Press Release

IACHR Expresses Its Concern over a New Attempt to Dismiss the Guatemalan Human Rights Ombudsperson

November 19, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expressed its concern over a new attempt to dismiss Guatemala’s Human Rights Ombudsperson, Augusto Jordán Rodas Andrade, following a series of events that reportedly entailed harassment and that have impacted how Mr. Rodas carries out his institutional role.

According to publicly available information, the process to dismiss Mr. Rodas was allegedly initiated recently through a request submitted by several congresspeople to the Human Rights Commission of the Congress of the Republic of Guatemala after their activities were called into question. Mr. Rodas was summoned by the Commission to appear before it to respond to the arguments included in the dismissal request. From the available information, it can be inferred that criminal proceedings have been initiated against him for the crimes of abuse of authority, misuse of public office, and breach of public duties due to his having left the meeting in Congress.

According to publicly available information, this is allegedly not the first time that a process to dismiss the ombudsperson has been initiated. A similar procedure was allegedly started in November 2018 but was dropped not long afterward. According to available information, the current situation emerged at a time when the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsperson is reportedly suffering severe budget restrictions, which could jeopardize Mr. Rodas’s ability to exercise his mandate and go about his work. The IACHR also recalled that it granted a precautionary measure in favor of Mr. Rodas on October 27, 2017, in connection with his role as Guatemala’s Human Rights Ombudsperson.

In line with the Paris Principles (Principles Relating to the Status of National Human Rights Institutions), states must guarantee the independence and autonomy of the offices of ombudspeople who are responsible for defending and promoting human rights. In this regard, any circumstances that may lead to the dismissal of an individual from a position at a human rights institution must be carefully specified and limited to cases of serious error or manifest incapacity, and the body responsible for selecting their replacement should act independently of the office of the president and in accordance with all guarantees of due process.

Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, President of the IACHR and Rapporteur for Guatemala, said on the matter, “We wish to stress how important it is for countries to guarantee that National Human Rights Institutions are able to act independently so that they can perform their functions without becoming targets of acts against them or reprisals. The state of Guatemala must ensure that this body can go about its work independently and that it be provided with all the resources it needs to be able to carry out its mandate effectively,” she added.

Commissioner Francisco Eguiguren, the IACHR Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, added: “We wish to once more acknowledge the role that the Human Rights Ombudsperson of Guatemala, Jordán Rodas Andrade, has been playing in promoting and defending human rights in the country, working to ensure that these are fully respected throughout it.”

The IACHR recalled its recommendation that measures be adopted to enable Mr. Rodas to go about his work as Guatemala’s Human Rights Ombudsperson without being subjected to acts of intimidation or fear of reprisals for performing his duties.
The IACHR also recalled that the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) has confirmed the importance of establishing effective national institutions to promote and protect human rights and of ensuring diversity and independence among those representing these institutions, in accordance with national legislation.

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. 298/19