Ecuadorean judicial Independence internationally questioned
Report shows that Executive Power’s improper interference seriously affects the judicial independence in Ecuador
Washington, DC. July 28, 2014.-

The Due Process Legal Foundation (DPLF), the Center for Legal Studies, Justice and Society (Dejusticia) from Colombia, and the Institute for Legal Defense from Peru (IDL) organizations whose mandate is to promote human rights and the State of Law in Latin America has today published the report “The Judicial Independence in the reform of Ecuadorean justice”, written by Luis Pasara, an expert in the area of justice and senior fellow at DPLF.

The report shows that, in spite of, the reforms implemented by Ecuador in recent years to strengthen the judicial system, in reality there is a line of action from the executive power directed to interfere in judicial decisions concerning matters of political relevance which severely weakens the division of power proper of all democratic nations.

The bases of the analysis are cases of high social relevancy, resolutions by the Judicature Council in disciplinary proceedings against judges, and official statements.  The report also considers the inappropriate use of the penal system to criminalize those who disagree or oppose government positions.

The report also points out that the judicial disciplinary system, run by the Judicature Council, has become a tool to sanction judges who do not adjust their sentences to the executive power, and it is mechanism to threaten the judges in general.
Of the 42 disciplinary proceedings at the hands of the Judicature Council that were examined in the report, 57 justices were impeached, the majority for committing an “inexcusable error”, supposedly included in the Organic Code of Judicial Function. Though unclear and imprecise language it has become a mechanism to sanction justices for their sentences. In said proceedings, the Council acted as court reviewing the sentence and not as a supervisory entity of judicial conduct which is what it should be according to the law.

“Since 2011, the Judicature Council has begun disciplinary hearings against justices after presidential statements questioned the decisions made by these justices and called for legal actions”, stated Katya Salazar the executive director of DPLF.

The report by the International Oversight Committee for Judicial Reform presided by the former Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon regarded the use of inexcusable error as a principle cause for  sanction  during the disciplinary proceedings  warned that “attention should be paid to the regulation called inexcusable error that is contained in the Organic Code of Judicial Function and that the requirements used by this Oversight Committee it has been found that it could disguise disciplinary actions that suppose authentic jurisdictional review”.

Cesar Rodriguez Garavito, the international director of Dejusticia: stated “President Rafael Correa’s discrediting statements against the judges and their decisions is an improper form of pressure to obtain rulings in favor of the executive power; when the government is no longer able to obtain results in this manner the Judicature Council is used to remove judges from the bench through questionable disciplinary proceedings”.

Ernesto de la Jara, founding Director of IDL, points out that “the weakening of the division of powers in Ecuador is grave, essential to limit and control the power in an any democracy…and we are concerned that their actions may be used as a model in other countries…”.

We hope that this report will help promote a technical debate on the role of an independent judicial system on all democratic society and the current weaknesses of the Ecuadorean judicial system.  Similarly, we trust that the report will promote a discussion on the necessary steps to achieving complete respect for the international standards as they relate to judicial Independence.

Finally, we respectfully recommend the Ecuadorean State:

  • To consider the possibility of inviting the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and attorneys of the United Nations Gabriela Knaul, to evaluate the current state of judicial independence in Ecuador;
  • Initiate a dialogue with the Inter-American Commission and Court of Human Rights on the international standards related to judicial independence, especially those contained in the jurisprudence of the Court and in the theme reports of the Commission on “The use of preventive detention in the Americas” and “Guarantees for the independence of the justice operators”;
  • Announce and comply with the recommendations of the report by the International Oversight Committee on judicial reform in Ecuador as it relates to transparency and upholding due process during disciplinary proceedings;
  • Allow the constitution and Access of an international commission of jurists who are clearly democratic and independent to prepare a list of recommendations aimed at strengthening an independent judiciary in Ecuador.

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