The Evolution of the Separation of Powers
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The Evolution of the Separation of Powers

Between the Global North and the Global South

Edited by David Bilchitz and David Landau

To what extent should the doctrine of the separation of powers evolve in light of recent shifts in constitutional design and practice? Constitutions now often include newer forms of rights – such as socioeconomic and environmental rights – and are written with an explicitly transformative purpose. They also often reflect include new independent bodies such as human rights commissions and electoral tribunals whose position and function within the traditional structure is novel. The practice of the separation of powers has also changed, as the executive has tended to gain power and deliberative bodies like legislatures have often been thrown into a state of crisis. The chapters in this edited volume grapple with these shifts and the ways in which the doctrine of the separation of powers might respond to them. It also asks whether the shifts that are taking place are mostly a product of the constitutional systems of the global south, or instead reflect changes that run across most liberal democratic constitutional systems around the world.
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Chapter 9: Mexico’s National Commission on Human Rights: an autonomous constitutional agency with too much autonomy?

José Ma. Serna de la Garza


The traditional three-branch understanding of Mexican constitution law increasingly contrasts with the emergence of a number of “autonomous constitutional agencies” that have been created in the last couple of decades to perform relevant state functions. This chapter focuses on one of the most important new agencies created in Mexico: the National Commission on Human Rights. It seeks to explain the Commission’s legal status as well as its interactions with Mexico’s Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ). Moreover, in this chapter the author argues that in spite of the fact that the Supreme Court plays some balancing role, the national ombudsman (as is also the case with the other “autonomous constitutional agencies”) is mostly unchecked concerning its actions and omissions. The chapter suggests that Mexican constitutionalism has not yet figured out how to construct a proper balance between independence and accountability in order for these institutions to achieve their full potential.

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