Press releasesOffice of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Guatemala: UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk expresses deep concern at persecution of judicial officials
18 January 2023
GENEVA, 18 January 2023 – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk on Wednesday expressed deep concern at repeated intimidation, harassment and reprisals against justice officials and other individuals involved in efforts to combat impunity for human rights violations or working on anti-corruption cases.
“It is dramatic, given Guatemala’s history, that those fighting for accountability for gross human rights violations are the ones now being persecuted,” said Türk.
“Equally concerning are the attacks against those trying to combat one of the worst viruses to afflict any society: corruption.”
Justice officials and other individuals involved in fighting impunity or in anti-corruption processes have been investigated, detained, charged and even convicted for abuse of power, obstruction of justice and conspiracy. In addition, several others have left the country out of fear for their safety.
Between 2021 and 2022, the UN Human Rights Office in Guatemala documented a more than 70 percent increase in the number of justice officials facing intimidation and criminal charges for their work on corruption or human rights violations, particularly those that occurred in the context of the armed conflict that took place between 1960 and 1996.
On 16 January this year, the Chief of the Special Prosecutor’s Office against impunity (FECI – Fiscalía Especial contra la Impunidad) announced warrants of arrests against three justice officials. One was a staff member of CICIG, the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, a UN-backed body charged with investigating and prosecuting serious crimes in the country. The Government closed down CICIG in 2019.
Between 2007 and 2019, CICIG assisted the national judicial system in dealing with more than 100 high-profile cases of alleged corruption and other criminal offences involving Government officials, members of Congress and the Courts, and several individuals in the private sector.
Upon the disbanding of CICIG, there has been a steady increase in the number of cases of harassment and criminal charges against its former officials, and prosecutors.
“These judicial processes and the lack of due process guarantees undermine the rule of law in the entire country,” said the UN Human Rights Chief.
“I call on the authorities to take appropriate measures to strengthen and guarantee the independence of the justice system and provide the necessary protection to justice officials.”