Human Rights Watch condemns Congress’ decision to oust members of Peru’s National Board of Justice

By March 14, 2024

Lima, Peru — Human Rights Watch (HRW) has condemned the recent decision by Peru’s Congress to oust two members from the National Board of Justice (JNJ).

This ouster, which took place on Thursday, March 7, raises serious concerns about judicial independence and the rule of law in the South American country, as the JNJ is responsible for the selection and appointment of its judges and prosecutors. 

Additionally, the body is responsible for appointing or renewing some electoral authorities, such as the head of the National Office of Electoral Processes (ONPE) and the head of the National Registry of Identification and Civil Status (Reniec).

Peru’s Congress disqualified JNJ member Justice Inés Tello because she is over the age of 75, which Congress argues is unconstitutional. 

Peru’s Constitution requires that individuals elected as members of the JNJ must be under the age of 75. The JNJ interprets this to mean that members older than 75 are not required to retire. According to the Peruvian Constitution, Congress can only remove JNJ members for “serious cause.”

Congress also disqualified JNJ Vice President for allegedly violating two articles of the Constitution.

Some lawmakers also attempted to remove other members of the JNJ, but didn’t receive the necessary votes. At the time, Vásquez described Congress’ action as a “disastrous precedent.”

Peruvian Congress. Image courtesy of ANDINA.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch’s Americas Director Juanita Goebertus Estrada expressed concern about the oysters, noting that “Congress has severely weakened one of the last independent bodies standing that could serve as a counterweight to its abusive practices.”

She added, “Congressmen seem to be trying to prevent investigations that may offer evidence of their irregular practices and unduly influence the appointment of judges and prosecutors.”

Furthermore, HRW called on the international community to speak out in defense of the Peruvian democratic system. It also urged the Organization of American States (OAS) to convene a session of its Permanent Council to “address the ongoing attacks on judicial independence” in Peru.

Congress had been trying for months to remove members of the National Board of Justice, whose terms end in January 2025.

In September 2023, the Peruvian press reported that at least 47 of the 130 members of Congress were being investigated for various crimes, mostly related to corruption.

“Instead of serving the citizenry, many congressmen in Peru seem determined to abuse their positions to pursue their personal interests, even if it means destroying human rights and accountability inherent in a democracy,” Goebertus added.