El Salvador and the false discourse on judicial independence

Ursula Indacochea Prevost*

Versión en español aquí.

Last Wednesday, March 16, a public hearing was held before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to address the situation of judicial independence in El Salvador. In it, the petitioning organizations presented to this international body a reading of various decisions, facts and arbitrary reforms that occurred in 2021, as a strategy to capture the justice system, executed with the deliberate aim of neutralizing its ability to control power and protect human rights

The State, for its part, deployed an opposite narrative: all these acts would have obeyed, rather, to the objective of «strengthening and modernizing» a justice system «inefficient and conducive to widespread impunity». In this note, I intend to answer some of these arguments to demonstrate that there are reasonable grounds to consider that the state’s commitment to judicial independence is not sincere or, even, that there is a manipulation or appropriation of the discourse in defense of judicial independence, for purposes contrary to those stated.

As a starting point, it is worth briefly summarizing the civil society approach. It was argued that the Salvadoran justice system -which includes both the judiciary and the Attorney General’s Office- has been the object of a strategy of capture by the political power currently in government, executed in various stages. 

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The role of justice in the face of authoritarianism*

Prof. Aníbal Pérez-Liñán**

The political attack on justice is a central moment in the processes of democratic erosion. When we look at the cases of autocratization in Latin America and the European Union we find that the capture of justice (especially the capture of constitutional courts) is the decisive, and often irreversible, moment in the slide towards authoritarian rule. Many people today are asking why the capture of the judiciary has become so important to authoritarian leaders, and what we can do in the face of this challenge. To explore these questions, I propose three ideas:

The first is that the relationship between authoritarianism and the rule of law is not linear. Political science has had to confront this ambiguity throughout its intellectual history.

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