Note: portions of the audio recording of this event are in Spanish.
Guatemala’s justice system faces immense challenges—extraordinarily high levels of impunity, entrenched parallel power structures, and limited resources. Within this context, Guatemalan Supreme Court Justice César Barrientos has made enormous strides. Presiding over the Criminal Chamber of the Guatemalan Supreme Court since 2009, Justice Barrientos has spearheaded important reforms in Guatemala’s criminal justice system and been a champion of judicial independence. He has reduced delays in criminal cases and created a more efficient, effective, and transparent justice system.
He has also promoted the creation and strengthening of “high-risk” tribunals that hear cases relating to organized crime, human trafficking, money laundering, and human rights violations. This spring, one of these high-risk tribunals heard the historic genocide trial of Efrain Rios Montt, the first genocide trial of a former head of state in a national court.
In this conversation, Justice Barrientos engages with Stephen Rapp, U.S. State Department Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, on the advances in, and threats to, judicial independence in Guatemala. Ambassador Rapp heads the Office of War Crimes Issues and has served as a prosecutor for international tribunals concerning Sierra Leone and Rwanda.