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UN commission presents plan to promote rule of law in Guatemala

The head of the UN International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala presented a strategic work plan at the UN headquarters in New York on Thursday outlining efforts in four specific areas to improve the rule of law in the Latin American nation. The International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) [official website; press release] has been based in Guatemala City since beginning operations in 2008 with a mandate to bolster the rule of law that permits the CICIG to conduct independent investigations and help authorities bring representative cases to trial in national courts. CICIG Commissioner Francisco Javier Dall'Anese Ruiz presented the new work plan [UN News Centre report] for 2012 to 2013 before representatives of donor countries and other nations interested in contributing to the judicial system in Guatemala. The plan's four targeted areas of improvement include reducing impunity rates, coordinating state efforts to fight criminality, eradicating and preventing the emergence of illegal security forces, and raising awareness of the impact that impunity has on a democratic society. The plan is backed by the Guatemalan authorities and UN member states with interests in supporting the Guatemalan judicial system. CICIG also noted that it has made significant strides in the investigation and criminal prosecution of cases of corruption, money laundering, extra-judicial killings and drug trafficking involving high-ranking government officials, businesspersons and illegal drug traffickers, linking 135 persons to proceedings on different charges.

Guatemala has made progress in recent years toward maintaining the rule of law and erasing impunity for violators. Last week the Embassy of the US Guatemala praised the decision of the Guatemala Constitutional Court [official websites] allowing former president Alfonso Portillo [CIDOB profile, in Spanish] to be extradited to the US, where he would stand trial in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] on charges of laundering US$1.5 million [JURIST report] in Taiwanese foreign donations. In November then-president Alvaro Colom announced that he would allow Portillo to be extradited to the US [JURIST report] to stand trial. Colom has also faced recent legal trouble of his own. In August the Guatemalan Constitutional Court ruled that former first lady Sandra Torres was ineligible to run for the office of president [JURIST report] because of her relationship to Colom, her ex-husband. Torres and Colom divorced last year [BBC report] after Torres announced her plans to represent the ruling National Unity for Hope party in upcoming elections. The Guatemalan Constitution [text, PDF] bans relatives of the president from running for the office.

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