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Ecuador: Annan hails new Court of Justice

Ecuador: Annan hails new Court of Justice ending threat to judicial independence

Welcoming the appointment of a new Court of Justice in Ecuador, formally ending what a United Nations expert called a crisis that could irreversibly affect the independence of the judiciary, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today voiced hope for the strengthened rule of law and protection of human rights in the small Andean country.

In a statement issued by his spokesman, Mr. Annan noted that the selection of judges was monitored by international witnesses from the Organization of American States (OAS), Andean Community (CAN), and the UN, working in consultation with UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers Leandro Despouy.

Earlier this year, Mr. Despouy visited the country and cited urgent concerns over the replacement of 27 of the 31 Supreme Court judges with magistrates of Congress's own choosing and the resignation of the court's president. Since then President Lucio Gutierrez was replaced by Vice-President Alfredo Palacio.

Today Mr Despouy, who like other Rapporteurs is an unpaid expert serving in an independent personal capacity receiving his mandate from the UN Commission on Human Rights, was attending today's ceremony together with Assistant-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Angela Kane whom Mr. Annan sent as his representative.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) noted that Court's appointment was achieved after a selection process characterized by its transparency. It was initiated on 28 June and led by a Qualifications Committee created by Congress through the reform of the Organic Law for the Judiciary Function. This legal body invited the UN, CAN and the OAS to monitor the process.

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