The IACHR and UN Special Rapporteur Urge Guatemala to Guarantee Independence and Impartiality in the Appointment of the Country's New Attorney General

March 9, 2022

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Washington, D.C. — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Diego García-Sayán, urged the State of Guatemala to guarantee international standards of independence and impartiality during the appointment process for the country's new Public Prosecutor and Attorney General.

On January 31, 2022, the committee responsible for nominating candidates for the position of Attorney General of the Republic of Guatemala for 2022 to 2026 began the process of selecting the six people that would be put forward to the President of Guatemala so that the appointment process can move forward as per Guatemalan law. To this end, on February 10, the nominating committee issued a public call for applications from interested parties, which it will then review.

On this point, the IACHR and the United Nations Special Rapporteur have received information regarding situations that affect the transparency and independence of the operations of the nominating committee, and have also been informed that some of its members are being subjected to external pressures. The latter include Luis David Gaitán, Dean of the Law School of da Vinci University. These pressures have forced him to resign from the position of Dean and therefore also from the nominating committee. Mr. Gaitán was also the head of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).

Moreover, in accordance with international standards on equal access to public service positions, all laws regulating such processes must guarantee optimal mechanisms that allow effective equal access and respect the principle of equality and nondiscrimination.

The IACHR and the Special Rapporteur noted that public prosecutors' offices and those leading them play a fundamental role in the criminal justice system within a democratic system. Their ability to work independently, free of interference has a direct impact on access to justice, the protection of judicial guarantees, and the fight against corruption.

In this sense, the objective of all processes to select and appoint members of the judiciary should be to choose candidates on the basis of their merits, abilities, suitability for the position, and honesty, in a way that complies with international human rights standards on such processes and guarantees their independence. The process must be transparent and participatory so that NGOs and other interested parties have an opportunity to find out about the selection criteria and express their opinion on the candidates.

The IACHR and the Special Rapporteur noted that the selection process is taking place in a context of expectations that the office will strengthen the rule of law by combating impunity.

For this reason, the State must implement a selection process that complies with the requirements established in the Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala and international standards so as to guarantee independence and impartiality, in order to ensure that the best possible candidate is selected as the country's next Attorney General and contribute to strengthening the justice system and the rule of law.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 050/22

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