Ecuador: UN expert calls for speedy action to resolve Supreme Court crisis

22 July 2005 – Measures taken by Ecuador’s Congress to resolve the crisis resulting from the illegal dismissal of the Supreme Court last year are insufficient and violate United Nations principles, and urgent action is needed to re-establish the rule of law, a top UN legal expert said at the end of his latest visit to the Andean country.

The Special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights on the independence of judges and lawyers, Leandro Despouy, noted that Congress had failed to re-establish the Supreme Court, adopting instead a law approving rules for a selection committee on the qualification and appointment of judges of a new Supreme Court.

He added that both the law and a decree on procedures on the final appointment of the new judges of the Supreme Court contain a number of provisions which violate some Constitutional principles and international norms, in particular UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.

In a statement of preliminary observations on his week-long visit issued yesterday, Mr. Despouy said selection committee members informed him of their willingness to improve and rectify the deficiencies in the law and in the Decree which may be in breach of the Constitution and international human rights treaties.

The crisis began last November when Congress moved to replace 27 of the 31 Supreme Court judges with magistrates of its own choosing and the court’s president resigned.

“The Special Rapporteur stated that at this time in the history of Ecuador it is important that all actors and sectors be concerned about the resolution of this critical subject, the Supreme Court of Justice, as it is in the interest of democracy and will show the beginning of the institutional reconstruction and a step away from the events which took place between November 2004 and April of this year,” the statement said.

“In this regard, the Special Rapporteur hopes to be able to inform the General Assembly of the United Nations this October that the country has taken important steps on the full re-establishment of the rule of law and the reconstruction of the institutional framework and, in particular, in the integration of the high courts.”

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