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HRW urges Guatemala courts to end due process delays

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Sunday urged [report] Guatemalan courts to end unjustifiable delays in high-profile criminal cases.

For the past decade, the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) [official website], in partnership with the Attorney General's office, have helped in the arrest and prosecution of powerful criminals and corrupt officials who were once deemed untouchable. HRW alleges these proceedings have been stymied by procedural hurdles.

A close examination of the judicial proceedings, as well as interviews with judges, prosecutors, lawyers and CICIG investigators, revealed a consistent pattern in which defense lawyers are easily able to trigger prolonged delays in criminal proceedings by filing repeated-and often unfounded-motions challenging court rulings or seeking the recusal of judges hearing their cases. These motions tend to cause unreasonable delays that are then greatly compounded by the slowness with which courts react to their filing and then to their eventual resolution.
The rights group further claims that "when powerful perpetrators of abuse and corruption have found themselves facing judges who will not bend to pressure or be bought off, suspects have managed to postpone their day of reckoning."

The report reaches its conclusion after analyzing eight cases that have been pending for several years and have yet to go to trial, including the genocide trial of former dictator EfraĆ­n Rios Montt, war crimes charges against 17 former military and government officials and corruption charges [JURIST reports] against former President Otto Perez Molina and Vice President Roxana Baldetti.

The report asserts that it is the responsibility of the highest Guatemalan judiciary to ensure proper due process, claiming that both the Supreme Court and Constitutional Court have failed in this endeavor.

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