HomeNewsBriefJudicial Delay Tactics Gumming Up Guatemala Criminal Cases: Report
BRIEF

Judicial Delay Tactics Gumming Up Guatemala Criminal Cases: Report

ELITES AND CRIME / 13 NOV 2017 BY PARKER ASMANN EN

A new report details how defense attorneys in Guatemala are capitalizing on the slow pace of judicial proceedings to derail the progress of high-profile corruption cases, underscoring the need for the country to undertake institutional reforms to boost efforts against elite graft.

Human Rights Watch published a report on November 13 illustrating what the watchdog group called a "consistent pattern" of defense attorneys attempting to delay criminal proceedings by filing "repeated and often unfounded" challenges to court rulings as well as requests for judges' recusal.

The report identifies several criminal cases being prosecuted by Guatemala's Attorney General's Office with assistance from the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala - CICIG) that are affected by these tactics, including the case of the "La Linea" customs fraud network, which helped topple former Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina and former Vice President Roxana Baldetti in 2015.

SEE ALSO: Guatemala News and Profiles

According to the study, the use of legal challenges known as "amparos" has skyrocketed in recent years. However, most are ultimately rejected, suggesting attorneys are exploiting the "slow and hesitant manner" that Guatemala's courts deal with such petitions in order to delay prosecutions.

Guatemalan law allows judges a maximum of 31 days to resolve amparos. But Human Rights Watch found that reaching a decision typically takes from six to 12 months, and judges and defense attorneys rarely face sanctions for these delays.

Lawyers who file baseless amparo petitions can face a fine of 1,000 quetzales (around $135), and judges can be held accountable by the judiciary's disciplinary body. However, the watchdog group reported that more than 3,000 lawyers have unpaid fines and just three judges were found to be at fault out of more than 100 disciplinary complaints filed for excessive delays in 2016.

InSight Crime Analysis 

Human Rights Watch notes that the "La Linea" case is just one of several high-profile cases "bogged down in pretrial proceedings," and has yet to go to trial more than two years after being revealed. In the past, other criminal suspects have made deliberate use of amparos to delay legal action against them.

In order to combat the misuse of amparos, the report recommends reforming the legal processes surrounding them, including improving enforcement of deadlines as well as sanctions on lawyers and judges who are responsible for unjustified delays.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Judicial Reform 

While such reforms could lessen the use of amparos as a delay tactic, they would likely have little support from Guatemalan elites, who have shown a remarkable willingness to openly attempt to rig the legal system in their favor.

Moreover, as CICIG commissioner Iván Velásquez has pointed out, the flaws in Guatemala's legal system are numerous, contributing to near-total impunity for crimes committed in the country. In other words, reforms to amparo proceedings are just one of the many institutional changes needed to fortify the justice system's ability to handle important criminal cases.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

GUATEMALA / 15 NOV 2012

The US Treasury has placed sanctions on two members of Guatemala's Lorenzanas gang, a group that…

COLOMBIA / 21 JAN 2020

Authorities have accused Luis Del Río Jiménez, alias “el Tío,” or “Señor T,” of being a major drug trafficker with Colombian…

EL SALVADOR / 15 AUG 2016

The three countries of Central America’s “Northern Triangle” have agreed to cooperate on fighting the regional threat posed by gangs,…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.

THE ORGANIZATION

Series on Environmental Crime in the Amazon Generates Headlines

17 SEP 2021

InSight Crime and the Igarapé Institute have been delighted at the response to our joint investigation into environmental crimes in the Colombian Amazon. Coverage of our chapters dedicated to illegal mining…