Guatemala: Government orders that eleven more officials of the International Commission against Impunity (CICIG) leave the country

According to information published in the Official Gazette, the government of Guatemala has ordered that eleven more officials and two family relatives from the CICIG leave the country within 72 hours from the time of issuing the notification. However, no official communication using the usual diplomatic channels has yet been sent to the CICIG.

In September 2018, the head of the CICIG, Commissioner Ivan Velasquez, was banned from re-entering the country and the government stated it would not renew the CICIG mandate after September 2019.

Ramon Cadena, the ICJ Director for Central America, stated: “The ICJ considers this new measure is designed to hinder criminal investigations against high-level government officials accused of corruption.”

The CICIG acts as a special prosecutor in serious corruption and other criminal cases and carries out investigations to identify responsible parties. The persons who have been asked to leave the country are the lawyers, police and prosecutors who are investigating important corruption cases, such as the ‘The Line’ case, in which the former President and Vice-President have been charged and other cases including those within the National Police.

Ramon Cadena continued: “It cannot escape anyone’s attention that one of the CICIG investigators who has been asked to leave the country was the person who is responsible for the corruption case involving the General Property Registry, that allegedly implicates both the son and brother of President Jimmy Morales”.

This new measure by the government seriously affects the rule of law and constitutes a flagrant violation of article 10 (4) of the agreement establishing the CICIG signed between Guatemala and the UN, which states:

“The Government agrees to provide to CICIG and its personnel the security necessary for the effective completion of CICIG’s activities throughout Guatemala, and to protect the personnel of CICIG, whether national or international, from abuse, threats, reprisals or acts of intimidations, in virtue of their status as personnel of, or their work for CICIG.”

Cadena added: “It is deeply regrettable that it is precisely the CICIG staff acting in high-impact cases who are being targeted by these measures because of their work to combat corruption and impunity. It is clear that the government is seeking to divert the CICIG from its path.”

Furthermore, according to the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, No 16: “Governments shall ensure that lawyers: a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference… “   Cadena continued, “The ICJ is deeply concerned that several CICIG personnel affected by these measures are lawyers and members of the Guatemalan Bar Association. Their work is being hindered and the Guatemalan Bar Association should take action to defend its members.”

“Guatemala should comply with international human rights law and ensure that acts of corruption that impact human rights are fairly and impartially investigated and prosecuted. The presence of the CICIG contributes to ensuring that Guatemala complies with its international obligations” he added.

Cadena concluded by stating: “With these arbitrary measures, the Constitutional order of Guatemala and its democratic institutions are undermined. The Guatemalan State should ensure effective measures are taken against corruption, consistent with its international human rights and other obligations. The CICIG is one of the most successful examples of work to end corruption and impunity. The Guatemalan authorities should support the CICIG instead of hindering its work and obstructing justice.”

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