Guatemala: constitutional reform advances indigenous rights

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in a press briefing Oct. 7 welcomed the presentation of a draft bill on constitutional justice reforms in the Guatemalan legislature. Stating that this "represents an historic opportunity to consolidate the remarkable progress the country has achieved in the fight against impunity and corruption in recent years," the OHCHR expressed hope that the bill would be swiftly approved by the Guatemala Congress. Among other things, the bill seeks to improve access to justice for women and indigenous peoples, recognize indigenous peoples' legal jurisdiction over internal matters, strengthen the independence and objectivity of judges and magistrates, and depoliticize the nomination and appointment of officials in the justice system.

The bill was the result of the collaborative efforts of indigenous authorities, civil society organizations, academicians and members of the private sector with the judicial authorities and the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). However, the OHCHR has warned that the reforms will not bear fruit unless the safety and security of judicial authorities are ensured. The OHCHR highlighted its concerns over the threats against judicial authorities, widespread attacks on human rights defenders and journalists and, particularly, the growing death threats launched against Prosecutor General Thelma Aldana, who has played a crucial role in the fight against impunity and corruption in the country. Welcoming the measures already taken to protect Aldana, the OHCHR urged Guatemalan authorities to ensure that such measures "remain effective at all times."

From Jurist, Oct. 8. Used with permission.