The dismissal of Ecuador's Supreme Court has prompted a top United Nations legal envoy to ask the government to permit him to visit the country as early as next week.

The special rapporteur of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, Leandro Despouy, says he is concerned about what he calls grave interference by the executive and the legislature into Ecuador's judicial sphere.

In December, the Ecuadorian congress voted to replace the nation's highest court after President Lucio Gutierrez accused judges of bias against him.

Mr. Despouy says the move violates judicial independence, which is a principle recognized by the nation's constitution and international agreements to which Ecuador is a party.

The proposed visit is aimed at accurately determining the situation in Ecuador and reporting the findings to the Human Rights Commission. Ecuador's government had suggested that the visit not take place until May.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters