UN Human Rights expresses concern at the “continued erosion of the rule of law in Guatemala”

UN Human Rights expresses concern at the “continued erosion of the rule of law in Guatemala”

The UN’s top official on fundamental guarantees calls the use of administrative and criminal proceedings against individuals involved in investigations “particularly worrying”

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed his alarming concern over what he considers a “continued erosion of the rule of law in Guatemala”. 

Volker Türk notes that justice officials, including those who worked or cooperated with the UN-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), continue to face acts of “intimidation, harassment and criminalisation”.  

“It is of particular concern that administrative and criminal proceedings are being used in apparent reprisal against those who participated in the investigation and prosecution of cases of corruption or serious human rights violations committed during the armed conflict,” the High Commissioner said.

Türk indicated that the Special Prosecutor’s Office against Impunity (FECI) announced on 28 March, in the latest in a series of such cases, that it was taking legal action against former CICIG Commissioner Francisco Dall’Anese in relation to his work at the Commission.

According to press reports, the Prosecutor’s Office’s legal actions against former Costa Rican Commissioner Dall’Anese are part of the investigation called Fedecocagua (Federación de Cooperativas Agrícolas de Productores de Café) which also includes the manager of this company, Ulrich Gurtner Kappeler.

The head of the FECI, Rafael Curruchiche, requested an arrest warrant against Kappeler for the crime of money laundering. The prosecutor claims that the ex-commissioner sent a note to the manager of Fedecocagua, informing him that an investigation by the International Commission of Fedecocagua had found no evidence of any illegality.

After twelve years of activity, CICIG was dissolved on 3 September 2019. During its time in operation and with the support of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, it managed to indict more than 1,500 people, prosecute more than 660 and, as of July 2019, had obtained 400 convictions.

Concern over rejection of nominations for general elections

The High Commissioner extended his concern to “presidential and vice-presidential candidates from across the political spectrum, including Thelma Cabrera, Jordan Rodas and Roberto Arzú”, whose candidacies for the general elections on 25 June were rejected by the Electoral Court “for apparently arbitrary reasons”. Appeals on these cases are before the Supreme Court.

“The right to participate in public affairs, including the right to vote and to stand for election, is an internationally recognised human right. The Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court and the Electoral Court must decide impartially, on the basis of the facts and in accordance with the law, without restrictions or undue influence,” Türk stressed.

The High Commissioner called on “the Guatemalan authorities to ensure that judges and lawyers can exercise their functions freely and without fear of reprisals. An independent judiciary is vital for a democratic society”.