Guatemala: justice and rule of law at a crossroads

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A new report from FIDH and Guatemalan coalition Convergencia por los Derechos Humanos, Guatemala: Justice and Rule of Law at a Crossroads, analyses the outlook for justice and rule of law in Guatemala in light of the expiration tomorrow of the mandate of the Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). This UN-backed investigative body has, in partnership with the Public Ministry, contributed to significant advances in the fight against corruption and impunity in the country over the past twelve years, earning wide public support and international recognition.

The Public Ministry, with CICIG’s crucial support, has prosecuted 660 individuals, leading to the conviction of over 400. CICIG has also demonstrated the existence of 70 clandestine criminal structures and their ties to political, business and military actors. Between 2007 and 2017, CICIG and the Special Anti-impunity Prosecutor’s Bureau (FECI) contributed to a net reduction of over 4,500 homicides.

Despite the progress achieved during CICIG’s mandate, president-elect Alejandro Giammattei has been a staunch critic of the panel. Giammattei’s paradoxical strategy is worrying: on the one hand, he rejects international and multilateral support, saying, "We don’t need help from international organizations to come and tell us what to do," but on the other hand, he has proposed asking for assistance from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation to fight crime.

In light of this complex scenario, FIDH and Convergencia por los Derechos Humanos provide a series of recommendations for the State of Guatemala with an aim to strengthen the progress made in fighting corruption, impunity and crime. This report, which follows a mission carried out late August 2019, warns against the high risk of backtracking on the advances made with regard to justice and even the potential collapse of Guatemalan institutional frameworks.

The independence of the judiciary will likely weaken, due to flawed selection of future judges of the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. At the same time, there is a risk that people and institutions which have been key players in the fight against impunity will be criminalised and harassed.

An alliance between conservatives and the executive branch and others who were negatively affected by improvements in the functioning of the justice system—including military officers involved in serious crimes during the Guatemalan Civil War, business, political and religious groups with ties to corruption—is known as the “pacto de corruptos” (pact of the corrupt). This group has tried to dismantle judicial and institutional frameworks that made possible key changes in the functioning of the justice system, criminalise those who contributed to these advances, and reverse legal cases supported by CICIG.

FIDH and the Guatemalan coalition Convergencia por los Derechos Humanos are deeply concerned by the undertakings of this alliance, which will remain in power four more months until Giammattei assumes office and the new Congress is formed in January 2020.

See here the Executive Summary:

And here the complete Report (in spanish)

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