Guatemala City, February 12, 2014. Representatives from a diverse group of regional and international organizations express their concern for the recent events that affect the institutionality of the Office of the Public Prosecutor. The organizations urge for respect for the principles of independence, participation, transparency, access to information, and representativeness in the election processes of members from all bodies that make up the judicial institutions.
The organizations have supported the struggle to guarantee and respect human rights, to strengthen democracy and the Rule of Law in Guatemala through diverse ways over many years. Due to the importance of the positions within the Guatemalan judicial sector being renewed this year, the undersigned organizations express their intention to support all efforts so that the appointment process for the Attorney General, Chief of the Public Department, as well as the Supreme Court of Justice and Appellate Courts judges, complies with international standards. In this regard, the organizations make the following statements:
1. We regret the Constitutional Court’s (CC) decision that, through provisional amparo, improperly reduces current Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz’s term. This ruling threatens the independence of the Public Prosecutor and affects the position’s institutional strength. For this reason, the organizations respectfully insist that the CC reconsiders its provisional decision and maintains the Attorney General’s tenure that was established upon her appointment.
2. We acknowledge the changes undertaken by Attorney General Paz y Paz in the last years, which have improved investigation and management practices, resulting in a reduction of impunity by approximately 30%. The next Attorney General should publicly commit to build on these achievements and to guarantee that there are no setbacks in the Public Prosecutor’s reforms that have been implemented in recent years.
3. In the case that the process to appoint an Attorney General continues, it is fundamental that the candidates selected meet the requirements of integrity, professional qualities and capabilities to carry out their duties, all qualities Claudia Paz y Paz holds.
4. In accordance with current international standards, we recommend that in the candidate selection processes, the nominating commissions comply with a series of principles to guarantee independence, impartiality, and autonomy of all the persons elected, for instance:
a. Transparency: the nominating commissions should guarantee transparent processes in which the profile of the position to be appointed, the elements to evaluate, the criteria for evaluation, and the evaluation scale are clearly established.
b. Access to information: the entire selection process for candidates should be public, as should the hearings in which the candidatures present themselves.
c. Participation: broad participation of diverse sectors in society should be guaranteed, ensuring that sufficient time is provided so that all those interested are able to present information on the candidates.
d. Representativeness: the nominating commissions should aim to elect persons who represent the diversity in Guatemalan society; they should consider an adequate representation of women and indigenous communities in particular.
The undersigned organizations express their willingness to closely monitor the nominating commission processes that will take place in 2014. The organizations will contribute their experiences and knowledge with the only objective being to contribute to the creation of a stronger democracy that guarantees access to justice and ample human rights protection based on equality and nondiscrimination, as well as one strengthens the Rule of Law.
Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL)
Guatemalan Human Rights Commission in Washington (GHRC)
Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF)
Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI)
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)