GUATEMALA: Recent measures by Jimmy Morales’ government are a blow to the institution of democracy

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Geneva-Paris-Guatemala City, 9 January 2019 - In recent days, Jimmy Morales’s government has repeatedly disobeyed judicial rulings, thus slowing the fight against impunity and corruption in Guatemala. The Observatory (OMCT-FIDH) and UDEFEGUA denounce this as a blow to democratic institutions.

On 7 January 2019, Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales announced his illegal decision, contrary to the principles of international law, to unilaterally break the agreement with the United Nations that established the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), whose mandate ends in September 2019. This decision has been strongly rejected by United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, while the Guatemalan Constitutional Court (CC) today announced its decision to grant a provisional injunction suspending this decision and instructing the Guatemalan state to guarantee the functioning of the CICIG.

President Morales’s decision implies a deepening of the blow to democratic institutions and the rule of law in Guatemala, constituting the umpteenth act of disobedience in recent days by his government with regard to the resolutions of the CC, the highest constitutional body in the country. Among the most serious events is the illegal detention from 5 to 6 January of CICIG investigator Yilen Osorio at Guatemala City Airport by immigration officials and the National Civil Police, under the orders of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of the Interior and the President of the Republic himself, all in flagrant disobedience of the CC that had given the government a period of 12 hours to extend visas and allow the entry of 11 CICIG investigators including Mr Osorio.

Likewise, during the press conference on 7 January, President Morales made threatening comments against civil society and ordered "that the pertinent accusations be made to the national authorities against individuals and authorities who participated in acts that violated our laws, including prevarication, abuse of authority, acts against the Constitution, illegal orders, and sedition.”
The Observatory and UDEFEGUA are concerned about statements that encourage the criminalization of human rights defenders in Guatemala, including CICIG officials and members of institutions that guarantee human rights in the country, such as the CC and the Human Rights Ombudsman (PDH). This occurs in a context of high violence against human rights defenders as demonstrated by the 26 murders in 2018, as well as the climate of intimidation and harassment against the leaders of the main human rights organizations in the country, particularly since 31 August 2018 when President Morales redoubled his efforts to curb the fight against impunity and corruption with the announcement of the non-renewal of CICIG’s mandate.

In view of the above, the Observatory and UDEFEGUA call on the Guatemalan authorities to cease all acts of intimidation against Guatemalan civil society and, in particular, against human rights organizations, as well as to respect the constitutional order and guarantee the fundamental rights of all Guatemalan citizens.

They also call on the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) to convene an extraordinary meeting to condemn the recent actions taken by Jimmy Morales’ government and to demand that the State of Guatemala put an end to its actions against democratic institutions and the rule of law.

Lastly, the Observatory urges the entire international community to take firm diplomatic measures in proportion to the gravity of the situation, including public communications, calls for consultations with Guatemala’s diplomatic missions in their respective countries, and consideration of possible personal and commercial sanctions until the institutional coup is ended.

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