The Supreme Court of El Salvador resolved to keep almost half of the judges removed from their positions by a decree of the government of President Nayib Bukele that forces the withdrawal of a third of the magistrates.

On Saturday, a legislative decree approved by the ruling Congress came into force, which removed from their functions magistrates over 60 years of age or with 30 years of service.

The norm reached 249 judges, a third of the justice system.

Of these, 115 availed themselves of one of the prerogatives of the norm that allowed “not to resign and request to remain in the availability regime”, to be considered if their services were required.

According to the decision of the Supreme Court, these 115 may “remain in their functions within the judicial headquarters, maintaining their positions for a period of 5 years, and may be extended.”

Another 100 judges chose to resign under a compensation plan, reported the state newspaper Diario El Salvador, and will be replaced this Sunday in a swearing-in ceremony.

Finally, 34 judges refused to resign, have denounced the rule as “unconstitutional” and were dismissed without benefits.

On Wednesday the CSJ had given an ultimatum to the judges to present their resignation and not be left out of a 24-month salary bonus.

The judges who opposed the measure appeared on September 17 before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in Washington, to “denounce the Salvadoran State for the violation of human rights, derived from said act that reforms the law of the judicial career”.

The archbishop of San Salvador, José Luis Escobar, requested this Sunday that “it be reconsidered, that it be reviewed, that it be reversed (the decree) even so that a purification is made as it should be where there are no innocent people affected.”

They replace a massacre judge

The president of the Court, Óscar López Jérez, confirmed that among the substituted judges is Jorge Gúzman, who sought to end the impunity of a group of soldiers who committed in 1981 the gruesome massacre of El Mozote against nearly 1,000 civilians in the framework of the civil war (1980-1992).

Without revealing the name of Guzmán’s substitute, López Jerez commented: “Yes, a judge has been appointed (…) I personally would have liked him (Guzmán) to continue with that case because the judge who is going to arrive will have to start from scratch”.

On Thursday, in rejection of the measure against the judges, Guzmán announced that he was “ceasing” his functions, having as the only “exceptions” to remain in office the “inapplicability” of the legislative decree.

In a brief speech when the judges were sworn in, the president of the Court celebrated that the justice system “finally shows a new face” before Salvadorans.

Leader of judges denounces retaliation

Judge Juan Antonio Durán, who led the fight in favor of the judges affected by the decree, denounced their transfer from one court in San Salvador to another in Zacatecoluca, in the center of the country.

“I hereby denounce before the Inter-American Court, @CIDH, @UNIndepenJudges and the national and international community, that this day I have received calls from the General Secretariat of the @CorteSuprema of my unconstitutional transfer to the Second Sentencing Court of Zacatecoluca,” wrote Duran on Twitter.

For Duran “This transfer is in retaliation for my criticism against the coup against @SalaCnalSV (in May), the imposition of the usurpers and the opposition to the reforms to the LCJ (Law of the Judicial Career).”

“He has a decent, privileged, well-paid job with many benefits, the majority of lawyers in our country dream of such a job.” Bukele replied to Durán through Twitter.

When you retire “He will have an enviable pension (something that most Salvadorans do not have either). What is bothering you?”, the president reproached Durán.

In power since June 2019, President Bukele is popular and has capitalized on the discontent of the population against the traditional parties that ruled for three decades.

Some of his measures have been criticized by Washington and the international community, while his opponents accuse him of trying to “concentrate power”.

On May 1, as soon as he took office, the Assembly controlled by Bukele’s allies dismissed and replaced the magistrates of the Constitutional Chamber of the CSJ and the attorney general, with whom the president had serious differences.

This new Constitutional Chamber interpreted at the beginning of September an article of the Constitution that gives the green light for Bukele to stand for reelection, if he so wishes, in 2024.

In an ironic response to criticism, Bukele recently called himself “The World’s Coolest Dictator in the World” on Twitter.

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