On January 7th the Foreign Minister of Guatemala, Sandra Jovel, announced the nation’s withdrawal from the UN supported anti-corruption commission and gave the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) staff 24 hours to leave the country. In August of 2018, Morales announced that the mandate of the anti-corruption body would not be renewed and tried to name Iván Velásquez Gómez, head of the CICIG, a “person non-grata”, preventing Velasquez from entering Guatemala. On the morning of Saturday, the fifth member of the CICIG Yilen Osorio wasn’t permitted to enter the country and got held in the capital’s airport by local authorities: a detention which violated a December 21st order by the Supreme Court of Justice of Guatemala forcing the government to allow all 11 CICIG investigators, whose visas had been revoked earlier in the month, entry into the country. After he was held for about 24 hours, an order from the Constitutional Court granted Osorio the ability to enter Guatemala.
According to President Jimmy Morales, CICIG has become a security risk due to its polarizing investigation within the country, and he accused them of human rights violations as well as of working with criminal groups. At a press conference, Morales also claimed that the termination of the CICIG agreement was due to the UN not responding to their complaint of said human rights violations for 16 months. In a letter to the UN Secretary-General, Commissioner Iván Velásquez Gómez explains what he thinks of the situation: “the fight against corruption faces opposition in all corners of the planet, but that should not stop global efforts to attack this scourge that prevents the development of countries and democracies.” And on the accusations of human rights violations, the Commissioner explains that, “in accordance with Guatemalan law, searches are requested by the Public Prosecutor’s Office and authorized by the competent judge and that the CICIG, in its technical support role, accompanies certain procedural acts and proceedings that the national authorities carry out, including raids.” In a statement UN spokesperson for Secretary-General Guterres, Stephane Dujarric, says that United Nations still expects Guatemala to keep up its end of the agreement which created the CICIG till the current mandate ends in September.
There is an obvious conflict of interest due to the body investigating President Morales, his brother and his son. There are better channels for the Guatemalan government to deal with their concerns: from continuing with UN of their previous complaints with how the CICIG was affecting their nation’s political climate to temporally separating the President and any other officials being investigated from hindering said investigators job thus making the current public opinion of the leader more unfaltering. Morales has seemingly boxed himself into a corner that will be difficult to leave without significant bruises on his administration’s reputation on keeping up with their own UN agreements and ignoring their own highest court’s order.
The CICIG mandate between the UN and the Guatemalan Government lasts two years, and has been continually renewed since April 2009, with the current agreement running through to September 2019. The Commissioner of the CICIG is appointed by the UN’s Secretary-General. The commission can act as a prosecutor for investigations as well as recommend policies to assist the government in fighting criminal groups whom are the subjects of CICIG investigations, per their mandate. According to the UN, throughout the CICIG’s 11 years, cases implicated over 600 people from businesswomen and men to bureaucrats and elected officials. As of November, the Commission says they won 310 convictions and broke up 60 criminal networks.
This is an ongoing situation, without a resolution that the government of Guatemala, the UN Department of Political Affairs, and the Guatemalan people will be content with. As of September, the commission and all of their important investigations will come to an end. From the international perspective, the Guatemalan government either needs to let the Commission complete their work through the September deadline or call for a revision of the current mandate. They can also ask for an unbiased review of their human rights allegations against the investigators through either the International Criminal Court (ICC) or though the UN, which would be seen as more productive than kicking them out of the country without evidence and impeding their ability to do their jobs. There is also the monumental concern of leaders being investigated and still having the ability to impede said investigation, making them seem guilty by the public: this is not a new issue, but a vital one that must be answered to allow all justice system function fairly.
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