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Guatemala must guarantee judicial independence as attacks on judges continue, says UN expert


GENEVA (20 September 2018) – Guatemala must adopt all necessary measures to fully ensure that judges and magistrates perform their duties with full independence and guarantees, says UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers Diego García-Sayán.

“I am seriously concerned about the attacks and intimidation which have been aimed at Constitutional Court judges because of the cases they deal with, in particular incidents arising from the current situation in the country because of decisions taken by the Government,” said Mr. García-Sayán.

The UN expert pointed specifically to the Executive’s decision to refuse the head of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), Iván Velásquez Gómez, to enter the country, and its decision not to extend the mandate of the Commission, which he stressed was very important in the fight against impunity and corruption.

“Public announcements that the Government may not comply with the Constitutional Court’s decision that the return of the Commissioner should be allowed, would severely weaken the rule of law and the power of constitutional justice,” Mr. García-Sayán stressed.

“Attacks against members of the Constitutional Court and attempts to intimidate them, together with a failure to enforce their decisions, weaken the very institution which was set up to defend constitutional order and uphold the rule of law,” Mr. García-Sayán added.

The expert also expressed concern that some judges working on high-risk cases had suffered attacks, reprisals and intimidation.

“These attacks and attempts at intimidation not only seriously endanger the security and physical safety of judges and their relatives, but also weaken the justice system,” said Mr. García-Sayán.

The Special Rapporteur also emphasised that respect, guarantees of independence and an impartial justice system, were essential to Guatemala’s fight against impunity and corruption. The framework for this, he pointed out, had been developed by the country’s Public Ministry with CICIG´S technical assistance.

“I urge all State institutions to respect, promote and guarantee the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, so it can carry out its duties in a safe environment, resolve cases without restrictions, influence, incentives, pressure, threats, or wrongful interference, either direct or indirect, from whatever source or for whatever reason,” stressed Mr. García-Sayán.

The expert has already been in contact with the Government of Guatemala regarding the issues.


Mr. Diego García-Sayán took up his functions as UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers in December 2016. Mr. García-Sayán was formerly a judge of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for two consecutive terms. During his tenure, he was elected Vice-President of the Court (2008-2009) and President of the Court for two consecutive terms (2009-2013). He has long-standing experience working on human rights issues in a variety of settings, including for the United Nations and the Organization of American States. Among others, he was: Representative of the UN Secretary-General for the Peace Agreements at El Salvador and for the subsequent verification of the agreements reporting directly to the Security Council; member and Chairperson of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances during several years; member of the Redesign Panel on the United Nations System of Administration of Justice, appointed by the UN Secretary-General in 2006; Head of the Electoral Mission of the Organisation of American States (OAs) in Guatemala during the general elections (2007).

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Guatemala

For more information and media requests, please contact: Mr. Stefano Sensi (+41 22 917 9237 / ssensi@ohchr.org) or write to SRindependenceJL@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts, please contact:
Mr. Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+41 22 917 9383 /  jlaurence@ohchr.org)

This year is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70th anniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rightswww.standup4humanrights.org.