Carlos Castresana, head of the United Nations-backed commission created to help strengthen law enforcement and judicial efforts to investigate and prosecute clandestine security groups in Guatemala, was in New York today for a discussion with UN and Guatemalan representatives on the problem of impunity in Guatemala and the future of the Comisión Internacional contra la Impunidad en Guatemala (CICIG). CICIG’s mandate entered into effect in September of 2007 and is scheduled to expire in September of next year. Mr. Castresana called for CICIG’s mandate to be extended and to be broadened to include organized crime and official corruption.
The UN press release highlights some of CICIG’s accomplishments in its two years, noting that “its work had led to the dismissal of almost 2,000 policemen, about 15 per cent of the national force, an attorney-general, 10 prosecutors and three justices of the Supreme Court” and quotes Mr. Castresana as stating:
We have sent to jail 130 individuals, the kind of people who had never been prosecuted in Guatemala before, a former president, a former defence minister, a former finance minister [and] two acting directors of the national police.
The problem of impunity is a recognized challenge for Guatemala, where it is widely reported that 98% of crimes go unpunished. In accordance with the agreement establishing the CICIG, its mandate does not cover crimes dating to Guatemala’s thirty-six-year armed conflict, but its efforts are aimed primarily at dismantling illegal and shadow security groups which proliferated during the conflict and the instability it generated.
Last month and in November of last year, the issue of impunity in Guatemala was aired before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights during thematic hearings on CICIG itself and related issues in Guatemala (watch recordings of the hearings here and here).
The CICIG also played an important role in diffusing tension following the scandal that erupted last spring when, just days before being assassinated, a lawyer named Rodrigo Rosenberg made a video stating that members of Colom’s administration would be to blame in the event he were to be killed. CICIG involvement helped ensure transparency and reduce doubt about conflicts of interest in the investigation. In January of this year, CICIG reported that Rosenburg had in fact contracted his own murder.
See more on Guatemala and the CICIG, on this blog, here.