Guatemala attorney general’s reappointment raises alarm | Courts News

Guatemala City – Guatemala’s controversial attorney general has begun a second term, but Maria Consuelo Porras‘This week’s last-minute re-appointment has sparked widespread condemnation and new sanctions amid alarms over a slide in the rule of law.

President Alejandro Giammattei was sworn in in Porras for another four years on Monday, despite critics accusing her of playing a role in disrupting anti-corruption efforts and judicial independence, including through a “suppression” of key anti-sanctions prosecutors and judges.

“We are entering a period of dictatorship in Guatemala,” said Edie Cux, legal director of Accion Ciudadana, Guatemala chapter of Transparency International, a global anti-corruption NGO.

“It creates not only a crisis of the justice system but also a crisis in general in the country,” he told Al Jazeera.

The US announced the new consequences just hours after the inauguration, barring both Porras and her husband from entering the US. Washington also suspended aid to its office last year.

“During her tenure, Porras repeatedly obstructed and sabotaged anti-corruption investigations in Guatemala to protect her political allies and gain undue political favor,” said Secretary of State. Antony Blinken said in a statement explaining the move.

Guatemala's President Sworn Before Attorney General Porras
Maria Consuelo Porras shakes hands with President Alejandro Giammattei at the National Palace in Guatemala City, May 16, 2022 [Luis Echeverria/Reuters]

The US State Department placed Porras on a separate list of Corruption and Undemocratic Actors last year after she was immediately fired. Juan Francisco SandovalThe famous anti-sanctions special prosecutor directs high-profile investigations into high-profile corruption.

Sandoval held a press conference shortly after he was sacked in July 2021, accusing Porras of obstructing a corruption investigation between ruling party officials and their allies. He fled the country that same night and went into exile in America.

“Investigations involving the president are underway,” Sandoval told Al Jazeera in an interview late last year, adding that he believes he was targeted as part of a larger scheme. much to shield those in power.

Government denies corruption

Giaammattei and Porras have repeatedly denied being involved in it corruption. They say Sandoval, Porras’ two predecessors and other prosecutors in exile, and judges engaged in ideologically selective manipulation of justice and prosecution.

The president’s spokesman could not be reached for comment, and after the deadline for publication, Al Jazeera directed Al Jazeera to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, Giammattei has, directly and indirectly, dismissed the US and other international concerns over the past year as foreign interference.

“The Prosecutor’s Office is an autonomous organization that is not affiliated with any international organization,” a spokesman for the office told Al Jazeera in a written statement, adding that the attorney general does not accept any kind of pressure and will continue to work carefree.

The spokesman said the US statements and designations are “unwarranted accusations that violate not only the presumption of human innocence but also the principle of non-interference”.

Porras presented its fourth annual report on Monday and highlighted, among other things, significant progress in reducing the backlog.

But critics point out that one factor behind that improvement is that cases are simply being closed much more quickly when investigations are not progressing. “It’s a serious problem,” said Claudia Samayoa, a human rights activist. “It is affecting directly, for example, women who are victims of violence.”

‘Horrible news’

Indigenous authorities, NGOs and activists in Guatemala have condemned Porras’ reappointment, which they say has far broader implications than simply prosecuting corruption cases. .

“It is terrible news, not only because of her office there has been an overt crackdown on judges, prosecutors and human rights defenders, but also because there have been innocent in the face of the murders of human rights defenders,” Samayoa told Al Jazeera.

UDEFEGUA, a national human rights organization, has documented more than 1,800 incidents of intimidation and violence against rights defenders between 2020 and 2021. Indigenous community leaders as well as prosecutors , independent investigators and judges have been specifically targeted with criminal charges.

A series of current and former prosecutors were arrested earlier this year on charges of abuse of power during high-profile corruption investigations. Judges presiding over major corruption cases and crimes against humanity during the civil war have also faced threats and prosecution.

Protesters hold signs denouncing Guatemala's attorney general
Protesters protest against Porras’ re-election outside the Supreme Court of Justice in Guatemala City, April 6, 2022 [Sandra Sebastian/Reuters]

Civil society groups held a news conference on Tuesday in Guatemala City to express support for judge Miguel Angel Galvez, the latest target of the following threats of violence and criminalization. His ruling this month aims to put nine former army and police officers on trial for enforcement. disappearances of dissidents in the 1980s.

Legal action taken under Porras’ supervision against independent judges, lawyers and prosecutors “forms part of a broader pattern of intimidation and harassment that has led to more than 20 executives justice must leave the country,” the European Union’s spokesman for foreign affairs said on Tuesday. statement expressed concern about the reappointment of Porras.

Guatemalan authorities show they have no problem with continuing to suppress judges, prosecutors and other judicial figures and that could expand to include many critics and critics rather, according to Cux, who predicts further institutional decline in human rights.

“It depends on what happens now with the reaction of the people and the international community,” he said. “If they don’t have any threshold, I think we’re going to enter a much darker era than the one we’ve had in the last two years.”

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