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Guatemala: IACHR Holds Hearing on Threats to Judicial Independence

 

news source: Guatemala Human Rights Commision-USA

On October 28, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held a hearing on judicial employees and judicial independence in Guatemala. The hearing, which was requested by various human rights organizations, including GHRC, featured testimonies from Judge Erika Aifán, former head of the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity (FECI) Juan Francisco Sandoval, Human Right Ombudsman Jordan Rodas, and others.

(Read more about the illegal removal of Juan Francisco Sandoval from his position by the attorney general of Guatemala at https://www.wola.org/analysis/ousting-anti-corruption-prosecutor-guatemala/)

 During the hearing, the participants raised topics of concern, including criminalization and harassment of judges, threats to independent prosecutors, and the violation of access to justice and judicial independence. On behalf of independent judges in Guatemala, Judge Erika Aifán described acts of retaliation against Pablo Xitumul, Miguel Ángel Gálvez, and Jamin Barrios for their work against corruption and impunity. Moreover, she voiced concerns about the threat posed daily by systematic attacks by groups that disseminate hate and threats on their social media accounts, labeling the judges as guerrillas and connecting them to images of torture. Finally, she pointed out the inefficiency of the state authorities and their failure to investigate the judges’ complaints against those behind the harassment and death threats.

 Those testifying in the hearing asked the IACHR to press the Guatemalan government to fulfill its obligation to protect an independent judicial system. Jordan Rodas invited the IACHR to conduct a field visit as soon as possible, given that Guatemala is “facing an authoritarian regime.” The Guatemalan government, however, claimed it is meeting its “constitutional obligations” and that institutions like the Public Ministry are “operating efficiently to best serve the public.”

 The hearing concluded with comments from representatives of the IACHR. Citing 189 attacks and 51 legal proceedings against judicial officials, Commissioner Flavia Piovesen warned that complaints against judges, prosecutors, and human rights defenders reveal a context of weakening judicial independence in Guatemala. Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño explained the importance of an independent justice system, stating, “There is no rule of law if there is no judicial independence.” Commissioner Antonia Urrejola ended the hearing by reiterating her concern about the situation of judges, prosecutors, and human rights defenders. She expressed willingness to conduct a field visit to promote dialogue and observance of human rights.