EU countries call for Guatemalan government to stop criminalising independent judges, prosecutors
7 April 2022: The European Parliament has adopted an important resolution on the human rights situation in Guatemala, following months of lobbying by exiled Guatemalan justice operators and Impunity Watch.
MEPs expressed their concern about the deterioration of the rule of law in Guatemala and the legal actions initiated by the country’s Supreme Court of Justice and the prosecutor general against independent judges, lawyers and prosecutors who investigate criminal structures with ties to high-ranking state officials and business owners.
According to the resolution, justice operators involved in prosecuting corruption cases, human rights defenders and journalists must not be harassed, criminalised and detained, and urged the Guatemalan authorities to uphold the rule of law. In addition, authorities must conduct immediate, thorough and impartial investigations into the threats, harassment and stigmatisation campaigns against justice officials and civil society actors.
Over the past six months, Impunity Watch, with a group of exiled Guatemalan justice operators (in coordination with the EU-LAT network and with support of the Embassy of the Netherlands in Central America), held numerous meetings with different political groups of the European Parliament to raise awareness of the systematic dismantling of the rule of law in Guatemala.
The condemnation by the European Parliament comes at a crucial moment, as Guatemalan President Giammattei is preparing to elect the next Attorney General, who will take office in early May. In its resolution, the EP recognises that the current Attorney General, Consuelo Porras, is included in the US State Department’s Engel List of corrupt and undemocratic actors. It calls for a selection process based on the candidates’ merits and proven track records on respect for human rights, and compliance with international standards.
The resolution also stresses the crucial role played by the Attorney General to guarantee the rule of law, the protection and defence of human rights and the fight against corruption and impunity. The re-election of Consuelo Porras would pose a great risk for the fight against impunity and for the survivors of grave human rights violations whose cases and struggles Impunity Watch has supported for over a decade.
In addition, the EP calls on the Guatemalan government to repeal the so-called NGO law, which restricts NGO functioning and contributes to dismantling of the protection system for human rights defenders, thus reinforcing impunity.
It urges the Guatemalan government to increase the protection of human rights defenders and journalists, who have also been subject to systematic processes of criminalisation and persecution.
The EP resolution adds to the serious concerns expressed by the US State Department, the spokesperson of the EU High Representative Joseph Borrell, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
These international actors all closely monitor the upcoming election process, and the delicate state of the rule of law and human rights in Guatemala.
More than 20 independent Guatemalan judges and justice operators have been forced into exile due to intimidation and politically motivated accusations by the Public Prosecutor’s Office, led by Attorney General Consuelo Porras. They include Erika Aifan, Thelma Aldana, Claudia Paz y Paz, Gloria Porras and Juan Francisco Sandoval.
Former attorney general Thelma Aldana, whose 2019 presidential candidacy was obstructed in retaliation for her anti-corruption work, said:
"The resolution gives the Guatemalan people hope that it's possible to rescue the rule of law and make progress towards the full respect for human rights. What we, Guatemalans, want is to live in democracy and to combat poverty."
The resolution was supported by European Parliament groups Renew Europe, Greens/EFA, S&D and The Left.
The full version of the resolution is available here.