International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

The Anti-CICIG Campaign in Guatemala: Implications for Grave Crimes Cases (Part II)

The campaign against the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) and Commissioner Iván Velásquez, which we analyzed in a previous post, remains at a tense standstill. While CICIG’s mandate does not allow it to investigate cases related to Guatemala’s internal armed conflict, it has played a fundamental role in strengthening the country’s justice system, empowering judicial operators, and building the capacity of the Attorney General’s Office. It has expanded prosecutorial capacity in corruption and organized crime cases, as well as in grave crimes cases in Guatemala’s domestic courts, from the genocide case against former dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt, to the CREOMPAZ and Molina Theissen cases, which are currently awaiting trial. Today, we explore the possible consequences of the … Continue Reading

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CICIG, Leader of Anti-Corruption Efforts in Guatemala, Under Siege (Part I)

The International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), a UN-sponsored body created in 2007 to help Guatemala combat crime and impunity, and Iván Velásquez, its chief since 2013, have found themselves in the crosshairs in recent weeks. The UN-sponsored entity has received wide acclaim for the anti-corruption investigations it conducted alongside the Attorney General’s Office, which, in 2015, led to the arrest of former president Otto Pérez Molina, his vice-president, Roxana Baldetti, and dozens of government ministers for widespread government fraud. However, it appears that for some, CICIG got too close for comfort.

President Jimmy Morales—who was elected in the wake of the Pérez Molina government’s downfall in 2015 and ran with the slogan “neither corrupt nor a thief”—catalyzed a campaign … Continue Reading

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The Greco-Roman Wrestler Who Defeated Ríos Montt

The following article profiles Édgar Pérez, the director of the Law Firm for Human Rights (Bufete Jurídico de Derechos Humanos), one of the main organizations representing victims in Guatemala’s grave crimes cases. The article and photos come from the news organization Plaza Pública and are being republished on International Justice Monitor with permission. The original Spanish version was written by Emiliano Castro Sáenz has been translated by Evelyn Recinos Contreras.

Pérez, in his office.

Édgar Fernando Pérez Archila has stayed out of the spotlight, even though he was the first to bring military officers responsible for committing grave crimes during Guatemala´s war to justice. He confronted Ríos Montt in the Genocide case representing the Ixil indigenous population, as well as the … Continue Reading

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Human Rights Trials in Guatemala: “Two Steps Forward, One Step Back”

Since the Efrain Rios Montt trial took place in 2013, there has been a steady stream of investigations and prosecutions for grave crimes committed during Guatemala’s civil war. Despite tremendous opposition from former military officials and their supporters, prosecutors and judges continue to take on these challenging cases in an effort to fight impunity in the country, which until recently has been the norm.

In a podcast produced by the Washington Office in Latin America (WOLA), George Mason University professor Jo-Marie Burt discusses the history of grave crimes cases in Guatemala, including the cases against Rios Montt, and the role that the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) has had in strengthening the justice system charged with prosecuting these cases. Ongoing … Continue Reading

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Human Rights Groups to Inter-American Court: Impunity is Alive and Well in Guatemala

President Jimmy Morales invited the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to conduct its 57th session in Guatemala City, perhaps hoping to repair the country’s tattered relationship with the international organization. However, in extending this invitation, he may not have expected the court to be reviewing Guatemala’s own record on accountability for grave crimes.

During its visit, which took place from March 20 to 25, 2017, the court held a private, closed-door session to review the implementation of 14 sentences it handed down between 1998 and 2012 against the state of Guatemala in grave human rights cases related to the internal armed conflict. The session was a follow-up to a similar hearing held in Costa Rica in 2014, when human rights organizations … Continue Reading

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Parties Present Evidence in Case of Sexual Violence at Sepur Zarco Military Base

Last week, the case advanced against two men for their role in mass sexual violence and slavery at the Sepur Zarco military base during Guatemala’s brutal armed conflict. In a hearing on Wednesday, June 10, the prosecution, defense, and civil parties presented an investigative judge their intended evidence against a former commander of a military installation and a local military commissioner.

Prosecutors charge Lieutenant Colonel Esteelmer Reyes Giron, former Sepur Zarco commander, and Heriberto Valdez, a former military commissioner, with crimes against humanity, including rape and sexual violence of at least 11 Maya Q’eqchi’ indigenous women, and for the enforced disappearance of at least nine men. The crimes were allegedly committed 30 years ago – between 1982 and 1988 – but there … Continue Reading

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Guatemala Judicial Independence Under Threat

Guatemala’s justice system was praised around the world last year for the prosecution of a former dictator for atrocities carried out against his own people. Efraín Ríos Montt was put on trial and convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity, in a painful public examination of a brutal period in the country’s long armed conflict, during which tens of thousands of people were killed or “disappeared.”

What a difference a year makes.

The conviction of Ríos Montt has been followed by a severe backlash. Only days after the verdict, in a divided and controversial ruling, Guatemala’s constitutional court annulled the sentence and left the genocide trial in a state of uncertainty that continues until today.

The lead judge in the genocide trial, Yassmin … Continue Reading

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