WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
23 Jun 2020 | Press Release

Guatemala’s Congress Should Elect Judges who are Independent, Qualified and Free of Conflicts of Interest

Washington, D.C.—On June 23, in accordance with a prior ruling by the Constitutional Court, Guatemala’s Congress is expected to initiate the process of electing 13 judges to the Supreme Court and 135 judges to the Courts of Appeals. 

“The Guatemalan Congress should guarantee the election of qualified, capable, and honorable judges who are committed to impartial and independent justice and not private interests,” said Adriana Beltrán, the Director for Citizen Security at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a leading organization in research and advocacy for human rights in the Americas. 

On May 6, 2020, the Constitutional Court issued clear and ethical guidelines for the election of judges that meet standards of competence, merit, and integrity, and instructed Congress to exclude nominees from the election process whose qualifications and integrity are in doubt. “Congress should abide by the Constitutional Court’s guidelines and disregard the candidates that have been denounced by the Public Prosecutor’s Office for their clear conflicts of interest,” said Beltrán. 

In a recent report, the Public Prosecutor’s Office revealed information about 22 candidates who were involved in the so-called “Parallel Commissions 2020” case. The investigation, carried out by the Special Prosecutor’s Office against Impunity (FECI), exposed secret meetings between Gustavo Alejos—who is currently involved in at least five cases of corruption and is publicly designated by the U.S. State Department due to involvement in significant corruption—and politicians, justice officials and candidates, with the goal of manipulating the selection process for judges in Guatemala’s highest courts. The report also found that 109 candidates for judgeships are implicated in other investigations that are under way in the Public Prosecutor’s Office. 

Independent judges are an essential requirement in order for the Guatemalan justice system to operate effectively and to address the challenges that the country faces. “Congress has an obligation and responsibility to the Guatemalan people to ensure an election process that doesn’t allow the infiltration of judges with private or illicit interests,” said Beltrán. 

Another area of concern are the recurring attacks against justice officials and citizens who have led the fight against corruption and impunity in Guatemala. “The Guatemalan state should investigate threats and defamation campaigns against the justice officials and citizens who are leading the fight against corruption and it should guarantee their safety,” said Beltrán.