Will the CICIG secure Guatemala’s future?

Will the CICIG secure Guatemala’s future?

The UN-backed International Commission was created to investigate and prosecute criminal networks that operate in Guatamela. After three extensions, the main concern is how the CICIG’s achievements and objectives can be secured effectively.

In 2007, Guatemala turned its justice system into an experiment. Per an agreement with the United Nations, the country has taken some extraordinary steps toward shaking up its stigma of impunity and bringing corrupt figures to justice.

What is the CICIG?

The UN-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (known by its Spanish acronym, CICIG) is a multilateral body charged with investigating the activities of illegal criminal networks. The government of Guatemala asked that the United Nations create the CICIG as part of a new effort to eliminate illegal groups and clandestine security structures.

In accordance with Guatemala law, the CICIG can carry out criminal prosecutions or join prosecutions initiated by the Public Prosecutor’s Office (MP) in cases that fall under the Commission’s mandate. This makes it feasible for the CICIG to cooperate with prosecutors in these cases and support the fact-checking process.

In addition, the CICIG can call for the performance and approval of investigative proceedings, pursuant to Guatemalan law. It also works with other state institutions in activities aimed at dismantling illicit groups.

The commission is a distinctive joint effort of the United Nations and the Guatemalan government that receives financial and technical support from the international community. Its mandate is unprecedented when compared to other international efforts to promote accountability and transparency of the law.

For its work, the CICIG has been crucial in building cases and taking on some of the country’s toughest cases. One such case involves a high-level group of Guatemalan officials accused of ordering the assassinations of ten inmates in Guatemala’s Pavón and El Infiernito prisons.

Most notably, the CICIG’s recent success charged and imprisoned former army official Byron Lima Oliva with running a multi-million dollar criminal network from behind bars. Its two-year mandate has been extended three times since it was first established in 2007.

However, the CICIG’s mandate will expire in September of this year, and has already fueled a debate between its supporters and those who want it dismantled forever.

Should the CICIG’s mandate be renewed?

Those in favor believe the commission is necessary to rescue the country’s judicial system and counter organized crime. The CICIG has led major reforms of Guatemala’s justice system and strengthened the investigative capabilities of local police and prosecutors.

James A. Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, quoted the following in favor of continuation for the CICIG:

CICIG’s cooperation with the Guatemalan state has played a key role in strengthening the judicial system, and in developing Guatemala’s ability to investigate and prosecute complex criminal cases. The notable successes that Guatemala has achieved together with CICIG would have been unthinkable without this partnership.

Those who want the CICIG gone insist the commission is unconstitutional, has failed in its objectives, and operates with apparent political prejudice.

Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina has expressed his refusal to continue the mandate of the commission, responding that the CICIG has already done its work in the country. An executive committee set up by the president is expected to provide him with recommendations by the end of April.

When it comes to assuring the stability and security of Guatemalans, as well as maintaining international support, allowing the CICIG to continue its work would be a monumental advantage. Many Guatemalans believe that the commission is the only defense against fixed power and want Pérez Molina to extend its existence for the good of the country and the economy.

If Pérez Molina does decide to extend the mandate of the CICIG, then the coming years should focus on cleaning up the justice system: judicial organization, judges, prosecutors, processes and investigations. The CICIG has a track record of success in Guatemala and much more can be accomplished if its mandate is extended.

About Author

Yesenia Lugo

Yesenia Lugo has written and worked on global governance and international financial institutions (IFIs) for a Washington, D.C. NGO. Her interests include economic opportunities, emerging financial markets and fiscal transparency reform. Yesenia holds a Masters in Diplomacy and International Relations from Seton Hall University, where she specialized in economic development and international security.