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Guatemala: Costa Rican Francisco Dall’Anese to Direct CICIG

Francisco Dall'Anese,  Attorney General of Costa Rica, has been appointed to direct the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) and the United Nations is still waiting for his official response. The commission was “established as an independent investigative body by a treaty-level agreement between the United Nations and Guatemala […] with the objective of assisting the Guatemalan State in investigating and dismantling violent criminal organizations believed to be responsible for widespread crime and the paralysis in the country's justice system,” as its website explains. To understand the impact if this new appointment for Guatemala and for future efforts against impunity around the world, Guatemala Solidarity Network explains the importance and the relevance of the CICIG-:

CICIG is unique in the sense that it is not entirely an international effort, nor is it wholly domestic, it has a bit of both but ultimately has to fit into the Guatemalan judicial system. It is also unique in being able to suggest reform, and includes training local personnel, all taken together ought to create a lasting legacy. In contrast to many other UN tribunals, such as those in the former Yugoslavia or Rwanda, CICIG is not trying to deal with the aftermath of mass human rights abuse. The Historical Clarification Commission tried to get to the truth, and as we know there are some cases proceeding to try to find justice in those cases which the Peace Accords did not make non-prosecutable. In contrast, CICIG is trying to deal with a different legacy of the civil war: the infiltration of the organs of the state by parallel powers, which subvert them to their own ends. It also uses the domestic law and courts of Guatemala rather than international law, which has several benefits: it shows that the legal system can indeed be made to work, it can prosecute powerful individuals, and by working from the inside it can see the weaknesses of that domestic law and suggest improvements.

During a visit to Guatemala a few months ago, Francisco Dall’Anese said: “Although corruption exists, grand corruption comes from people with real political power that influence institutions in order to steal or divert money for their own benefit or that of third parties, and that additionally are untouchable. There is a fear to confront these people who wield enormous power in our society and those fears have to be put to rest. If we do not stop this, the country is seized.” Mike, from the blog Central American Politics, shares his views:

The people I have spoken with this week have praised CICIG's work and admitted while imperfect, Guatemala would have been much worse without it. We also weren't convinced that CICIG had successfully dismantled any of the organized crime rings in the country. Individual successes have occurred, really important ones like the arrest of Portillo and Napoleon Rojas, his security chief who was taken into custody today, but I don't know how far CICIG's work has dismantled the hidden powers.

The blog International Law Girls provides the context for this new appointment, which will replace Carlos Castresana from Spain:

Less than 2% of the cases ever make it to trial. It got so bad that after much pressure from civil society, a U.N-sponsored initiative called the Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (known by its Spanish initials as CICIG) was created in 2008 to help the national prosecutors’ office improve its ability to investigate and try cases. CICIG’s mandate is to investigate the existence of illicit security forces and clandestine security organizations that commit crimes, and to identify their illegal group structures (including links between State officials and organized crime), activities, modes of operation, and sources of financing. CICIG is to support the national Prosecutors’ office, act as a third-party prosecutor, and recommend policies to the government to strengthen the justice system. It does not, however, have the power to initiate its own prosecutions, a power the courts have held is exclusive to the Prosecutors’ Office. Thus, if the prosecutor is corrupt or ineffective, CICIG’s only recourse is through public pressure. Nonetheless, the mechanism constitutes an interesting and innovative half-way house between technical assistance and a full-fledged hybrid tribunal.

Julie Chappel, UK Ambassador in Guatemala, wrote on her blog:

For now, CICIG remains an important tool for Guatemala, helping to develop transparent, effective security and justice sectors, which in turn will help to promote economic growth and international investment. Passing into law the various legal reforms that CICIG has suggested will be an important next step. But of course, CICIG is only a temporary body – an opportunity of which we all need to make the most.

Peace and justice in Guatemala is a neverending process, which will need complete support from citizens. To challenge “grand corruption” one must start with a shift in moral and legal practices and values, uncover the truth and hold those responsible accountable. Journalist Fran Sevilla highlights [es] the responsibility that the Guatemalan government has in the success of the Commission.  While some Guatemalans rejected and challenged [es] the former head of CICIG, all the organizations and diplomatic bodies represented in Guatemala are supporting the effort; and for most of Guatemalans, the Comission is a candle of hope, illuminating them and telling them that justice is possible.

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