International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

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 … Continue Reading

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Guatemala’s Constitutional Court Calls for Pioneering Attorney General to Step Down Early

In Guatemala yesterday, the Constitutional Court ruled that the country’s top lawyer must step down earlier than planned. Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz is a champion reformer, and has been a bright light in the violence-plagued country notorious for impunity.

The question about the date at which Paz y Paz’ term appropriately ends has been contentious in Guatemala. She has made notable reforms, strengthening the Public Ministry to enhance successful prosecutions, including for violent crime, narco-trafficking, corruption and human rights violations. In doing so, she has also created enemies, even more so after the prosecutor’s short-lived success in convicting former military head of state José Efraín Ríos Montt for genocide and crimes against humanity last year.

The Constitutional Court’s decision shifts … Continue Reading

Guatemala Justice Update, January 2014

When trial judges in Guatemala convicted their own former head of state, Efrain Rios Montt, of genocide last May—a worldwide first—the rule of law set down roots in a country renowned for impunity.  Subsequent events have shown how fragile those roots are.

Only days after the dictator’s conviction for his role in massacres of the indigenous Ixil during the country’s internal armed conflict, the Constitutional Court, in a divided and controversial judgment, annulled the ruling, forcing the disqualification of the trial court and upending the judicial process. Adding further confusion, in an October ruling, the Constitutional Court did not foreclose the possibility that a decades-old amnesty law could prevent the prosecution altogether, despite clear domestic and international prohibitions against the application … Continue Reading