Mr. Türk’s warning comes amid the reported harassment and prosecution of justice officials involved with the UN-backed International Commission against Impunity (CICIG), including, most recently, former Commissioner Francisco Dall’Anese.Thelma Cabrera was the only indigenous candidate running for president until the decision to disqualify her from the race. Appeals on all three cases are currently before the Supreme Court. The International Commission against Impunity was an independent body established by a UN-Guatemala agreement in 2007 to carry out corruption probes. Its work ceased in September 2019 when its mandate was not renewed amid attacks by then-President Jimmy Morales.
Barred from standing
The harassment was related to the officials’ work on corruption or human rights violations, particularly those that occurred in the context of the civil war from 1960 to 1996. Some had left the country, fearing for their safety. The UN rights chief called on the Guatemalan authorities “to ensure judges and lawyers can function freely and without fear of reprisals”. An independent judiciary is “vital” for a democratic society, he insisted. Mr. Türk stressed that “the right to participate in public affairs, including the right to vote and to stand for election, is an internationally recognized human right,” adding that judiciary authorities should “decide matters before them impartially, on the basis of facts and in accordance with the law, without any restrictions or improper influence”.
Judicial independence at risk
“I am also concerned that presidential and vice-presidential candidates from across the political spectrum, including Thelma Cabrera, Jordan Rodas and Roberto Arzú, have had their candidacies for the 25 June elections rejected by the Electoral Court on seemingly arbitrary grounds,” the High Commissioner said. Volker Türk, High Commissionner for Human Rights addresses a biennial high-level panel on the death penalty.
Surge in harassment
© UN Photo/Jean Marc Ferré Earlier this year, the UN rights chief sounded the alarm on similar reprisals in Guatemala, as the country’s Special Prosecutor’s Office against impunity announced arrest warrants against three justice officials, including a former CICIG staffer. Guatemala’s human rights record was examined in January 2023 under the Universal Periodic Review. A significant number of recommendations made as part of that process, by other Member States, were related to the need to guarantee the independence of the judiciary, protect justice officials, and strengthen anti-corruption measures and the rule.