Ecuador’s transitory Citizens Participation and Social Control Council decided Thursday to dismiss the nine justices of the country’s highest court, the Constitutional Court.
The measure was approved by five votes. One Council member, lawyer Xavier Zavala Egas, abstained and Indigenous leader Luis Macas did not attend the vote.
According to the transitory Council, the decision Removes on the basis that its predecessor did not act independently when designating the court’s justices in 2012. In their report, they claim there was a conflict of interests that benefitted the executive power, that is former President Rafael Correa.
The Council also argued the court acted with discretion when selecting cases for review.
Some critics argue the Council does not have the power to dismiss the justices, while others stress it lacks legitimacy because they were appointed by the president.
Although the Council leads the process when designating the justices, the Constitution doesn't establish that the body has the authority to dismiss them. Correa was quick to respond to the news, saying the decision violates the Constitution and amounts to a coup.
"With five votes, an illegitimate 'transitory' Citizen Participation Council dismisses Ecuador's Constitutional Court that, despite how indecent it could have been, cannot be dismissed in violation of the Constitution. There can be no doubt that in Ecuador there is a real coup."
In February, Ecuador held a popular consultation promoted by President Lenin Moreno. One of the questions proposed restructuring the council, and terminating the constitutional period of its members. The question also allowed for the designation of a temporary Council.
The Council represents the fifth power of the Ecuadorean state, along with the executive, legislative, judicial and electoral powers. It is in charge of designating the state attorney, all superintendents, the ombudsman, the public defender, the attorney general, the comptroller general, and the members of the National Electoral Council and judges of the Constitutional Court.
The seven members of the transitory Council were chosen by the National Assembly from seven three-name lists provided by the president.
A permanent Council will be elected in May 2019, when Ecuador will hold local elections.
Meanwhile, the justices have three days to challenge the Council’s decision and the council has yet to provide information on the process of choosing the new members of the country's top court.