Torres, Members of Congress to United Nations Secretary General: “Ensure the Physical Safety of CICIG Employees in Guatemala”

September 3, 2019
Press Release

The UN and U.S.-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, or CICIG, shuttered today; employees and partners have received threats to their safety  

 

Torres-led letter comes on the heels of a recent congressional delegation to Guatemala, where Members of Congress met with representatives from CICIG, the judiciary, and civil society  

 

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, U.S. Representative Norma J. Torres (D-CA) led a group of 12 Members of Congress in a letter urging United Nations (UN) Secretary General António Guterres to take steps to protect the physical safety of International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) employees who remain in the country following its closure today, as well as the Guatemalan judges, prosecutors, and civil society advocates who have closely cooperated with CICIG. Since 2007, CICIG and its partners have made significant contributions to strengthening the rule of law in the country—and have made dangerous enemies linked to criminal groups. Torres was joined in sending the letter by Representatives Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), Anthony Brown (D-MD), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Henry Cuellar (D-TX), Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-American Samoa), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA), Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL), Katie Hill (D-CA), and Lauren Underwood (D-IL). The Members of Congress traveled to Guatemala in August, where they heard firsthand from CICIG employees and partners about the threats they had received leading up to the Commission’s departure.

 

“As strong supporters of the United Nations (UN) and the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) who have recently returned from a congressional delegation to Guatemala, we write to urge you to take steps to ensure the physical safety of those CICIG employees who remain in Guatemala following the Commission’s closure, as well as the Guatemalan judges, prosecutors, and civil society advocates who have closely cooperated with CICIG during its tenure in Guatemala,” the Members of Congress wrote. “It is critical that the UN take immediate steps to ensure the safety of these brave individuals, who have placed their trust in the UN to carry out important work at great personal risk. While we recognize that after September 3rd, the UN will no longer have the same capacity to provide physical security, we urge you to use all available options, including working through those UN agencies that retain a presence in Guatemala, to provide this much-needed protection It is our view that doing so is not only within the mandate of the UN but is also a moral obligation.”

 

Torres, the only Central American serving in Congress, is a member of the House Appropriations and Rules Committees. She is the founder and co-chair of the Central America Caucus.

 

Full text of the letter is available below.

 

Dear Mr. Secretary General,

 

As strong supporters of the United Nations (UN) and the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) who have recently returned from a congressional delegation to Guatemala, we write to urge you to take steps to ensure the physical safety of those CICIG employees who remain in Guatemala following the Commission’s closure, as well as the Guatemalan judges, prosecutors, and civil society advocates who have closely cooperated with CICIG during its tenure in Guatemala.

 

Since 2007, CICIG and its Guatemalan partners have conducted successful investigations and prosecutions of criminal organizations and individuals who have robbed the country of millions of dollars of state resources. These criminal groups have been implicated in human rights violations and serious crimes, including murder, drug trafficking, and kidnapping. They retain significant informal power in Guatemala, due in large part to their involvement with what CICIG has termed “political-economic networks of corruption.” Despite, or rather because of, CICIG’s significant contributions to strengthening the rule of law in the country, the Commission and its partners have made dangerous enemies during the past twelve years.

 

While the Commission’s staff includes many international prosecutors and investigators, it also includes, at present, a total of 93 Guatemalan staff members, in addition to CICIG’s many partners in the Attorney General’s office, especially the Office of the Special Prosecutor against Impunity. CICIG also has crucial partners throughout the judicial sector and in civil society. Many have already received threats, and during our visit to Guatemala, we heard concerns that many more will face retaliation upon the Commission’s departure.

 

It is critical that the UN take immediate steps to ensure the safety of these brave individuals, who have placed their trust in the UN to carry out important work at great personal risk. While we recognize that, following the commission’s closure, the UN will no longer have the same capacity to provide physical security, we urge you to use all available options, including working through those UN agencies that retain a presence in Guatemala, to provide this much-needed protection. It is our view that doing so is not only within the mandate of the UN but is also a moral obligation.

 

For our part, as Members of the United States Congress, we will continue to advocate for the rule of law in Guatemala and the protection of those who defend it. As always, please count on our continued support for the UN and its important work across the globe.

 

Sincerely,

 

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