At a critical crossroads, the upcoming elections of a new Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General on September 1 hold great significance for Honduras. As required by Honduran law, the Attorney General oversees the prosecution of crimes, and is pivotal in overseeing the justice system across the country – a system that human rights experts have highlighted as in tatters. great need repairs.
Last year’s Attorney General election was acrimonious Cash Due to irregularities, incl 2018 Elections when the Honduran Congress chose Oscar Chinchilla for a second term, ignoring the final list of candidates proposed by the Nominations Commission. Under Chinchilla rule, Honduras reached The impunity rate is 90%. It has received international criticism for manipulating the judicial system and criminalizing human rights defenders while protecting corrupt politicians.
The selection process for a new Attorney General began earlier this year, amid strong calls from civil society and the government The international community Strict adherence to international standards and ensuring transparency throughout the process. As mentioned by Al Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the Public Prosecutor is “essential to accessing justice, ensuring the rule of law, combating impunity, and defending human rights.” Implementing much-needed structural reforms within the Honduran justice system necessitates the appointment of an independent and independent Prosecutor, capable of bringing about the transformative changes the country urgently needs.
Selection process and schedule:
The National Congress has the final authority to choose the Attorney General. They choose from a list of five candidates provided by the “Junta Proponente” or nomination board. The role of this board is to improve the pool of applicants by assessing their qualifications against a set of criteria using a scale from 1 to 100. The five highest scoring candidates advance to the final round. The selection process can be divided into five phases: establishing the Nominating Board, inviting applicants, reviewing and investigating applicants, evaluating and classifying applicants, and finally selecting a new Prosecutor.
May 31 → Announcement of the nomination board comprising representatives selected in accordance with legal guidelines. The Council was formed by the President of the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) Rebecca Raquel Opondo, Supreme Court Justice Wagner FalsilloBlanca Isaguirre, President of the National Human Rights Commission (CONADEH), Representative of the Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH) Oder FernandezRepresentative of Private Universities Julio Raudales, Representative of the Honduran Bar Association (CAH) Alejandro Hernandezand civil society representative Jose Ramon Avila have been identified.
June 17 → Application deadline. Twenty-six candidates present themselves for consideration by the Nominating Board. The number of candidates was reduced to 24 after two of them failed to meet the initial requirements.
June 18 → Candidates present evidence challenging any complaints made against them. During the so-called “strike” phase, critics present a range of complaints against the candidates, arguing why they should not be considered for the attorney general position. In all, 35 complaints were filed against 21 candidates.
July 20 → Nomination Council declare Candidates will move to the general interview stage, which consists of 15 applicants. The Nominating Board conducts final investigations with several candidates who are not shortlisted for proceeding to the next stage.
July 24 → The final list of candidates who will move to the general interview stage has been announced, with a total of 13 candidates. The head of the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Combating Corruption Networks (UFERCO), Javier Luis Santos, was excluded from this list due to a complaint filed by the Public Prosecutor’s Office (FGR).
July 26 → Public interviews begin. At this stage, each candidate is given 45 minutes to answer questions regarding their personal and professional integrity, ethics and technical ability for this role and their vision for the next five years of running the OTP.
August 1 → The Nominating Board presents the final list of five congressional candidates to select the next Attorney General.
September 1 → The next Attorney General begins his term.
The five finalists who progress to the stage receive the highest scores through an assessment process which rates each candidate for the AG on a scale of 1 to 100 taking into account a range of qualifications. The following is a list of those candidates:
Jenny Gabriela Almendres Flores – 95.55
The only female finalist is Jenny Alemandres Flores, a lawyer with over 30 years of experience, specializing in human rights and gender-based violence. She previously served as chief prosecutor in Tegucigalpa from 1999 to 2015. In her interview, Almendres Flores said she plans to revamp the technological capacity of the public prosecutor’s office and work to remove protections for politicians involved in corruption.
Mario Alexis Morazan Aguilera – 87.98
Morazan Aguilera holds a master’s degree in human rights law and a doctorate in criminal law. He currently teaches criminal law at the Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH) and is the General Secretary of the Public Prosecutor’s Office. In his interview, he told the Nominating Board that, as attorney general, he plans to re-evaluate staff and purge unqualified prosecutors for their positions. This is the first time he has applied for the position of AG.
Marcio Cabañas Cadillo – 84.36
Cabañas Cadillo is a lawyer with 23 years of experience working as a public prosecutor. He is currently working as a public prosecutor in the Tax Crimes Division. Prior to assuming this position, he worked as a public prosecutor investigating cases related to organized crime and drug trafficking. Cabañas Cadillo claims that he has no political affiliations and seeks to assume the role of Attorney General from a non-political position.
Joel Antonio Zelaya Alvarez – 80.94
One of the youngest applicants is Zelaya Alvarez, a lawyer working for the Honduran Institute of Road Transport (IHTT). Previously, he represented telecom company Hondutel as their attorney. He has been charged For not performing his IHTT duties and accepting a double salary, he hides the fact that he also works as a consultant in the Mayor’s office in Ritwika. Civil society organizations questioned his integrity and suitability for the job.
Pablo Emilio Reyes Theodore – 75.26
Reyes Theodore is a private attorney who previously worked for the Supreme Court of Justice. Focuses on business law and holds a master’s degree in business law. He gave an interview on July 27, where he stressed the need to strengthen the capacity of the Public Prosecutor’s Office at the national and international levels.
Since the beginning of the selection process, experts have expressed concerns about the selection process, which can be summarized as follows:
Weak legal framework
Honduras lacks a regulatory framework for high-level positions such as that of the Attorney General. In the absence of such a framework, WOLA, in cooperation with others international organizationsAnd it called on Honduras to “apply objective evaluation criteria (…) in line with international standards.” According to these criteria, the selection of the Public Prosecutor must be made on the basis of impartial procedures based on objective criteria. The process must be transparent, public and open to civil society participation. For the Attorney General to take on such an important role, he must be experienced and independent, and chosen on the basis of merit rather than political affiliation.
According to the Center for the Study of Honduran Democracy (CESPAD), both the Office of the Attorney General Act and the Constitution fail to establish clear mechanisms for selecting an attorney general, making the process vulnerable to partisan manipulation. In February, the selection of new Supreme Court justices faced criticism, after a protracted process of negotiations and trade-offs between the three major parties in Congress: the Liberal Party, the National Party, and the Lieber Party. In response, civil society groups Call Congress should not repeat these maneuvers and refrain from using the attorney general’s selection as another bargaining tool. However, Congress floated the idea of appointing not only an Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General, but also adding a third position of Director Attorney General, as a means of placating the three major parties.
Lack of transparency and civil society participation
Civil society has repeatedly expressed frustration with the Nominating Board’s lack of transparency. Initial requests for information from civil society organizations were slow and often remained unaddressed by the Nominating Board. The groups have also criticized the nomination board’s failure to fully engage with civil society, as only a limited number of board members usually attend meetings.
on July 26, Transparency and fairness in citizen expression The Nominating Committee denouncedRevealing a whistleblower who, on request for confidentiality, disclosed information about self-critics is an attack on their integrity. The group urged the Nominating Board to clarify its procedures and reiterated the call for transparency.
And two days later, on July 28 International Observation Mission to Select the Supreme Court of Hondurasmade up of four International legal expertsShe announced that she would return to Honduras to provide technical support and accompaniment to civil society during the final stages of the Attorney General elections. The mission was held a Press conference on August 3 Exposing shortcomings and challenges in the selection process. They identified several serious issues including the lack of space for civil society to engage meaningfully. They also cited issues with public transportation for Nominating Board meetings as well as the website where Nominating Board decisions were supposed to be posted.
Arbitrary exclusion and inclusion of candidates
As the process progressed, the arbitrary exclusion of Javier Luis Santos as a candidate raised concerns. After examining evidence related to information sent by the Attorney General’s office regarding a 10-year-old lawsuit against Santos, the Nominating Board ultimately chose to exclude him from consideration. This decision was met Strong opposition From human rights advocates and advocates for justice, who have formally submitted a letter urging the Nominating Board to reconsider this disqualification.
Highlights the message Risk of retaliation against prosecutors who actively investigate corruption at a high level, noting parallels with the increasing attacks on independent justice workers in Guatemala. Anti-corruption advocates are deeply concerned that Santos’ removal could be a form of retaliation for his work, which includes decades of experience as a prosecutor investigating high-level corruption in Honduras. in interviewSantos revealed that the former president and political advisor to President Castro, Manuel Zelaya, expressed his opposition to Santos assuming the position of attorney general because of his unwillingness to “accept political favors.”
Responsibility for the decision now rests with Congress. As Congress deliberates on choosing the next Attorney General, it is important for its members to realize that this position must transcend politics; The duty of the Attorney General shall be to serve the people of Honduras, including individual party affiliations. Looking ahead, it is essential for Honduras to establish clearer guidelines for the selection process to prevent manipulation by partisan interests.
The next Attorney General will play a crucial role in the future operations of the International Commission Against Impunity in Honduras (CICIH). Moreover, the person chosen for the next Attorney General position will undoubtedly face challenges as he inherits a judicial system that the people of Honduras deeply distrust. To make progress in the fight against corruption and impunity, as well as to protect human rights in Honduras, this person must be prepared to meet the demands of this enormous task.