Presidents of supreme and constitutional courts of Europe and America, as well as other prominent international jurists, urged this Tuesday to guarantee the independence of justice as one of the pillars of democracy. This appeal has centered the last day of the international congress on the rule of law that the World Association of Jurists (WJA in its acronym in English) has held since Monday at the Casa de América in Madrid.
The jurists who participated in the summit agreed that the possibility for judges to decide without pressure and, therefore, the separation of powers, are threatened by phenomena such as the politicization of justice, corruption and misinformation, especially in the current context of the pandemic.
The president of the Spanish Constitutional Court, Juan José González Rivas, underlined the "extraordinary value" of judicial independence "inherent" to states of law such as Spain. This condition, however, has been subjected in recent years to “great pressure from the institutionalized, factual, media and economic powers,” according to Arturo Zaldívar, president of the Supreme Court of Justice of Mexico.
“It seems that (only) judicial independence exists when the judges rule in favor of the different competing groups, if they pass a judicial sentence that favors the interests of the Government, it is said that they have not been independent and, if they rule against them , they are accused of defending the status quo”, Stressed the Mexican magistrate.
The president of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico, Maite Oronoz, used the "attacks on the judiciary that took place in the United States, after the 2020 elections and the events of January 6" as an example of the threats now facing judicial systems of democratic countries. The magistrate was referring, without citing the attempt by former US President Donald Trump to pressure different powers of the State in his country to annul the electoral result that was unfavorable to him and the subsequent assault by his supporters on the Capitol in Washington.
Fundamental rights and social order
"To protect fundamental rights and guarantee social order, a judicial system capable of resolving cases from the law is needed, without responding to pressure from political power, the clamor of the press, or even personal perceptions," Oronoz asserted. This judge especially advocated the fight against "malicious disinformation that destabilizes democracy."
At the European level, Kari Kuusiniemi, president of the Supreme Administrative Court of Finland, stressed that the “rule of law is fragile” and that the independence of judges is not only an essential condition to guarantee its continuity, but “an essential constitutional safeguard for guarantee human rights ”.
Also the former judge Baltasar Garzón urged to avoid "the instrumental use of the Law" by politicians, as, in his opinion, is happening in countries that are experiencing "a boom of the extreme right", among which he cited Poland, where "He is trying to subject the Justice to political power."
This type of interference by political or economic power, or “corruption when it affects the judicial system”, prevents judges from playing what, for Garzón, is their “true role”: “Interpreting the law, applying justice in favor of citizens and protect them from attacks ”. Justice, the former judge continued, must be "equitable, democratic, independent, impartial, empowering the victims and with all the guarantees for the defendant." Without judicial independence, a “necessary” reference for citizens is also lost, Garzón stressed.
The need to safeguard judicial independence without which "the rule of law that is the foundation of democracy" is not understood has now been increased by the covid-19 pandemic, defended the president of the Supreme Court of Canada, Robert Wagner. "In this pandemic, people have lost their jobs, there are people who suffer from food insecurity and domestic violence (sexist) has become a pandemic within the pandemic," he cited among the new challenges that judges now face.
The international summit on the Rule of Law of the WJA, closed with a lunch chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Arancha González Laya, and in which the Minister of Justice of Colombia, Wilson Ruiz Orejuela, also participated, was the culmination of the two international conferences dedicated to the rule of law organized by that association of jurists. During the first, held this Monday, homage was paid to the US Supreme Court magistrate, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in a ceremony closed by King Felipe VI.
The Head of State also presented eight prominent international jurists with the medals of honor bearing the name of the magistrate, an award created by the WJA to honor the legacy of this iconic judge of gender equality and the defense of the rule of law. , who died in September 2020.