Assessment of Guatemalan Prosecutorial System Begins

February 2011

The Guatemalan criminal justice system faces many challenges, not the least of which is an impunity rate reaching 98 percent, according to the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala. Impunity persists as both organized and random crimes continue to rise, and with extortion, kidnapping and violence against women now commonplace in Guatemala.

To explore how best to combat this impunity, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs is supporting an ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI)Prosecutorial Reform Index (PRI) for Guatemala. The PRI wille valuate the performance and functionality of the Public Ministry of Guatemala, which is charged with prosecuting crimes throughout the country.

The assessment began in earnest in February, when an ABA ROLI assessment team took the first step in a seven-month process. After review of relevant legislation, regulations and secondary source material, Guatemalan attorney Claudia González and ABA ROLI Senior Legal Analyst Jessie Tannenbaum visited cities throughout Guatemala to interview approximately 60 key actors in the criminal justice system, including prosecutors, judges, legislators, defense attorneys, journalists and civil society. The team noted significant cooperation from the Public Ministry and other criminal justice actors, many of whom indicated their desire to read the PRI findings and to begin working to improve the ministry.

According to the assessment team, a complex bureaucracy makes it difficult for actors within the public ministry to understand exactly how the criminal justice system works, and the root causes of impunity are unclear to many within the justice system. The PRI examines key functions of the public ministry and will include essential, yet never-before-compiled, information on its operating status and on the criminal justice bodies with which it works. This information will provide in-depth analysis of the ministry’s work and give Guatemala a road map for criminal justice reform.

The PRI for Guatemala will be publicly released in late summer 2011. Click here to learn more about other ABA ROLI PRI assessments.

To learn more about our work in Guatemala, contact ABA ROLI at rol@americanbar.org

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