Friday, July 30, 2010

UN Critical of Justice Dismissal

None of the decisions that led to the dismissal of the judges and the magistrate contains the legal grounds that justify why the conduct that was the object of the disciplinary proceedings was considered to be grave.

So concluded the report of three UN Human Rights experts made public in Geneva, Switzerland, yesterday. The report, in response to the dismissal of the four judges and a magistrate by the Honduran Supreme Court earlier this year, noted that
Judges can be dismissed only on serious grounds of misconduct or incompetence, in accordance with fair procedures that guarantee objectivity and impartiality. Accepting an invitation to give a lecture, write an article, present an application for habeas corpus in favour of the dismissed president or participate in public demonstrations does not seem to meet these criteria.

The Supreme Court of Honduras notified the jurists that they were dismissed for "non-compliance or serious breaches of their duties", but the report notes that they seem to have been dismissed for their comments and writings, and participation in public protests after last year's coup d'etat, which does not seem to meet those criteria. The report also notes the Supreme Court
violated the rights of the dismissed judges to due process; they were sanctioned without having been heard and were prohibited from participating in the plenary sessions in which the court agreed to and ratified their firing.

The report also notes that the judges have appealed the decision to the Judicial Career Council of Honduras. They noted that it is important to resolve this case "in accordance with international standards in this area," and for Honduras to consolidate the independence of the judiciary.

The report, written by Gabriela Knaul, UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, and Margaret Sekaggya, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, concluded that the dismissals could have the effect of intimidating other members of the judiciary to "to refrain from expressing views different from those expressed by the authorities," and that this is a disturbing message for other jurists in Honduras. They noted to EFE:
This represents an inadmissible attack against the independence of Honduran judges and magistrates, and against the freedom of opinion, expression, gathering, and is against associations which promote and protect human rights and fundamental liberties in Honduras.

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