Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico generally lack institutional policies to guarantee the necessary conditions for an independent judiciary and to effectively address attacks on judicial independence against judges’s judicial independence. These attacks come from government authorities in the executive, legislative and judicial branches, political parties, and other non-governmental sectors, including criminal groups. 

This discussion paper reviews and summarizes findings from a series of roundtable discussions with over 50 judges from Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico as part of the project “Judges as Peacebuilders”, organized by the International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC), the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice of the New York City Bar Association, and the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ). 

Key recommendations to the national governments of Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico 

1. Legislative branches must carry out legal reforms in consultation with the judiciary and judicial associations to create true judicial services covering trial court level judges, appellate court level justices and clerks, with a selection process for entry, promotion and permanence based on merit and clear and transparent evaluations. The judicial service should be based on professionalization and continuous training. 

2. Create a technical body within the judiciary with operational, managerial, and budgetary autonomy with sufficient resources, as a “judicial ombudsperson” to receive complaints from judges regarding attacks against judicial independence. The technical body should, in turn, take these complaints to the corresponding government agencies, such as administrative, disciplinary, and criminal investigative bodies. These complaints should be brought to the authorities per the individual attack and because of the general threat to judicial independence. This body should ensure the implementation of measures to protect the physical and legal integrity of judicial personnel who are victims of these attacks. 

3. Enact legislation that establishes the obligation to develop a protection protocol for judges and their families in the face of attacks on judicial independence. The protocol should establish the responsibilities of each authority and is scalable according to defined levels of risk, which should be based on objective analysis and criteria. The provision of sufficient budgetary resources implementing of this protocol should be considered by the legislation. 

4. Provide legal certainty in the case of notoriously unfounded complaints and accusations against judges, used as a mechanism of intimidation and pressure. This means immediately notifying the persons accused in the complaint and carrying out an expeditious and transparent process to resolve and dismiss meritless complaints. This process must comply with the highest international human rights standards, and it must be part of the “judicial ombudsperson” defense mechanism. 

The Discussion Paper is available in Spanish here.

Este documento de discusión está disponible en español este enlace.