Guatemala Recommits to Battle against Criminal Impunity

NEW YORK—Guatemala’s decision to extend the work of a UN-backed commission that fights corruption and organized criminality will  reinforce its ongoing efforts to strengthen the rule of law, the Open Society Justice Initiative said today. 

President Otto Pérez Molina announced on Thursday, April 23, that he would ask the UN to support a further two-year mandate for the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, known by its Spanish language acronym CICIG, ending a period of uncertainty over his government’s intentions. 

James A. Goldston, executive director of the Justice Initiative, welcomed the president’s move, saying:

“Time and again, CICIG has proven its value in investigating clandestine links between criminals and state security personnel, and enhancing the capability of Guatemala’s law enforcement agencies. This extension of CICIG’s mandate offers an opportunity for Guatemala to further consolidate the rule of law at a time when courageous and independent judges and prosecutors remain under threat.”

President Pérez Molina’s decision followed a recommendation to extend CICIG from La Instancia Coordinadora para la Modernización Sector Justicia,  an advisory body that includes the heads of the different arms of the justice system. 

The Justice Initiative noted that the recommendations to President Pérez Molina included urging him to “require CICIG to continue its support for legal and constitutional reforms that strengthen Guatemala’s justice system,” and to “offer all the support requested by the Commission for the strengthening of the technical and budgetary capacities of all the institutions of the justice system.”

The Instancia’s report also concluded that CICIG has strengthened the investigative and prosecutorial capacity of the justice system; that it had advanced paradigmatic cases targeting corruption and dismantled powerful criminal networks; that it had provided international support for much-needed legal reform; and that it had strengthened Guatemala’s state institutions and the democratic system.

Prior to the President’s decision, Guatemala’s organized private sector had also endorsed a further two years for CICIG. The commission also won expressions of support from members of the international community, including the United States, the European Union, and several Latin American countries.

Local and foreign human rights and legal groups, including the Justice Initiative, also highlighted the successes in investigating and prosecuting organized crime and in combatting corruption in Guatemala achieved with CICIG’s support since the commission was established in 2007.