Guatemala Court Rules Against UN-Led Human Rights Investigation

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On August 6, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court ruled against the creation of a United Nations-led International Commission to Investigate Illegal Bodies and Clandestine Security Forces (CICIACS) to investigate crimes that have mostly targeted the nation's indigenous Maya population.

The Constitutional Court deemed CICIACS unconstitutional on the grounds that it would have powers that Guatemala’s constitution stipulates can only be exercised by Guatemala’s courts. CICIACS would have allowed the international community to initiate prosecutions and to have full access to government and military files.

Adriana Beltran of the Washington Office on Latin America explained that the U.N.-led investigation process was designed to strengthen Guatemala’s weak judicial system, and called CICIACS an “innovative” way of correcting rampant political infiltration into the judicial system. CICIACS would be the first commission of its kind to be implemented by the United Nations.

Despite significant cuts to the Guatemalan military, prosecution of corrupt former officials, and a new policy of accepting responsibility in international courts for past human rights abuses, there is still strong evidence that security forces within Guatemala wield uncontrolled powers.

On July 21, the 22nd anniversary of the Plan de Sanchez massacre of 268 Maya, a previously anonymous witness of the massacre who had given testimony against the state received a death threat believed to be linked to the National Civic Police. The Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA has reported that as a result of death threats and intimidation, exhumations of clandestine cemeteries of Chimaltenango and Quiche were brought to a halt. The commission suspects that these crimes and others against human rights activists and anti-corruption prosecutors are linked to former military and intelligence groups.

Despite the ruling, national and international pressure for CICIACS remains strong. Within Guatemala, both MINUGUA and the Myrna Mack Foundation continue to urge the government to implement CICIACS. At the international level, United Nations Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast has criticized the lack of support the Guatemalan government has given to CICIACS.

Guatemala’s President Oscar Berger has promised to present another proposal to the Constitutional Court. If passed, CICIACS would consist of one representative from the United Nations, one from the Organization of American States (OAS), and one prominent Guatemalan citizen appointed by the Human Rights Ombudsman (PDH). The United Nations has issued a statement saying that it will not support a weak CICIACS that lacks the necessary power to investigate suspected groups.

 

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