Vance Center, FLAM and CONATRIB Host Inter-American Dialogue on Judicial Independence in Mexico
On October 9 and 10, the Vance Center, along with judicial associations Federación Latinoamericana de Magistrados (FLAM) and the Comisión Nacional de Tribunales Superiores de Justicia de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos (CONATRIB), organized an in-person event to discuss key issues around judicial independence in Latin America.
Latin America Policy Director Jaime Chávez Alor and invited speakers at the Inter-American Dialogue on Judicial Independence in Mexico City, October 2023. Photo: Vance Center
The inspiration for this regional dialogue emerged from recommendations set out by members of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in a thematic hearing on judicial independence during the IACHR’s 186th Period of Sessions, in Los Angeles in March. The Vance Center and co-organizers aimed to foster an honest conversation about the primary obstacles and threats impacting the independence of judicial actors across the region, and to establish a durable collaboration network as well as a working roadmap to address such challenges.
The dialogue consisted of two days of discussion sessions and working groups made up of 70 judges from 17 different countries, members of FLAM, and experts representing civil society organizations, international organizations, and academia. Participants also visited the premises of the Supreme Court of Justice of Mexico.
The published assessments of the status of judicial independence in multiple Latin American countries – an ongoing project of the Vance Center in collaboration with regional judicial associations – provided an important foundation for these discussions.
Laurence Pantin and Adriana Aguilar from think tank México Evalúa discussed issues around procedures for selecting and appointing judges, evaluations and promotions within the judicial career track, and international standards and criteria regarding discipline proceedings against judges. UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers Professor Margaret Satterthwaite and Vance Center Latin America Policy Director Jaime Chávez Alor then led working groups on international mechanisms to protect against attacks on judicial independence, based on analyzing real cases.
During the second day of the event, Alejandra Quezada from México Evalúa guided a debate on the importance of clear language in judicial decisions, while journalist María Idalia Gómez discussed the relevance of a robust communications strategy for the judiciary.
Professor Satterthwaite also shared valuable information about the work of her mandate. In her opening remarks, she outlined the alarming rise in criminalization and persecution of judges in different regions around the world, part of an effort by authorities to discredit the work of judges and undermine public trust in the judiciary. She emphasized that such actions run counter to General Comment No. 32 of the UN Human Rights Committee, which obliges governments to protect judges from any form of intimidation.
FLAM President Judge Adriana Orocú expressed her concern about independence of judges in Mexico due to the constant, almost daily harassment they face from government officials. She noted that the basic premise of judicial impartiality is unattainable if judges face intimidation from the highest national authorities.
CONATRIB President Rafael Guerra coincided on the troubling repercussions of the attacks by Mexico’s President against the judiciary, and noted that Mexican judges’ ability to do their jobs is also being impacted by budget reduction measures adopted by the legislature.
Chávez Alor reiterated the Vance Center’s commitment to supporting judicial independence in the region as a key element for upholding the rule of law and protecting human rights and access to justice. Mexican Bar Association President Victor Olea and Ambassador Joel Hernández, former Commissioner of the IACHR and currently Undersecretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights of the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, also provided remarks.
The results of the Dialogue are available here: Dialogo Independencia Judicial. Relatoria, Conclusiones y Ruta de Trabajo.