Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG)

Re: Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG)

To: Honourable David Emerson, Minister of Foreign Affairs

From: Heather Neun, LL.B.

Date: 2008-07-03

We are writing to bring to your attention the grave situation facing the justice situation in Guatemala, and to urge the Canadian government to pledge its financial and moral support to the recently created Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) is a committee of Canadian lawyers providing support internationally to lawyers whose rights, safety, or independence are threatened as a result of exercising their profession.

Guatemala is a country of particular concern to the international community. The many attacks against lawyers, judges and others working in the justice system, and the impunity with which they are carried out, undermines the rule of law and the security of all Guatemalan citizens.

The most recent attacks took place in May of this year, when Magistrate José Vidal Barillas Monzón and District Prosecutor Rudy Rocael Pineda were both violently murdered. In addition, Justice Eduardo Cojulum, received death threats following the completion of hearings into the testimony of survivors and witnesses of massacres during the internal armed conflict. (For more details of the foregoing, please see the enclosed copy of our correspondence to President Colom.)

These alarming incidents should be of utmost concern to Canada and the rest of the international community, particularly so because they are not isolated events. In 2005 -2006, no less then seven state employees working within the justice system were murdered, including a judge, a justice of the peace, three prosecutors, and a public defender. In addition, one prosecutor was seriously injured in an attack on his life. Many more judges and prosecutors have been subject to pressure, coercion and threats.

For many years Canada has actively supported the important cause of human rights in Guatemala, as well as the victims of human rights abuses. We urge the Canadian Government to continue to play a leadership role in this respect.

In particular, we urge the Canadian Government to take concrete steps to shore up the forces of justice and the rule of law in Guatemala. The most obvious and substantive way for Canada to do so is to provide significant financial and political support to CICIG.

LRWC recently visited Guatemala, meeting with numerous civil society human rights organizations as well as the Representative of the United Nations High Commission.

There was an unequivocal consensus among those organizations contacted by LRWC, that CICIG is one of the most promising developments in Guatemala since the Peace Accords were signed.

It is essential that CICIG receive the support of UN member nations such as Canada, not only to provide needed financial resources for the initiative, but to signal to the Guatemalan state that rest of the world is determined to see substantive and permanent change in Guatemala.

As Canadian citizens and members of the legal community, we urge the government to pledge financial support for CICIG.

We also urge you to press the Guatemalan authorities to fully investigate the murders of all judges, prosecutors and others working in the justice system, and to bring the perpetrators to justice.