Ban urges Guatemalan authorities to support UN-backed probe into illegal militia

19 June 2009

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on the authorities in Guatemala and civil society to support the independent body set up with United Nations help to investigate the activities of illegal armed groups in the Central American nation.

Mr. Ban expressed his appreciation for the work of the body in strengthening the legal systems in Guatemala, in a meeting with Carlos Castresana, head of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), at UN Headquarters yesterday.

With its operation at a critical phase, the Secretary-General “calls on Guatemala’s political and judicial authorities, and all sectors of Guatemalan society, to help CICIG carry out its work,” his spokesperson said in a statement.

The CICIG seeks to bolster the rule of law in Guatemala and is permitted by its mandate to conduct independent investigations and help authorities bring representative cases to trial in national courts.

It differs in that regard from international tribunals and is thus an “innovative” effort, Mr. Castresana told reporters in New York back in February.

After more than three decades of armed conflict came to an end in 1996, illegal security organizations, which used to prevent the courts from acting in cases of human rights abuses, “have basically been reduced to organized crime” groups, he noted.

Last year saw the expulsion of 1,700 people – including 50 senior officials – from the police force, within which there is “a lot of endemic dysfunction and corruption is rife,” Mr. Castresana had stated.

In today’s statement, the Secretary-General welcomed the political and financial support provided to the Commission by the international community and its continued backing of the body.

The CICIG is funded entirely by voluntary contributions from the international community, receiving over $20 million in donations or secondments of personnel through the end of last year.

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Guatemala: progress made on justice system, says head of UN-backed probe

Despite strides made in dismantling organized criminal networks in Guatemala, substantial work is still necessary to consolidate the rule of law in the Central American nation, the head of a United Nations-backed commission investigating the presence and activities of these groups said today.