IAWJ Participates in ILAC’s Guatemala Justice Sector Assessment

May 30th 2018 | Despite being at peace for over twenty years, the impact of the conflict and violence the the 1960s internal conflict in Guatemala are still felt today, particularly in the rule of law. The International Legal Aid Consortium (ILAC) conducted a Rule of Law assessment on the Justice Sector in Guatemala. When commenting on the state of rule of law in Guatemala, ILAC’s Executive Director Agneta Johansson said:

“The legacy of inequality and violence still jeopardize rule of law, stability and development in [Guatemala] today. As a result, root causes of the conflict remain relevant and have frequently grown  more intractable.”

To implement the needs assessment, ILAC sent of team of eight experts to Guatemala, two of which were IAWJ members Hon. Josselyne Béjar Rivera (Mexico) and Hon. Gabriela Knaul (Brazil). The team was able to meet with over 150 Guatemalan legal professionals, civil society actors, and international officials all across the country. The team assessed the role and response of justice sector actors in response to rule of law challenges this includes issues such as: the aftermath of conflict and impunity, land claimed by indigenous peoples and local communities, violence, discrimination, and the decriminalization of protests. 

The team’s findings demonstrate the commitments set in the 1996 Peace Accords are for the most part unfulfilled. An important example is the dispute over land and the rights of indigenous people. The Peace Accords establish an adoption of agrarian laws and tribunals to address the cases of those who lost their land during the conflict and to uphold the rights of indigenous people. However, the report states that this is not the case. The report states “those trying to defend their land are now victimized rather than protected by the justice system, facing criminalization for attempting to remain in their homes and a lack of redress for violent evictions.”

Key findings from the report are:

  • Steps to ensure access to justice are of urgent necessity. Reforms must be put in place that fully implement the 1996  Peace Accords and address the root causes of the conflict.
  • The Guatemalan justice sector needs to be supported and respected so that they may have the independence required to effectively impart justice.

This report and the work that ILAC and our members have done in Guatemala is an important step to better understand and address the problems that Guatemala faces, and how to uphold the rule of law in a manner that is just for all of Guatemala.

To read the full report, click here.