The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) has ruled Paraguay was liable for violating judicial independence after arbitrarily dismissing Supreme Court Justices Bonifacio Ríos Ávalos and Carlos Fernández Gadea through impeachment in 2003.
The IACHR claimed that such a decision “seriously affected judicial independence inasmuch as the guarantees of stability and protection against external pressures that protect the role of judges which is the duty of the State to safeguard were disregarded.”
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, who signed the conviction against Paraguay, was made up of Elizabeth Odio Benito (Costa Rica), Patricio Pazmiño Freire (Ecuador), Eduardo Vio Grossi (Chile), Humberto Antonio Sierra (Colombia), Eduardo Ferrer (Mexico), Eugenio Raúl Zaffaroni (Argentina) and Ricardo Pérez Manrique (Uruguay).
The Court also ordered compensations in the amount of US $ 480,000 for Ríos Ávalos and US $ 250,000 for the heirs of the late Fernández Gadea.
The complaint before the Inter-American Court was filed Oct. 3, 2019, after which it went through all the necessary phases until a hearing was held Dec. 14, 2020.
Paraguay's Supreme Court had served a note Oct. 7, 2019, to Congress ordering the reinstatement of Bonifacio Ríos Ávalos as Supreme Court Justice, which was not complied with by the Legislature, which claimed it had been a political issue and not a legal one.
Already in 2003, Ríos Ávalos and Fernández Gadea (who died in June 2010), had appealed before the Inter-American Court but only in 2009 did the Constitutional Chamber decide that the former magistrate should recover his post.
Following the refusal by Paraguay to accept the recommendation to reinstate or compensate Ríos Ávalos and the family of Fernández Gadea, made by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the Paraguayan State went to trial before the Inter-American Court.
The case dates from 2003, when both magistrates were removed from their positions through impeachment, for alleged corruption, poor administration of justice and influence peddling. Considering that their legitimate defense rights had been violated, they appealed to the IACHR.
According to Monday's ruling, Paraguay is internationally responsible for violating judicial independence by having arbitrarily dismissed two ministers from the Supreme Court of Justice in 2003, violating judicial independence and damaging the democratic order.
The IACHR also found that the charges against Ríos Ávalos and Fernández Gadea in the impeachment proceedings for which the Senate had voted for their dismissal, were based on decisions issued in the exercise of their jurisdictional functions. In addition, the Inter-American Court also found that those who made up the Upper House at that time had a position taken beforehand and were therefore biased.
In this sense, a serious impact on judicial independence was configured, as the guarantees of stability and protection against external pressures that protect the role of the judges and that it is the duty of the State to safeguard were disrespected, said the IACHR.
The Paraguayan State must now inform the IACHR within a year how the sentence has been executed, in addition to providing for the retirement payments due to both judges or heirs as if their impeachment had never taken place.
And within a period of 6 months, the summary of the sentence must be published in the official languages of the country in the official government gazette and the sentence in its entirety on the different websites of the Legislative and Judicial Branches.