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

ELITES AND CRIME / 1 DEC 2021

On July 5, 2019, one of Guatemala’s deadliest and most infamous corruption cases landed in the murky world of the…

ELITES AND CRIME / 11 FEB 2021

Mexico's tax authority has dismissed Ramón García Gibson, one of its highest-ranking officials, for “evident conflicts of interest” and his…

ELITES AND CRIME / 17 DEC 2020

A digital platform in Paraguay is seeking to improve the detection of cases of corruption and embezzlement in a country…

About InSight Crime

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Extensive Coverage of our Chronicles of a Cartel Bodyguard

23 SEP 2022

Our recent investigation, A Cartel Bodyguard in Mexico’s 'Hot Land', has received extensive media coverage.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime, American University Host Illegal Fishing Panel

19 SEP 2022

InSight Crime and the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University discussed the findings of a joint investigation on IUU fishing at a September 9 conference.

THE ORGANIZATION

Impact on the Media Landscape

9 SEP 2022

InSight Crime’s first investigation on the Dominican Republic made an immediate impact on the Dominican media landscape, with major news outlets republishing and reprinting our findings, including in …

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Sharpens Its Skills

2 SEP 2022

Last week, the InSight Crime team gathered for our annual retreat in Colombia, where we discussed our vision and strategy for the next 12 months.  During the week, we also learned how to…

THE ORGANIZATION

Colombia’s Fragile Path to Peace Begins to Take Shape

26 AUG 2022

InSight Crime is charting the progress of President Gustavo Petro’s agenda as he looks to revolutionize Colombia’s security policy, opening dialogue with guerrillas, reforming the military and police, and…