Upon learning on Feb 6, 2014 of the Guatemalan Constitutional Court’s ruling that Atty. General Claudia Paz y Paz is obliged to step down, and truncate her post 7 months before the end of her 4 year term as Attorney General of Guatemala, has ignited my indignation, concern and interest in the details of the apparent and overt injustice of this “official ruling” of Guatemala’s Constitutional Court and its role in the increasing disintegration of the newly ignited sparks of justice in the Guatemalan legal system.
This brief post is an effort to hold a torch of recognition of the heroic efforts of Atty. General Paz y Paz and to kindle a spark of awareness and interest, among those of us less versed in the ephemeral path of justice in Guatemalan history against the ferocious winds of resistance within the Guatemalan power structure in an apparent collusion of converging forces to thwart her efforts to bring Guatemala safely into the harbor of justice under the rule of law.
The landmark conviction of genocide against former Guatemalan military head of state, Efrain Rios Montt this past May was a luminous victory over the “savage counterinsurgency campaign that massacred thousands of unarmed Mayan civilians in the country’s northwestern department of Quiche” (Kate Doyle: The Pursuit of Justice in Guatemala, Mar 23, 2013). Attorney General Paz y Paz’s ongoing and spectacularly successful efforts to expose and bring to justice entrenched criminals of human rights violations; corrupt government officials, and the puppeteer, narco- trafficking oligarchy was unexpectedly thwarted just days after the conviction of genocide against Rios Mont, when the very same Constitutional Court overturned the ruling on a complicated procedural matter and disqualified the trial court. The trial is now obliged to resume at the point of this ruling, prior to the conviction, and threatens to be driven by interference to the judicial nomination process for the new trial.
The shockwaves felt in the international community in wake of the overturning of the verdict against Rios Montt back in May of 2013 drowned the life-breath of autonomy and impartiality in the Guatemalan justice system. But the watershed conviction also unleashed “a storm of national and international outrage – making Guatemala one of only three countries in Latin America with the wherewithal to charge a head of state with human rights crimes, along with Peru and Uruguay”. (Kate Doyle).
The newly imposed ruling from the Guatemalan Constitutional Court and its ominous potential for undermining neutrality for the nominations of key judicial actors for the country’s highest courts threatens to extinguish the credibility of Guatemala’s Public Ministry. It’s new found influence, under the leadership of Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz, must not be allowed to be extinguished by those very same entrenched criminals whose legacy of brutal violence has wrought such profound pain and suffering to so many innocent citizens of this tiny, traumatized nation.
In the words of Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz, herself: “Justice is the possibility for victims to face under equal conditions those who committed serious crimes and reaffirm their citizenship,” says Paz. “It sends a powerful message for the rule of law. Nobody is above the rule of law.” (Mark Tran, The Guardian, Oct 8, 2013).
Let’s keep the torch of justice held high for Ms. Paz y Paz in her Olympic quest for justice for all citizens of Guatemala.