December 28, 2018

Statement of Bob Carlson, ABA president Re: Threats to rule of law in Guatemala

WASHINGTON, Dec. 28, 2018 — The American Bar Association expresses its deep concern for recent developments threatening the rule of law in Guatemala.

The International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (known as CICIG), established by the United Nations in 2006 in response to high rates of violence and impunity in the wake of armed conflict in Guatemala, has made great strides in recent years establishing the rule of law in Guatemala. However, those advancements are being threatened by the Guatemalan government’s decision not to renew CICIG’s mandate next year and the government’s refusal to let the head of the Commission, Iván Velázquez Rodriguez, return to Guatemala.

Earlier this fall, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court ordered that Velázquez be allowed to return. Nonetheless, the Guatemalan government has so far refused to implement this decision. On Dec. 18, 2018, Guatemala announced that it was withdrawing the diplomatic credentials of 11 non-Guatemalan investigators of CICIG – an action that violates the agreement between Guatemala and the United Nations. And on December 26, the Guatemala solicitor general asked the Congress to lift the immunity of three Constitutional Court justices so that they can be charged with crimes. This unprecedented action by the government appears to constitute a clear act of retaliation against the three justices in response to their decisions in recent cases, including authorization for Velázquez to return to Guatemala and the December 21 temporary injunction that suspended the expulsion of the CICIG investigators.

There can be no rule of law, nor an effective democracy, without governmental compliance with court decisions and with the fundamental principle of international law that agreements are to be respected. The American Bar Association calls on the government of Guatemala to respect the independence of the judiciary; to immediately implement the judgments of that country’s own Constitutional Court; to restore the credentials of CICIG staff; and to withdraw the request for ending the immunity of Constitutional Court justices. We also renew our support for CICIG and call for the government to reconsider its decision to terminate CICIG’s mandate.

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