The Constitutional Court of Guatemala has ruled in favor of an international commission to investigate organized crime and impunity in that country. The ruling moves the commission – the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, or CICIG, its acronym in Spanish – an important step closer to becoming a reality after it was announced in December by the United Nations and the Guatemalan presidency.
The Washington Office on Latin America, the research and advocacy group, hails the court’s ruling, which was issued on Wednesday night and held that creation of CICIG does not violate the Guatemalan Constitution. WOLA hopes the ruling will prompt the Guatemalan Congress to approve the creation of CICIG as soon as possible, so that it can begin the pressing task of investigating the illegal armed groups that have undercut the integrity of Guatemalan institutions.
“The court’s decision offers a great opportunity for Guatemala, with the support of the international community, to advance the rule of law, democracy and respect for human rights,” said Adriana Beltrán, WOLA’s Associate for Guatemala.
Last week, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved a resolution supporting efforts to strengthen the rule of law in Guatemala and calling for the swift creation of CICIG. The resolution called it “an innovative mechanism to support local efforts to confront the entrenched and dangerous problem posed by illegal armed groups and clandestine security organizations in Guatemala and their infiltration into state institutions.” The resolution was introduced by Senator Christopher Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, and supported by the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, and Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont. For the text of the Senate resolution, click here.
Illegal armed groups and clandestine security organizations have attacked and intimidated judges, politicians, human rights workers, journalists and many other people. Although this problem is not unique to Guatemala, it has become especially serious there in recent years. These groups have undermined the judicial system and created a climate of insecurity, aggravating the already serious problems of corruption, violence, impunity and organized crime.
The gravity of the threat from such groups was tragically demonstrated in February, when three Salvadoran members of the Central American Parliament and their driver were murdered in Guatemala. Four Guatemalan police officers implicated in the murders were subsequently killed while in custody.
WOLA believes that CICIG offers a unique opportunity to begin tackling one of the biggest threats to Guatemalan democracy and rule of law. If approved by the Congress, the commission will have the international standing needed to assist Guatemalan authorities in their efforts to probe and dismantle these illegal armed groups.
“Building democracy, confidence in public institutions and an effective justice system are essential tasks in Guatemala. This ruling boosts those efforts,” said Beltrán. “The fight against impunity and the consolidation of the rule of law are urgent and indispensable.”
A group of U.S., Canadian and European organizations, including WOLA and Human Rights First, issued a statement in Guatemala City supporting the court’s ruling in favor of CICIG. For that statement, click here.