• Connect with us on Linkedin

CICIG Names 18 'Judges of Impunity' in Guatemala

CICIG Director Francisco Dall’Anese CICIG Director Francisco Dall’Anese

The United Nations-backed anti-impunity commission in Guatemala has released a report naming the 18 judges whose controversial rulings have most served the interests of organized crime, presenting a historic opportunity to tackle the embedded corruption in the country's judicial branch.

Linkedin
Google +

On November 29, International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) Director Francisco Dall'Anese presented the Interior Ministry with a list of 18 judges who have consistently made rulings the organization considers to have "favored organized crime," calling for an investigation into the officials' links to criminal structures in the country.

The 95-page report, entitled "The Judges of Impunity," (.pdf), claims that these 18 officials have "created spaces of impunity" for organized crime and Illegal Clandestine Security Apparatuses (CIACS), consisting of current and former members of the security forces who are involved in drug trafficking and other illegal activity. Some of the judges named in the report -- like Mario Fernando Peralta Castañeda, who is currently on trial for allegedly facilitating an illegal adoption ring -- already face charges or are under investigation. But the majority of judges have yet to be face formal charges for the acts of corruption identified by the CICIG.

The Commission alleges that Judge Julio Geronimo Xitumul, for instance, improperly favored ex-President Alfonso Portillo when the latter was arrested in 2008 on corruption charges, in which Xitumul oversaw the investigation into allegations that the official had accepted bribes and embezzled millions of dollars in public funds. Like the more recent 2011 trial which ended in Portillo's acquittal, the case was marked by several suspicious irregularities, including Xitumul's unusual and potentially unconstitutional decision not to hold Portillo in pre-trial detention. While the former president will still be extradited to the United States to face money laundering and embezzlement charges, his 2011 acquittal and his suspicious avoidance of imprisonment before then are widely seen as an indication of the state of Guatemala's justice system.

A common theme throughout the report is the use by these judges of quasi-legal mechanisms to obstruct thorough and impartial investigations into the crimes of not only political officials, but suspected heavyweights in the Guatemalan criminal underworld as well. In one example, the CICIG highlights the case of Judge Sergio Castro Romero, who in addition to complicating the Commission's efforts to oversee an important political corruption trial, has made questionable rulings that benefited a known human trafficking network.

InSight Crime Analysis

The report's release is incredibly significant for the CICIG, as it amounts to a direct challenge to corrupt judges in the country. While Dall’Anese has made critical statements before about "a small minority of very powerful corrupt judges," explicitly naming some of these to the Interior Ministry poses a test for the state of impunity in the country.

If the Commission's calls for investigation into these officials fall on deaf ears, it will provide yet another indication of the alarming level of influence that criminal structures have on the country's political system. If, however, Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz pursues criminal investigations into some of these judges, it will be a major victory for the fight against impunity.

For the moment, it looks as though there is reason for optimism. Paz y Paz has made a name for herself as one of the most effective anti-corruption crusaders in Guatemala's history, having pursued cases against a number of corrupt officials and top criminals in the country. It would be uncharacteristic of her to pass up an opportunity to use her office go after corruption in the judicial branch. Indeed, Interior Ministry official Javier Monterroso has told local press that the department is "evaluating [the report] in order to pursue effective criminal prosecution." 

But even if the Interior Ministry and the Attorney General's Office announce criminal investigations as a result of the CICIG report, prosecuting a corruption case is not the same as achieving a conviction, as the acquittal of Portillo showed. Prosecutors presented overwhelming proof of wrongdoing by the former president, only for judges on the case to dismiss key witnesses and throw out damning evidence. The same could happen in criminal trials of the 18 judges named by the CICIG. Ironically, these cases could fall victim to the very same phenomenon that the Commission is seeking to eliminate. Even if judges tasked with hearing cases against allegedly corrupt judicial officials are completely trustworthy, they  likely face social and political pressure to "go easy" on their colleagues. 

Linkedin
Google +

---

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We also encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, provided that it is attributed to InSight Crime in the byline, with a link to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

InSight Crime Search

The Complete Organized Crime Database on the Americas

InSight Crime Social

facebooktwittergooglelinkedin

InSight Crime Special Series

The Zetas in Nuevo Laredo

Los Zetas in Nuevo Laredo

After the capture of Zetas boss "Z40," Nuevo Laredo is bracing itself for the worst. This investigation breaks down what makes the city such an important trafficking corridor, and what it will take for the Zetas to maintain their grip on the city.

See entire series »

 

Uruguay's Marijuana Bill

Uruguay: Marijuana, Organized Crime and the Politics of Drugs

Uruguay is poised to become the first country on the planet to regulate the production, sale, and distribution of the drug.

See entire series »

El Salvador's Gang Truce

El Salvador's Gang Truce

The truce between El Salvador's two largest gangs -- the MS-13 and the Barrio 18 -- opens up new possibilities in how to deal with

See entire series »

Juarez After The War

Juarez After The War

As a bitter war between rival cartels grinds to an end, Ciudad Juarez has lost the title of world murder capital, and is moving towards something more like normality.

See entire series »

The Zetas And The Battle For Monterrey

The Zetas and the Battle for Monterrey

InSight Crime delves into the Zetas' battle for Mexico’s industrial capital, Monterrey, getting to the essence of a criminal gang that defies easy definition.

See entire series »

Slavery in Latin America

Slavery in Latin America

InSight Crime coordinated an investigation into modern slavery, looking at how Latin America’s criminal groups traffic human beings and force them to work as slaves.

See entire series »

FARC, Peace and Criminalization

FARC, Peace and Possible Criminalization

The possibility of ending nearly 50 years of civil conflict is being dangled before Colombia. While the vast majority of the Colombian public want to see peace, the enemies of the negotiations appear to be strong, and the risks inherent in the process are high.

See entire series »

Displacement in Latin America

Displacement in Latin America

InSight Crime coordinated an investigation into the new face of displacement in Latin America, where organized criminal groups are expanding and forcing people to flee.

See entire series »

Target: Migrants

Target: Migrants

The growth of organized crime in Mexico and Central America has led to an increase in violence and insecurity across the region, posing challenges to citizens, public security forces, and travelers.

See entire series »

Zetas in Guatemala

The Zetas in Guatemala

Mexico's Zetas have taken Guatemala by storm, and they are testing this country and the rest of the region: fail this test, and Central America sinks deeper into the abyss.

See entire series »

Most Read

Guatemala May Target 'Coyotes' to Address Child Migrant Crisis

Guatemala May Target 'Coyotes' to Address Child Migrant Crisis

Guatemala's Congress is analyzing an initiative to target the human smugglers known as "coyotes," as political pressure in the region builds to tackle the unprecedented numbers of child migrants trying to enter the US.

Read more

The State's Secret: Belize's Money Laundering Regime

The State's Secret: Belize's Money Laundering Regime

Nestled on the northeastern coast of Central America, Belize is often named one of Central America's most beautiful vacation destinations. With its ornate coral reefs and rainforest, the small English-speaking country has plenty to offer...

Read more

Spike in Mexico Kidnappings Indicates President's Security Failures

Spike in Mexico Kidnappings Indicates President's Security Failures

An NGO in Mexico reported that kidnappings rose 56 percent in the first half of 2014 compared with the same period last year, illustrating the failure of President Enrique Peña Nieto's security policies to tackle...

Read more

IDRC9-01