Stockholm, Sweden — The International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC) today released a new report that examines the situation of the judiciary and public prosecution in Guatemala. ILAC’s Rule of Law Assessment Report on Guatemala provides a baseline for efforts to analyze the rule of law in Guatemala, including challenges such as the justice for crimes committed during the 1960-1996 internal armed conflict, disputes over land and natural resources, criminalization of protests, discrimination against women and LGBTI persons, and marginalization of indigenous communities.
Guatemala has been at peace for over twenty years, but the legacy of inequality and violence still jeopardize rule of law, stability and development in the country today,” said Agneta Johansson, ILAC’s Executive Director. “Many commitments to rule of law and human rights in the 1996 Peace Accords remain unfulfilled. As a result, root causes of the conflict such as poverty, inequality, racism and corruption remain relevant and have frequently grown more intractable. Without the establishment of the rule of law and further decisive steps against impunity, the gains of the last decades remain at risk.
In October 2017, ILAC’s eight person team of experts traveled to Guatemala and met with over 150 Guatemalan legal professionals, civil society actors and international officials. In addition to meetings in the capital, Guatemala City, the team traveled to other parts of the country including Quetzaltenango, Nebaj, El Estor, Rabinal and sites in Petén Department in order to understand the working of the justice system at the local level.
The assessment team clearly saw that individual ‘justice operators’ can and do make a difference, said Rhodri Williams, ILAC’s senior legal expert and team leader for the assessment. At the national and local level, many judges and prosecutors work diligently to dispense justice, usually under difficult conditions and often under threat. As a whole, the justice sector is struggling under the burden of insufficient resources and capacity, lack of public trust, allegations of corruption, and efforts to undermine its independence.
Key findings from the report include:
- Reforms to ensure access to justice and the independence of the court system are a matter of urgency. The members of the ILAC Mission were frequently informed of the destabilizing effects of the failure to secure the rule of law. Such reforms must be undertaken in the broader context of renewed efforts to fully implement the Peace Accords and address the root causes of conflict.
- Judges and prosecutors in Guatemala must be respected and supported, so that they have the independence and capacity to play their crucial role in society. Many justice operators in Guatemala currently work under a combination of circumstances that constrain their independence and effectiveness.
Based on these findings, the report makes numerous recommendations on how to strengthen the rule of law in Guatemala going forward.
ILAC is not the first observer, and not the only observer to point out these circumstances, concluded Williams. However, we hope that the ILAC report will put the authorities of Guatemala on notice about the clearly documented and well-understood obstacles to the independence and effectiveness of the justice sector they need to address. Without an effective and independent system of justice, the rule of law and human rights cannot be secured.
The assessment mission and report were made possible through core funding provided to ILAC by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.
Founded in 2002, ILAC is an international Consortium that brings together over 50 professional associations and legal professionals from all over the world to share their expertise with national stakeholders who are rebuilding their justice institutions after conflict.
For more information or to speak with Rhodri Williams, email Vanessa Passos at firstname.lastname@example.org.