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Nicaragua high court replaces boycotting judges

The Supreme Court of Nicaragua [official website, in Spanish] on Wednesday replaced seven justices who had been boycotting sessions. The judges, affiliated with the opposition Liberal Constitutionalist Party, had been boycotting the court for 10 months [AP report] following the decision of President Daniel Ortega [official website, in Spanish] to extend the terms of two justices affiliated with his Sandinista party after the National Assembly [official website, in Spanish] refused to replace them. Supreme Court President Alba Luz Ramos stated that the replacements were necessary to continue the functioning of the court, but the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights argued [El Nuevo Diario report, in Spanish] that the move infringed upon the independence of the judiciary because it didn't follow appropriate procedures and replaced opponents of Ortega with those who support him.

The replacement of the boycotting justices comes amid legal and political controversy over the influence of Ortega and his party. In 2009, a panel of the Supreme Court consisting of members of the Sandinista party struck down a constitutional provision [JURIST report] banning presidential candidates from running for two consecutive terms. Several other Latin American countries have also recently dealt with the controversial issue of extending presidential term limits. In September 2009 the Colombian House of Representatives voted to approve [JURIST report] a bill to hold a referendum on whether President Alvaro Uribe [BBC profile] can run for a third presidential term. In March 2009, then-president of Honduras Manuel Zelaya [BBC profile] proposed a government poll [JURIST report] that would determine whether voters would be receptive to referendum establishing constitutional reform, in which extension of presidential term limits were suspected to be on the agenda.

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