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Secretary-General appoints head of probe into illegal armed groups in Guatemala

Secretary-General appoints head of probe into illegal armed groups in Guatemala

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today appointed a Spanish prosecutor and judge who is currently helping the United Nations in its fight against illicit drugs to head the independent body being set up to investigate the presence and activities of illegal armed groups in Guatemala.

Carlos Castresana Fernández will take up his duties immediately as head of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), starting with a week-long preparatory mission to the Central American country on Monday, according to a statement released by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson.

During that mission the Commissioner will meet with officials from the Government, the judiciary and the security forces, as well as representatives of political parties, civil society and the diplomatic corps.

Mr. Castresana is currently working for the Mexico and Central America regional bureau of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), where he has coordinated a project on crime prevention and the use of illegal drugs in the Mexican state of Nuevo León.

Announcing the appointment, Mr. Ban noted Mr. Castresana’s extensive experience in Spain from the early 1990s to 2005 as a criminal prosecutor and as a judge in areas directly relevant to the mandate of CICIG, such as combating corruption, drug trafficking and money laundering.

CICIG was established under an agreement between the UN and the Guatemalan Government that came into effect on 4 September. An independent, non-UN body, the Commission will be able to conduct its own investigations and also help local institutions, particularly the Office of the Public Prosecutor.

One of CICIG’s tasks is to recommend public policies and any legal or institutional measures for eradicating the illegal armed groups and preventing their re-emergence. The costs are expected to be borne by voluntary contributions from the international community.

Over three decades of conflict in Guatemala ended with the signing of peace accords in December of 1996, but concern has been mounting in recent years that illegal security groups and clandestine security organizations have continued to operate with impunity, conducting criminal activities and violating human rights.