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Crisis in the Attorney General’s Office in Guatemala, June 11 Update from Volunteer Cooperant Keiran Gibbs.

From hope to despair to hope, that has been the political reality for the last week.  Just a few weeks into his recent appointment as Attorney General and organizations from civil society, along with many prominent human rights activists, such as 1992 Nobel Peace Prize Loreate Rigoberto Menchu, were demanding the resignation of Conrad Reyes.  On Friday, June 11, 2010, the Constitutional Court announced that the selection process to nominate the Attorney General, which occurred roughly three months ago , was unconstitutional.  The Court found the selection process was flawed when the election committee submitted the same list of candidates after having been told to revise the list. As a result of the Constitutional Court’s decision, Conrad Reyes has been ordered to step down in what is now certain to be the record short post for a country known for early terminations of Attorney Generals.  In the interim, Maria Mejia, who has fifteen years of experience with the public prosecutor´s office but little known experience in human rights work, will be acting as the Attorney General.

Reyes had been under fire for alleged corruption and involvement with illicit activity, as well as being criticized for his appointments within the Attorney General’s office and for resignations from prominent posts in Guatemala that have occurred as a result of his nomination.   The resignation of Carlos Castresana, the Spanish PhD in Law who for the last three years headed the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG in Spanish), is the most famous of the recent departures.  This resignation has undoubtedly been the one that most heavily impacted the events of this last week.  According to a report in the Prensa Libre, a daily newspaper in Guatemala, in a press conference Monday, June 8th,  Castresana claimed that Reyes had tried to devise a method of monitoring the work of the CICIG, and that such monitoring would have threatened the work of the CICIG .  Another news article reported Castresana’s claims that Reyes represented interests linked to parallel structures of organized crime. 

The impact of these events have not gone unnoticed by those working for civil rights, and the atmosphere has been tense.  An extra degree of fear for one´s own safety and for the important cases currently going through the legal system has caused more than a few extra stress lines. Regardless, work has not been paralyzed and those pushing to end the continued impunity of those responsible for human rights abuses have persevered.

Over the course of this last week there has been a clear change of political climate.  Within one week I have witnessed the impact that the Attorney General can have on the human rights of the nation.  As a result of the Constitutional Court’s decision, the appointment process will begin once again.  This, in turn, will create a degree of uncertainty in the interim.  However, it is evident that, for many, a short term degree of uncertainty is preferable to the long term appointment of Reyes.

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