Special hearing of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) on the role of the Guatemalan Commission against Corruption (CICIG)

The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) held a special hearing on the role of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) in Boulder, Colarado.

Ramón Cadena, the ICJ Director stated “We regret that the Government of Guatemala requested the IACHR to hold the hearing behind closed doors since all the points discussed were of public interest. The discussions should have been open to the press and the general public. We urge the authorities to ensure there will be no retaliations against the work carried out by human rights organizations and human rights defenders.”

The ICJ welcomed the participation of many NGOs  at the event  and the frank dialogue that took place on this crucial issue for human rights in that country. The Guatemalan government delegation claimed that the Inter-American System of Human Rights was not competent to consider the matter. However, the IACHR maintained it was competent, according to the American Convention of Human Rights and other regional human rights legislation. As an “external observer”, the IACHR  stated it was “surprised” by the latest decisions taken by government authorities at the highest level not to extend the CICIG mandate nor allow the entry of Commissioner Iván Velásquez into the country. It considered these decisions were “excessive” and in no way strengthened the rule of law in Guatemala.

The government delegation further argued that the CICIG acted as a “parallel prosecutor” which affects the internal order of the country. The NGO delegation stated that on the contrary the CICIG acted as a “complementary prosecutor”. The delegation further noted that before the CICIG mandate was approved, the Constitutional Court, in an opinion published in the official gazette on 8 May 2007 (document no 791-2007), considered that the CICIG did not violate the constitutional order nor the rule of law in Guatemala.

The Constitutional Court referred to the CICIG as having “the function of supporting, assisting and strengthening the state institutions responsible for investigating crimes committed by  illegal and clandestine security forces .. and does not exclude the possibility of receiving  support from other institutions in the collection of evidence, provided that the participation has been established in a legal manner, as in the present case.”

The IACHR considered that the essential question  was whether the State of Guatemala already had the judicial independence and strong  institutions necessary to  fight against corruption in Guatemala without the support of the CICIG. The NGO delegation considered, based on different arguments, that the presence of the CICIG in Guatemala was still necessary.

The IACHR also informed the government delegation that it was in their interest to invite an in-situ visit of the IACHR as soon as possible so as to better understand the human rights situation.

The ICJ Director for Central America Ramón Cadena participated in the hearing at the request of the Central American Institute for Social Democracy  Studies (DEMOS), the Committee for Peasant Development (CODECA) and the Network of Community Defenders. The Indigenous Peoples Law Firm had been requested to attend by these organizations but was unable to do so at the last moment.

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