Guatemalan Court Ruling on Attorney General’s Term Undermines Rule of Law

NEW YORK—A ruling by Guatemala’s constitutional court that cuts short the term of the country’s attorney general jeopardizes the country’s decades-long transition to constitutional democracy, the Open Society Justice Initiative said today.

Claudia Paz y Paz was appointed attorney general in December 2010 for a full period of four years, but the court’s decision calls for her term to end this May. Guatemala’s constitution (Article 251) states that the attorney general’s term will last for four years and that she can only be removed from office by the president for “duly established cause.”

The constitutional court decision relied on 20-year-old transitional provisions of the country’s constitution, and was issued following a challenge lodged by a Guatemalan businessman. In its brief decision, the constitutional court did not elaborate why these provisions are relevant here, beyond that initial transition period.

Last year, two internal legal opinions solicited by the Presidency of the Supreme Court on this question found clearly that the attorney general’s term goes through to December.

“We are deeply troubled by this ruling. It stands as a direct affront to the rule of law,” said James A. Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative. “The independence of the attorney general must be preserved in order to make any progress in the fight against impunity in Guatemala and elsewhere.”

In a report issued last week in Guatemala [download PDF], the Inter-American Commission highlighted that “for effective access to justice to be guaranteed, then justice operators must be able to discharge their functions independently.” Prosecutors must be able to perform autonomously and without undue interference or fear of retaliation for their actions. International law further requires that judicial decisions be well-founded.

If confirmed as final, the constitutional court’s decision will lead to termination seven months early of the term of a strong, independent attorney general who has been a force for justice in Guatemala. During her term, Paz y Paz successfully brought about reforms of the court system that have strengthened its ability to deal with corruption and major crimes, including last year’s prosecution for genocide of the country’s former military ruler, Efrain Rios Montt.

The ruling also threatens the independence of the office of the attorney general and suggests that reform efforts may be met with retaliation.


  1. I had wanted to report and talk about the possibility of knowing something that might help in the conviction of Montt. Things that were learned and known then may seem very insignifacant but may be very important to a lawyer. Such as one day as I was told to get a sencus on how many people were at the church run commune,Montt asked to have his name changed because he was not going to be known as Jose anymore he said then. Jokeing I told him sorry and its down as Jose. He learned humility from me and the other youth that had him working with us to clean toilets and offices. I had to get on him for not cleaning the ashtrays the way we were told. i had been sent away treeplanting,then to a fake mission after discovering Montt was not really into being a sincere christian but wanted to appear cosmeticly as one and we refered back then to that as charlotans and soon after the church was in bed(so to speak) with the fakes. soon the church was kicking people out,left and right. Anyway Im so saddened to find out the murder he did and those that know me say they are proud of me for standing apposed and facing true persicution. I have been shot at as a missionary and protester 4 times. M.L.Z.

  2. To The Guatamalian People: I hope and pray for all the people of your wonderful country Guatamala. I am so deeply sorrowful for my country’s deception,murdering,harming, and pirating of your homelands and I pray that good(LOVE) forever wins and shines for all that were so horrably wronged. We were tricked too and many here will never repent. To do so would mean they would have to admit they were gullable and sided with the devil himself. They are too proud to ever even look up the truth and seek it out themselfs. Instead they point fingers as they were so trained to denie themselfs the truth even after the pirates have turned on them as well. I do not see a the way our countries will ever learn as the enemies of love and humanity are the same as those that desire to pirate away all they can. This they seem to do to rob the people of there own prosperity and make it there own. Anyone who fought this was considered a communist and targeted as such. But if just a handful of the trillionares gave the money they stole back,it is true there would be enough for everyone to be well and not lacking. Capitalism is not democracy when it robs the common man for a few greeding. It is pirates stealing with a mask of a big buisnessmann. A true wolf in sheeps clothing. Beware and take good measures to safeguard your freedoms from those that want your life limb and property. Safeguard your children even from the dirty lieing hands of the USA. They were the commies and the republic at times to keep things going. I assure you of this. They even had the general kill 6 of my missionary friends and a total of at least 50 missionaries died at the hands of Montt and his men. I also tally different on the loses.250,000 dead or missing if not more with a total of 1,5million finding sacuary elsewhere and/or that many again also dead.99% killed by the US backed madness. I pray and hope that someway arrives that safeguards my dearist friends from this ever happing again. I pray every day for you all,Guatamala.Peace and love ,M.L.Z.

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