New Panel Assesses Candidates ahead of Inter-American Human Rights Vote
NEW YORK—A panel of regional human rights experts has released the first independent assessment of the election process for judges and commissioners in the inter-American human rights system, while also reviewing the 11 candidates standing for election later this month.
Member states of the Organization of American States (OAS) will elect four new commissioners to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and four new judges to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights at the 45th General Assembly, in Washington, D.C. from June 15 to 16.
With more than half the total seats on the two bodies up for election, the outcome will affect both the composition and identity of the Commission and the Court for years to come. (The Inter-American Court has seven judges, elected for six year terms; the Commission has seven commissioners, elected for four year terms.)
The Independent Panel on the Election of Inter-American Judges and Commissioners was convened by the Open Society Justice Initiative. Its work has been endorsed by over 70 human rights groups, non-governmental groups, universities, and legal clinics throughout the region.
The Panel assessments of the 11 candidates included not only a survey of their application materials, but also a review of publicly available information, together with their responses to a questionnaire submitted to each candidate by the Panel, seeking their views on current issues facing the Court and Commission. All except two of the candidates responded to the questionnaire request.
In addition, the Panel outlined a series of recommendations, aimed at increasing the transparency of the election process at the national and regional level, and strengthening the workings of the Inter-American human rights system.
It noted that the current process, despite the quality of the majority of its judges and commissioners, “does not necessarily generate nominees that are the most highly qualified for the job, nor does it guarantee that the requirements of impartiality and independence are met.”
The recommendations include:
- That member states create at national level “a formal, independent and non-political body to select the nominated candidates” that would be broadly representative, and which would assess and interview candidates in a public manner.
- That states should nominate a minimum of two candidates for election, at least one of them a woman.
- That the OAS set up an ad hoc Advisory Committee responsible to review the suitability of candidates and to provide guidance to states in the election process – a model now embraced by both the European Court of Human Rights and the International Criminal Court.
The panel is composed of five renowned jurists from the human rights community—Marion Bethel (Bahamas), Belisário dos Santos Jr. (Brazil), Cecilia Medina (Chile), Juan Méndez (Argentina), and Naomi-Roht Arriaza (United States).
The initiative is modeled on a similar, successful initiative focused on ensuring transparence and independence in the election of judges to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Pioneered by the Coalition for the ICC, the establishment of an Independent Panel on ICC Judicial Elections in 2010 helped fill a significant gap in the elections process by providing competent, fair, and independent assessments of all nominees. The work of the ICC panel eventually led, in 2012, to the establishment of a formal Advisory Committee on Nominations for the ICC.