Strengthening the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala

Project description

Title:Strengthening the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Guatemala
Lead executing agency: United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Overall term: 2015 to 2019

Context

Despite various attempts at reform and some progress, the justice system in Guatemala continues to face major challenges. Transparency International, for example, has raised serious doubts about the independence and professionalism of the Guatemalan justice system. Overall, the conditions for lawful and effective criminal prosecution with the participation of civil society actors are currently inadequate.

Since the peace accords were signed in 1996, endeavours to strengthen the justice system have been made, not least by the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional contra la Impunidad en Guatemala, CICIG), which was established in 2006 under an agreement with the United Nations and ratified by the Congress of Guatemala in 2007. CICIG is authorised to conduct independent investigations and bring cases against third parties in Guatemalan courts. One of its main aims is to detect any connections between criminal offences and government institutions or public figures. On the one hand, CICIG supports the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the National Civil Police, and other institutions involved in law enforcement. On the other hand, it supports government actors in their efforts to develop strategies and mechanisms, with the aim of eradicating and preventing the re-emergence of criminal structures.

Objective

The conditions for lawful and effective criminal prosecution with the participation of civil society actors have improved. As a result, rule of law structures have been strengthened, as has the prosecution of criminal offences.

Bild Iván Velásquez

Approach

The project involves government institutions at national and local level and civil society organisations. The possibility of CICIG’s mandate expiring in 2019 also makes it necessary to strengthen cooperation between institutions and develop the competencies of the civil society actors involved. In this way, civil society is supported in analysing weaknesses in the justice sector and putting forward specific suggestions to strengthen the work of the judicial institutions. Developing competency in the area of criminal prosecution also plays an important role for the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

In 2017, the project ran a pilot, in which it used about 630 cases to investigate weaknesses in the criminal procedure (reporting-investigating-bringing charges-trial-verdict-appeal) and develop recommendations on how to rectify them. These recommendations are scheduled to be published at the end of 2018.

The project has also concluded a financing agreement enabling CICIG to set up an additional investigation unit tasked with exposing corruption in the public administration and justice system and detecting tax and customs offences. The new unit consists of an interdisciplinary team of about nine people and will be funded until June 2019.

Results

A new investigation unit to combat corruption in the public administration and justice system and detect tax and customs offences has been set up within CICIG. 

The number of cases investigated rose from 222 in August 2015 to 284 in August 2017.

The investigation unit has also contributed to an increase in the number of formal charges made by the Public Prosecutor’s Office from 73 in August 2015 to 238 in August 2017.

The project evaluated 633 criminal cases in terms of their procedural weaknesses.

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