Two final pronouncements of the Constitutional Chamber

Today El Salvador's National Assembly is choosing new magistrates for the country's Supreme Judicial Court.   Two final decisions by the outgoing magistrates from the Constitutional Chamber of the Court, show why the choice of these magistrates is so important.

One decision has profound implications for the upcoming presidential election.  The Chamber issued a ruling which could lead to the de-registration of Cambio Democratico (CD) as a political party.   The Chamber declared that the Salvadoran election authorities must decide whether to cancel CD's status after it failed to obtain 50,000 votes in 2015 national legislative elections. If the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) now cancels CD's registration as a party it will block a possible route for former San Salvador mayor Nayib Bukele to get on the 2019 presidential ballot.  Bukele had formed an alliance with CD because of concerns that his own political party Nuevas Ideas may not have met the deadlines to be formed and hold internal elections. 

The country is currently awaiting a decision from the TSE on CD's status.   The TSE is expected to rule by the end of July.   If the Chamber's decision leads to cancellation of CD and Bukele is prevented from running for president, there could be serious unrest generated by his large base of supporters.

In another decision, the Chamber also reaffirmed what many human rights activists considered its most important decision, overturning the 1993 amnesty law.   The Chamber has held hearings in the two years since that decision to evaluate whether the other branches of Salvadoran government are complying with their obligation to provide justice for the victims of crimes against humanity during El Salvador's civil war.   The Chamber on Saturday ruled that the executive branch and legislative branch have failed to comply with the court's ruling through their delays in providing for restorative justice for the victims.   The Ministry of Defense was ordered to preserve and make available documentation from its archives.   The Attorney General was acknowledged to have made progress in opening human rights cases from the war years, but more needs to be done.

The legacy of the Chamber is a complicated one, but its importance as an institution is obvious.