29 January 2013 A United Nations independent expert today expressed grave concern over the decision by the Honduran Congress to dismiss four Supreme Court judges, and called on the Government to reconsider its decision.
“The principle of stability and the irremovable status of judges are a fundamental guarantee to protect the independence of judicial power, and this can only be disrupted under exceptional circumstances,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul. “The dismissal of the four judges represents a grave attack against Honduras’ democracy.”
According to reports, on 12 December the Honduran Congress voted to dismiss four Supreme Court justices – José Antonio Gutiérrez Navas, Gustavo Enrique Bustillo Palma, José Francisco Ruiz Gaekel and Rosalinda Cruz Sequeira – after they rejected a plan by President Porfirio Lobo to reform the national police. The judges have appealed the decision.
“Judges can only be dismissed for inappropriate conduct or incompetence and only after an established procedure that guarantees a fair judgment and allows for a revision of the decision,” Ms. Knaul said, adding that it is unacceptable for Congress to dismiss them as a reprisal mechanism.
The dismissal of the judges did not follow international norms that guarantee a fair trial and did not respect the judicial framework established by the country’s Constitution, Ms. Knaul said.
“I call on Honduran authorities to reconsider the dismissal of the judges due to the lack of an appropriate process and guarantees of a fair trial, and urge them to ensure that the judicial branch operates without pressure, threats or interferences,” she added.
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