Organize Regional Workshop to Strengthen Central American Judiciary

June 2023

The Vance Center and the Federación Centroamericana de Juezas y Jueces por la Democracia (FECAJUD) organized an in-person workshop for judges from Central America and the Caribbean in Guatemala City on June 22-23, 2023.

Workshop participants at Guatemala’s Supreme Court of Justice. (Photo credit: Vance Center)

A team of experts in international human rights law, judicial transparency, democratic government, and anti-corruption led a series of sessions for judges from the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Panama. The two-day event aimed to provide a space for participants to share experiences, identify regional solutions to address common challenges, and facilitate networking and greater collaboration.  

The first session focused on international human rights law mechanisms for safeguarding judicial independence and defending judges from attacks and interference in their decisions, led by Vance Center Special Counsel Douglass Cassel and Melanie Santizo, Human Rights Officer at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, who joined the session on behalf of the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers. Leonel González, a law professor at the Universidad Alberto Hurtado in Chile and expert on judicial reform in Latin America, then facilitated a workshop on democratization of judicial government.  

Vance Center Special Counsel Douglass Cassel leads a workshop session. (Photo credit: Vance Center)

The second set of sessions addressed open justice initiatives and using available data to formulate public policy, guided by Laurence Pantin, Program Coordinator for Transparency in Justice at public policy think tank México Evalúa. Vance Center Latin America Policy Director Jaime Chávez Alor brought the event to a close with a presentation of an updated report on open justice best practices and efforts to combat corruption in the judiciary.  

The visiting judges also had an opportunity to visit Guatemala’s Supreme Court of Justice and attend a hearing conducted by the Criminal Chamber. Following the hearing, participants spoke directly with Supreme Court justices about ongoing challenges for the Guatemalan judiciary, including criminalization of judges and critical delays in pending appointments of new high court justices. 

The workshop, made possible with support from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), provided a timely space to discuss some of the most pressing issues for judges in Central America, enabling participants to identify innovative solutions and share best practices across borders to enhance their independence and integrity. The event received positive feedback from partners including Special Rapporteur Margaret Satterthwaite, and the heads of FECAJUD and the Asociación Guatemalteca de Jueces por la Integridad (AGJI). 

Participants in a workshop session. (Photo credit: Vance Center)