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From an unconstitutional constitutional amendment to an unconstitutional constitution? Lessons from Honduras

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 March 2019

Florida State University, College of Law, Roberts Hall, Room 316, Tallahassee, FL, USA
University of New South Wales, The Law Building UNSW, Room 366, Sydney NSW2052, Australia
Radzyner Law School, The Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliya, Israel


The unconstitutional constitutional amendment doctrine has emerged as a highly successful, albeit still controversial, export in comparative constitutional law. The doctrine has often been defended as protecting a delegation from the people to the political institutions that they created. Other work has noted the doctrine’s potential utility in guarding against abusive constitutionalism. In this article, we consider how these justifications fare when expanded to encompass claims against the original constitution itself, rather than a later amendment to the text. That is, beyond the unconstitutional constitutional amendment doctrine, can or should there be a doctrine of an unconstitutional constitution? Our question is spurred by a puzzling 2015 case from Honduras where the Supreme Court held an unamendable one-term limit on presidential terms, as well as protective provisions punishing attempts to alter that limit, to be unconstitutional. What is particularly striking about the case is that these provisions were not later amendments to the constitution, but rather parts of the original 1982 constitution itself. Thus, this article examines the possibility of ‘an unconstitutional constitution’, what we predict to be the next trend in global constitutionalism.

Special Issue: The Ideologies of Global Constitutionalism
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2019 

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1 Gözler, K, Judicial Review of Constitutional Amendments: A Comparative Study (Ekin Press, Bursa, Turkey, 2008);Google ScholarRoznai, Y, ‘Unconstitutional Constitutional Amendments – The Migration and Success of a Constitutional Idea’ (2013) 61(3) American Journal of Comparative Law 657;CrossRefGoogle Scholar Roznai, Y, Unconstitutional Constitutional Amendments: The Limits of Amendment Powers (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2017).Google Scholar On the objection to the doctrine see e.g. Albert, R, Nakashidze, M and Olcay, T, ‘The Formalist Resistance to Unconstitutional Constitutional Amendments’ (forthcoming 2019) 70 Hastings Law Journal, <>.Google Scholar

2 See e.g. Albert, R, ‘Counterconstitutionalism’ (2008) 31 Dalhousie Law Journal 1, 47–8;Google Scholar Albert, R, ‘Constitutional Handcuffs’ (2010) 42 Arizona State Law Review 663, 698.Google Scholar For an evaluation and response see Roznai, Y, ‘Necrocracy or Democracy? Assessing Objections to Constitutional Unamendability’ in Albert, R and Oder, BE (eds), An Unconstitutional Constitution? Unamendability in Constitutional Democracies (Springer, forthcoming 2018).Google Scholar

3 Roznai, Y, ‘Towards a Theory of Constitutional Unamendability: On the Nature and Scope of the Constitutional Amendment Powers’ (2017) 18 Jus Politicum – Revue de Droit Politique 5.Google Scholar

4 Landau, D, ‘Abusive Constitutionalism’ (2013) 47(1) UC Davis Law Review 189, 231–9.Google Scholar

5 See Dixon, R and Landau, D, ‘Transnational Constitutionalism and a Limited Doctrine of Unconstitutional Constitutional Amendment’ (2015) 13(3) International Journal of Constitutional Law 606.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

6 R Albert, R Hoque and Y Roznai, ‘Judicial Invalidations of Original Constitutions’ (work-in-progress). See also Albert, R, ‘Four Unconstitutional Constitutions and their Democratic Foundations’ (2017) 50 Cornell International Law Journal 169Google Scholar (providing different senses of how a constitution may be unconstitutional based on case studies from the United States, South Africa, Canada and Mexico). The possibility of declaring original provisions of constitutions unconstitutional was famously raised in the 1951 Southwest case, when the German Federal Constitutional Court cited with approval a statement of the Bavarian Constitutional Court according to which ‘there are fundamental constitutional principles, which are of so elementary a nature and so much the expression of a law that precedes the constitution, that the maker of the constitution himself is bound by them. Other constitutional norms … can be void because they conflict with them.’ By this obiter statement, the court recognised the possibility of an ‘unconstitutional constitution’. See Dietze, G, ‘Unconstitutional Constitutional Norms? Constitutional Development in Postwar Germany’ (1956) 42 Virginia Law Review 1;CrossRefGoogle Scholar Bachof, O, Verfassungswidrige Verfassungsnormen? (JCB Mohr, Germany, 1951) 15.Google Scholar The German Constitutional Court, however, has never declared a constitutional provision to be unconstitutional.

7 See e.g. Landau, D and Dixon, R, ‘Constraining Constitutional Change’ (2015) 50(4) Wake Forest Law Review 856.Google Scholar

8 See e.g. Jacobsohn, GJ, ‘An Unconstitutional Constitution? A Comparative Perspective’ (2006) 4 International Journal of Constitutional Law 460, 487CrossRefGoogle Scholar (‘[I]f ever confronted with the felt need to exercise this option, sober heads might well wonder whether it was any longer worth doing.’)

9 See Roznai, Unconstitutional Constitutional Amendments (n 1).

10 Ibid 15–38. On the rise of constitutional entrenchment see also Hein, M, ‘Impeding Constitutional Amendments: Why Are Entrenchment Clauses Codified in Contemporary Constitutions?’ Acta Politica (First Online: 25 February 2018).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

11 See Dixon, R and Landau, D, ‘Tiered Constitutional Design’ (2018) 86 George Washington Law Review 438.Google Scholar

12 See Roznai, Unconstitutional Constitutional Amendments (n 1) 39–70; Dixon and Landau (n 5).

13 See Jacobsohn, GJ, ‘The Permeability of Constitutional Borders’ (2004) 82 Texas Law Review 1763, 1799Google Scholar (the doctrine raises the counter-majoritarian difficulty in its ‘most extreme’ form).

14 Dixon, R, ‘Constitutional Amendment Rules: A Comparative Perspective’ in Ginsburg, T and Dixon, R (eds), Comparative Constitutional Law (Edward Elgar, Cheltenham and Northampton, MA, 2011) 96, 98.Google Scholar

15 See Dixon and Landau (n 11).

16 Consider decision of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine n. 20-rp/2010 from 30 September 2010 concerning the constitutionality of the Law of Ukraine ‘On Introducing Amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine’, No. 2222-IV (Dec. 8, 2004). In this case, the judiciary invalidated an amendment, six years after it had already gone into effect. For a critical comment and the potentially destabilising effects of such a decision, see Opinion 599 of 2010 (Opinion on the Constitutional Situation in Ukraine), Venice Commission (20 December 2010) paras 33–35. On judicial review of constitutional amendment in Ukraine see Roznai, Y and Suteu, S, ‘The Eternal Territory? The Crimean Crisis and Ukraine’s Territorial Integrity as an Unamendable Constitutional Principle’ (2015) 16(3) German Law Journal 543, 558–61.Google Scholar

17 See Z Pozsár-Szentmiklósy and Y Roznai, ‘Judicial Review of Constitutional Amendments and the Time Perspective’ (unpublished paper, copy with authors) (critically analysing Moldovan Constitutional Court Judgment n. 7 from 4 March 2016 on modality of electing the President, in which the Court decided the unconstitutionality of a constitutional amendment 16 years after its enactment, without assessing in its reasoning the temporal question).

18 For an exploration of the normative arguments for and against the judicial enforcement of implicit substantive constraints on formal constitutional change, see Yap, PJ, ‘The Conundrum of Unconstitutional Constitutional Amendments’ (2015) 4(1) Global Constitutionalism 114.Google Scholar

19 See Roznai (n 3); Colón-Ríos, J, Weak Constitutionalism: Democratic Legitimacy and the Question of Constituent Power (Routledge, New York, NY, 2012) 127 (discussing cases from Latin America).Google Scholar

20 Ibid.

21 See Hein (n 10); Albert, ‘Constitutional Handcuffs’ (n 2); Dixon and Landau (n 11); Roznai, Y, ‘Unamendability and the Genetic Code of the Constitution’ (2015) 27(2) European Review of Public Law 775.Google Scholar

22 See e.g. Roznai, Y, ‘The Migration of the Indian Basic Structure Doctrine’ in Lokendra, M (ed), Judicial Activism in India – A Festschrift in Honour of Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer (Universal Law Publishing Co., New Delhi, 2012) 240.Google Scholar

23 See Dixon and Landau (n 5).

24 See Dixon and Landau (n 11). On flexible and rigid amendment procedures see also Roznai, Y, ‘Constitutions, Rigid(Entrenched)/Flexible’ in Max Planck Encyclopaedia of Comparative Constitutional Law (Oxford University Press, Oxford, forthcoming 2018).Google Scholar

25 See Landau (n 4); Roznai, Y, ‘Constituent Powers, Amendment Powers and Popular Sovereignty: Linking Unamendability and Amendment Procedures’ in Albert, R, Contiades, X and Fotiado, A (eds), The Foundations and Traditions of Constitutional Amendment (Hart Publishing, Oxford, 2017) 23, 41–8.Google Scholar

26 Dixon and Landau (n 5).

27 Ibid.

28 See Decision C-141 of 2010, in Espinosa, MJC and Landau, D (eds), Colombian Constitutional Law: Leading Cases (Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 2017) 352.Google Scholar

29 Ibid. On judicial review of constitutional amendments in Colombia see Bernal, C, ‘Unconstitutional Constitutional Amendments in the Case Study of Colombia: An Analysis of the Justification and Meaning of the Constitutional Replacement Doctrine’ (2013) 11(2) International Journal of Constitutional Law 339;CrossRefGoogle Scholar Ramirez-Cleves, GA, ‘The Unconstitutionality of Constitutional Amendments in Colombia: The Tension Between Majoritarian Democracy and Constitutional Democracy’ in Bustamante, T and Fernandes, B Gonçalves (eds), Democratizing Constitutional Law (Springer, New York, NY, 2016) 213;Google Scholar Cajas-Sarria, MA, ‘Judicial Review of Constitutional Amendments in Colombia: A Political and Historical Perspective, 1955–2016’ (2017) 5(3) The Theory and Practice of Legislation 245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

30 See e.g. Bogdandy, Av, ‘Ius Constitutionale Commune en América Latina – Observations on Transformative Constitutionalism’ in Bogdandy, Av et al. (eds), Transformative Constitutionalism in Latin America – The Emergence of a New Ius Commune (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2017) Ch 2;Google Scholar Dixon, R and Landau, D, ‘Democracy and the Constitutional Minimum Core’ in Ginsburg, T and Hug, A (eds), Assessing Constitutional Performance (Cambridge University Press, New York, NY, 2016) 268–76.Google Scholar To take another example: Based upon the unamenable provision prohibiting any amendment concerning presidential term limits, on 25 May 2009, the Constitutional Court of Niger declared as unconstitutional a call for a referendum, which would have suspended the constitution and allow the President to continue in office as an interim president for a period of three years. See Cour Constitutionnelle AVIS n. 02/CC of 26.05.2009, <>.

31 See Landau, D, Roznai, Y and Dixon, R, ‘Term Limits and the Unconstitutional Constitutional Amendment Doctrine: Lessons from Latin America’ in Baturo, A and Elgie, R (eds), Politics of Presidential Term Limits (Oxford University Press, Oxford, forthcoming 2018).Google Scholar

32 See Landau, D, ‘Term Limits Manipulation across Latin America – and What Constitutional Design Could Do about It’ Constitutionnet (21 July 2015) <>.Google Scholar

33 See Ragone, S, El control judicial de la reforma constitucional: aspectos teoricos y comparativos (Editorial Porrúa, Porrúa, México, 2012) 7785, 102.Google Scholar

34 Ibid 102.

35 Ibid 78–83 (‘In our case, the Supreme Court of Justice has been categorical in recognising that sovereignty is the will of the people and that it is regulated only by the original constituent power; the derived constituent power in general is subordinated to the principle of sovereignty and cannot contradict it.’).

36 Art 239 was amended in technical respects by subsequent decrees, but the core aspects of the existing provision are identical to those in the original 1982 constitution.

37 Constitución de la República de Honduras [Constitution] art 239 (Hond).

38 Ginsburg, T, Elkins, Z and Melton, J, ‘On the Evasion of Executive Term Limits’ (2011) 52 William and Mary Law Review 1807, 1810.Google Scholar The authors remark there that the origins of such a ‘poison pill’ provision are uncertain, though the general institution may be traced to fifth century BCE Athens (referring to Doron, G and Harris, M, Term Limits (Lexington Books, Lanham, MD, 2001) 5.Google Scholar

39 Provisions of the criminal code backed up this prohibition as well. Art 330 of the 1983 Penal code makes it punishable with 5–10 years in prison to promote presidential re-election.

40 For descriptions of the chain of events see di Iorio, M Cáceres, The Good Coup: The Overthrow of Manuel Zelaya in Honduras (CCB Publishing, British Columbia, Canada, 2010) xiv–xx;Google Scholar Llanos, M and Marsteintredet, L, ‘Epilogue: The Breakdown of Zelaya’s Presidency: Honduras in Comparative Perspective’ in Llanos, M and Marsteintredet, L (eds), Presidential Breakdowns in Latin America. Causes and Outcomes of Executive Instability in Developing Democracies (Palgrave Macmillan, New York, NY, 2010) 229–38;Google Scholar Ruhl, JM, ‘Honduras Unravels’ (2010) 21(2) Journal of Democracy 93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

41 See e.g. Feldman, N, et al., ‘Report to the Commission on Truth and Reconciliation of Honduras: Constitutional Issues’ (23 August 2011) 5960. FSU College of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 536, <>Google Scholar (finding that the removal of Zelaya was illegal, although also finding that Zelaya had engaged in illegal conduct).

42 Ibid. This conclusion was not however unanimous. See Sanchez, O, ‘A “Coup” in Honduras? Nonsense’ (2 July 2009) The Christian Science Monitor, <>;Google Scholar Walsh, FM, ‘The Honduran Constitution is Not a Suicide Pact: The Legality of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya’s Removal’ (2010) 38 Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law 339, 357.Google Scholar

43 The situation in 2009 in Honduras was more complex than the OAS action might have indicated. See Jackson, VC, ‘Reformas Constitucionales Inconstitucionales: Una Mirada a la Teoria Constitucional y el Constitutionalism Transnacional’ in Saldarriaga, Esteban Restrepo (ed), Libertad De Expressión: Entre Tradición Y Renovación: Ensayos En Homenaje A Owen Fiss (Ediciones Uniandes, Colombia, 2013) 135.Google Scholar See also Dixon, R and Jackson, VC, ‘Constitutions Inside out: Outsider Interventions in Domestic Constitutional Contests’ (2013) 48 Wake Forest Law Review 149, 159Google Scholar (the authors note there, at 172, that ‘the actions of the OAS may have been perceived as motivated more by the fear of displacement of incumbent heads than by a bona fide concern for the domestic constitutional order of Honduras’).

44 See Antonio, J Navas, Gutierrez et al., ‘Destitución ilegal y arbitraria de magistrados de la Sala de lo Constitucional de la Corte Suprema de Justicia de Honduras’ (2015) 5 Revista Internacional de Derechos Humanos 175.Google Scholar

45 See Hond Const, art 234.

46 See Landau, Roznai and Dixon (n 31). For an elaboration on the political context in which the term limits decision was made in Honduras see Muñoz-Portillo, Juan and Treminio, Ilka, ‘The Politics of Presidential Term Limits in Central America: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras’ in Baturo, A and Elgie, R (eds), Politics of Presidential Term Limits (Oxford University Press, Oxford, forthcoming 2018).Google Scholar

47 Supreme Court of Justice, Constitutional Chamber, Decision of 22 April 2015. <>.

48 Decision of 22 April 2015, section 14.

49 Ibid section 18.

50 Ibid section 29.

51 See ‘Honduras: Hernández busca la reelección y la oposición explora una posible alianza’ 13 March 2017) CNN Espanol, <>.

52 Ibid section 18 (noting that all the provisions involved had the ‘same rank and constitutional vigilance’, but that the Court could ‘choose one interpretation over another or even apply one norm over another or disapply one’ in order to maintain ‘the articulation and coherence’ of the constitutional text).

53 ADIN n. 815-3/DF, DJU de 10.05.96, p. 15131; cited in Melo, AZ, ‘A limitação material do poder constituinte derivado’ (2008) 8(1) Revista Mestrado em Direito 31, 48.Google Scholar

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55 See Case No U-5/04 Request of Mr Sulejman Tihić, Decision of 31 March 2006, <> ; Case No U-13/05, Request of Mr Sulejman Tihić, Decision of 26 May 2006, <>.

56 Re Certification of the Constitution of the Republic of South-Africa, 1996(4) SALR 744.

57 See e.g. Sachs, A, ‘South Africa’s Unconstitutional Constitution: The Transition from Power to Lawful Power’ (1997) 41 St. Louis University Law Journal 1249; Albert (n 6) 178–82.Google Scholar For a discussion on the nature of the constitution-making power in South Africa see Botha, H, ‘Instituting Public Freedom or Extinguishing Constituent Power? Reflections on South Africa’s Constitution-Making Experiment’ (2010) 26 South African Journal on Human Rights 66.Google Scholar

58 Asaduzzaman Siddiqui and Others v. Bangladesh, Writ Petition n. 9989 of 2014; judgment of 5 May 2016 (Bangladesh).

59 For a preliminary analysis see Hoque, R, ‘Can the Court Invalidate an Original Provision of the Constitution?’ (2016) 17(2) University of Asia Pacific Journal of Law and Policy 13, <>Google Scholar (the author argues that the court lacks such judicial review power, and that the assertion of such a power would run counter to the original constituent power).

60 See e.g. Scheppele, KL, ‘Unconstitutional Constituent Power’ 32–6 (unpublished manuscript, 2012–2013) <>;;>Google Scholar Braver, J, ‘We, the Mediated People: Unconventional Adaptation in Venezuela and Bolivia’ (6 May 2018) <>..>Google Scholar

61 See Partlett, W, ‘Courts and Constitution-Making’ (2015) 50(5) Wake Forest Law Review 921;Google Scholar Braver, J, ‘Revolutionary Reform in Venezuela – Electoral Rules and Historical Narratives in the Creation of the 1999 Constitution’ in Albert, Contiades and Fotiadou, The Foundations and Traditions of Constitutional Amendment (n 25) 137.Google Scholar

62 See Sarria, MA Cajas, La Historia de la Corte Suprema de Justicia de Colombia, 1886–1991, Tomo II: Del Frente Nacional a la Asamblea Constituyente, 1958–1991 (Universidad de los Andes y Universidad Icesi, Bogotá, 2015) 406–8.Google Scholar

63 See Landau, D, ‘Constitution-Making Gone Wrong’ (2012) 64(5) Alabama Law Review 923, 939–49;Google Scholar Braver, J, ‘Hannah Arendt in Venezuela: The Supreme Court Battles Hugo Chávez Over the Creation of the 1999 Constitution’ (2016) 14(3) International Journal of Constitutional Law 555.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

64 See Caso: Gerardo Blyde, contra la Resolucion No. 990217–32 (Supreme Court of Justice, Political-Administrative Chamber) in Revista Del Derecho Publico, nos. 77–80 (1999) 73.

65 Ibid 80.

66 See Segura, R and Bejarano, AM, ‘¡Ni una asamblea más sin nosotros! Exclusion, Inclusion, and the Politics of Constitution-Making in the Andes’ (2004) 11(2) Constellations 217.Google Scholar

67 Because that these provisions were so fundamental to the constitutional order, Richard Albert correctly claims that the decision amounts to, what he terms, a dismemberment: ‘The Honduran Supreme Court should not have rendered the provision inapplicable—a decision whose effect amounted to a constitutional dismemberment—without confirming the substantial popular support for such a fundamental change to the core of the Constitution. As it was, however, the Court dismembered the Constitution on its own—a role that is not properly the Court’s but rather that people’s own.’ Albert, R, ‘Constitutional Amendment and Dismemberment’ (2018) 43(1) Yale Journal of International Law 1, 68–9.Google Scholar

68 See Landau and Dixon (n 7); Landau (n 4).

69 Interestingly, the most common methods executives seeking to overstay their term limits are constitutional amendment and thereafter constitutional replacement. See Ginsburg, T, Elkins, Z and Melton, J, ‘Do Executive Term Limits Cause Constitutional Crises?’ in Ginsburg, T (ed), Comparative Constitutional Design (Cambridge University Press, New York, NY, 2012) 350, 362 n 12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

70 As Alexander Baturo notes, ‘almost all presidents that had their term limits extended proceeded to win subsequent re-elections’. See Baturo, A, Democracy, Dictatorship, and Term Limits (University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, MI, 2014) 9.Google Scholar On what influences whether presidents attempt to overstay their tenure see Baturo, A, ‘The Stakes of Losing Office, Term Limits and Democracy’ (2010) 40(3) British Journal of Political Science 635.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

71 See above Pt III.

72 See Choudhry, S, ‘Transnational Constitutionalism and a Limited Doctrine of Unconstitutional Constitutional Amendment: A reply to Rosalind Dixon and David Landau’ (2017) 15(3) International Journal of Constitutional Law 826, 828Google Scholar (‘Proposals to relax or remove presidential term limits are the most visible and common example of constitutional amendments in the service of democratic backsliding, having generated constitutional conflict in recent years across Sub-Saharan Africa (Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Congo Brazaville, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Guinea, Malawi, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Togo, Uganda, and Zambia) and Latin America (Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Venezuela).’)

73 See above Pt III.

74 See Decision of 22 April 2015, section 10.

75 Ibid section 15.

76 See Roznai, Y, ‘Unconstitutional Constitutional Change by Courts’ New England Law Review (forthcoming 2018) (copy with authors).Google Scholar

77 See e.g. Dixon, R, ‘Updating Constitutional Rules’ (2009) The Supreme Court Review 319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar But see Marshfield, JL, ‘Court and Informal Constitutional Change in the States’ New England Law Review (forthcoming 2018)Google Scholar (copy with authors) (Marshfield provides qualitative illustrations regarding cases in which courts, in US state level, have engaged with informal constitutional change, regarding double-jeopardy protections, civil rights, the judicial branch, taxation and finance, voting and executive power. Marshfield also demonstrates how courts provided a restrictive constitutional interpretation to the right to a trial by jury).

78 See above Pt III.

79 See text accompanying (nn 107–08) for further discussion.

80 See Decision of 22 April 2015, section 18.

81 Maus, D, ‘The Influence of Contemporary International Law on the Exercise of Constituent Power’ in Jyränki, A (ed), National Constitutions in the Era of Integration (Kluwer Law International, The Hague, 1999) 50.Google Scholar

82 See e.g. Colón-Ríos, J, ‘A New Typology of Judicial Review of Legislation’ (2014) 3 Global Constitutionalism 143CrossRefGoogle Scholar (noting this possibility as a departure from the constituent power tradition).

83 In contrast, in most jurisdiction constitutional law prevails, from the perspective of domestic constitutional law. See Roznai, Y, ‘The Theory and Practice of “Supra-Constitutional” Limits on Constitutional Amendments’ (2013) 62(3) International and Comparative Law Quarterly 557, 577–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

84 See also Gözler, K, ‘La Question de la Superiorité des Normes de Droit international sur la Constitution’ (1996) 46(1–4) Ankara Üniversitesi Hukuk Fakültesi Dergisi 195, 200.Google Scholar

85 See Landau and Dixon (n 68). For a critical review of international law as limiting constitution-making see Landau, D, ‘Democratic Erosion and Constitution-Making Moments: The Role of International Law’ 2 (2017) U.C. Irvine Journal of International, Transnational and Comparative Law 87, 105–8.Google Scholar

86 See e.g. Roznai, Y and Kreuz, LRC, ‘Conventionality Control and Amendment 95/2016 – A Brazilian Case of Unconstitutional Constitutional Amendment’ (forthcoming 2018) 5(2) Revista de Investigações ConstitucionaisGoogle Scholar (arguing that Constitutional Amendment 95 of December 2016 to the Brazilian Constitution can be the object of conventionality control on the basis of international human rights conventions to which Brazil is a signatory).

87 Torrijo, XF, ‘International and Domestic Law: Definitely an Odd Couple’ (2008) 77(2) Revista Juridica UPR 483, 491.Google Scholar See e.g. the Constitution of Switzerland of 1999, according to which when there is a partial or even total revision of the constitution, ‘The mandatory provisions of international law must not be violated’ (arts 193(4), 194(2)). Similarly, art 2(2) of the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina of 1995 specifically provides that those standards set in the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms shall have priority over all other law, including constitutional amendments.

88 Roznai (n 83) 594–5 (arguing that ‘in the internal espace juridique (contrary to the external one) any arguments that supranational law prevails over domestic constitutional law are commonly based on the constitution itself, which may grant to certain international or regional law a normative status higher than domestic law. However, that constitution may be amended or replaced by a new constitution, so as to loosen or even exclude such superiority.’).

89 See Hond. Const., art 15.

90 See Schnably, SJ, ‘Emerging International Law Constraints on Constitutional Structure and Revision: A Preliminary Appraisal’ (2008) 62 University of Miami Law Review 417, 422.Google Scholar

91 See e.g. Franck, TM and Thiruvengadam, AK, ‘Norms of International Law Relating to the Constitution-Making Process’ in Miller, LE (ed), Framing the State in Times of Transition: Case Studies in Constitution Making (USIP, Washington DC, 2010) 3;Google Scholar V Hart, ‘Constitution-Making and the Right to Take Part in a Public Affair’ in Miller, Framing the State in Times of Transition ibid 20.

92 See Saati, A, ‘Participatory Constitution-Making as a Transnational Legal Norm: Why Does It “Stick” in Some Contexts and Not in Others?’ (2017) 2 U.C. Irvine Journal of International, Transnational and Comparative Law 113, 122.Google Scholar

93 See Garlicki, L and Garlicka, ZA, ‘External Review of Constitutional Amendments? International Law as a Norm of Reference’ (2011) 44(3) Israel Law Review 343Google Scholar (arguing that in the current state of globalisation, international law – and particularly international human rights law which is relatively clear, precise, and has effective judicial review mechanisms – can play a significant role in the judicial assessment of the legal legitimacy of constitutional provisions); Valdés, JT, ‘Poder constituyente irregular: los límites metajurídicos del poder constituyente originario’ (2008) 6(2) Estudios Constitucionales 121Google Scholar (suggesting that the globalisation of fundamental rights and jus cogens norms set new limits on constitutional law-making powers).

94 Dixon and Landau (n 5). See also Bryde, BO, ‘The Constitutional Judge and the International Constitutionalist Dialogue’ (2006) 80 Tulane Law Review 203, 219.Google Scholar

95 Altwicker, T, ‘Convention Rights as Minimum Constitutional Guarantees? The Conflict between Domestic Constitutional Law and the European Convention on Human Rights’ in Bogdandy, AV and Sonnevend, P (eds), Constitutional Crisis in the European Constitutional Area – Theory, Law and Politics in Hungary and Romania (Hart Publishing, Oxford and Portland, OR, 2015) 344.Google Scholar

96 1993 South African Constitution, CP II.

97 On insurance theories of judicial review and constitutions, see Ginsburg, T, Judicial Review in New Democracies: Constitutional Courts in Asian Cases (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2003) 25;Google Scholar Dixon, R and Ginsburg, T, ‘The Forms and Limits of Constitutions as Political Insurance’ (2017) 15(4) International Journal of Constitutional Law 988.Google Scholar

98 Dixon and Landau (n 5). On transnational legal norms as checks on behavioural biases see also Jackson, VC, Constitutional Engagement in a Transnational Era (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2010)Google Scholar (arguing that ‘comparison can be a useful way to achieve some reflective distance, improving impartiality and objectivity about interpretive questions’).

99 Ibid.

100 Ibid. See also McConnell, SA, ‘The Return of Continuismo?’ (2010) 109(724) Current History 7480.Google Scholar On the distinction between Presidential and Parliamentary systems with regard to term limits see e.g. Linz, JJ, ‘The Perils of Presidentialism’ (1990) 1(1) Journal of Democracy 51;Google Scholar Linz, JJ, ‘Democracy’s Time Constraints’ (1998) 19(1) International Political Science Review 19.Google Scholar

101 See Decision of 22 April 2015, section 10.

102 See e.g. Corrales, Jj and Penfold, M, ‘Manipulating Term Limits in Latin America’ (2014) 25(4) Journal of Democracy 157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

103 See European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission), Report on Term-Limits Part I – Presidents, Study No. 908/2017.

104 Ibid.

105 Ibid.

106 Roznai, Unconstitutional Constitutional Amendments (n 1) 15–38.

107 Ibid, 30–1. See generally Kantor, H, ‘Efforts Made by Various Latin American Countries to Limit The Power of the President’ in Lijphart, A (ed), Parliamentary versus Presidential Government (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1992) 101;Google Scholar Fombad, C and Inegbedion, NA, ‘Presidential Term Limits and Their Impact on Constitutionalism in Africa’ in Fombad, C and Murray, C (eds), Fostering Constitutionalism in Africa (Pretoria University Law Press, Pretoria, 2010) 1.Google Scholar

108 See e.g. Ginsburg, T and Elkins, Z, ‘Ancillary Powers of Constitutional Courts’ (2008) 87 Texas Law Review 1431, 1446–9Google Scholar (showing that the power to ban anti-constitutional political parties is a common power for constitutional courts around the world).

109 See e.g. Refah Partisi (the Welfare Party) and Others v. Turkey [GC] – 41340/98, 41342/98, 41343/98, European Court of Human Rights, Judgment 13.2.2003 [GC]; see also Issacharoff, S, Fragile Democracies: Contested Power in the Era of Constitutional Courts (Cambridge University Press, New York, NY, 2015);Google Scholar Tyulkina, S, Militant Democracy: Undemocratic Political Parties and Beyond (Routledge, Abingdon, 2015);Google Scholar Fox, GH and Nolte, G, ‘Intolerant Democracies’ (1995) 36 Harvard International Law Journal 1.Google Scholar

110 See Ragone (n 33).

111 Ibid.

112 Tribunal Constitucional Plurinacional, Sentencia Constitucional N. 84 of 2017, (28 November 2017).

113 See Verdugo, S, ‘How the Bolivian Constitutional Court Helped the Morales Regime to Break the Political Insurance of the Bolivian Constitution’ Blog of the International Journal of Constitutional Law (10 December 2017) <>.Google Scholar

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From an unconstitutional constitutional amendment to an unconstitutional constitution? Lessons from Honduras
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