Guatemala: FIDH and CALDH sound the alarm on a breach of constitutional order

20/07/2020
Press release
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Paris, Guatemala City — The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Centro para la Acción Legal en Derechos Humanos (CALDH) denounce several affronts to the Guatemalan Constitutional Court, especially in the wake of its May 6th decision in favor of the Prosecutor General’s request that the Guatemalan Congress respect proper and transparent procedures when appointing judges and magistrates to High Court positions.

Following the Court’s decision, several members of Congress decided to bypass the Constitutional Court’s decision and hold a meeting so as to finalise the list of High Court appointees.

FIDH and CALDH raise the alarm as to an imminent risk that Congress name judges with ties to corruption rings and/or connected with people who are fighting corruption charges. Both organisations point out that any High Court nominee should have an unimpeachable record and comply with the requirements as to good repute set forth in the Guatemalan Constitution.

The most serious attack against the Constitutional Court has been the decision to go ahead with pre-trial procedures against Magistrates Gloria Porras, Bonerge Mejía Orellana, Francisco de Mata Vela and Neftaly Aldana for passing the aforementioned resolution that exposed conflicts of interest as regards the appointment of certain Supreme Court and Appellate Court Judgeship candidates.
Since the people in question are Magistrates, the pre-trial procedures have been filed with the Congressional Inquiry Commission.

In granting protection, the Constitutional Court confirmed that judges cannot be tried for their decisions and suspended the pre-trial procedure. Despite the suspension, Congress is going ahead with the Inquiry Commission.

These events underscore the dangers of falling into a cycle of impunity, further entrenching rampant corruption in Guatemala. Since the end of the armed conflict, any legal advancements achieved have been repeatedly stymied or suffered setbacks.

These illegal and unconstitutional acts are part of a broader set of affronts to the rule of law and especially the independence of the judicial branch’s various bodies. This in turn denies the Guatemalan people of access to justice; and more importantly prevents them from fully benefiting from their human rights.

FIDH and CALDH (FIDH’s member organisation in Guatemala) call upon the Congress of the Republic of Guatemala to:

- Respect constitutional order and the principles of the separation of powers and judicial independence.
-  Comply with the Constitutional Court’s ruling on the proper nominating process for High Court Magistrates and Judges.
- Guarantee a principled, exemplary, and independent judiciary and make sure it meets all of the constitutional requirements set forth in articles 113, 207, 216, and 217 of the Guatemalan constitution.
- Take urgent measures to protect the lives an physical integrity of the four judges, and especially ensure that they are fully able to carry our their duties in the framework of the rule of law.
- Consider and implement the precautionary measures recommended by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to protect Bonerge Mejía, Francisco Mata Vela, and Gloria Porras) who have been previously threatened and harassed in their posts.

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