HRC42: Protect human rights activists and monitor outcomes of the shutdown of CICIG in Guatemala

Today at the United Nations Human Rights Council’s 42nd session, the Right Livelihood Foundation delivered a statement regarding the safety of human rights activists and former staff of the recently closed-down International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). Read the full statement below:

The Right Livelihood Award Foundation welcomes the report by the Secretary-General, which provides a comprehensive overview of the challenges faced by those cooperating with the United Nations and its mechanisms in the field of human rights.

Tackling impunity and corruption is vital to securing the protection of human rights, the rule of law and is of utmost importance for the protection of economic, social and cultural rights. 

We express deep concern at the situation of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), which led a 12-year effort to strengthen the rule of law in a country notorious for its high levels of corruption and impunity. The Commission, led by Mr. Ivan Velazquez, has worked strenuously alongside Guatemalan investigators and prosecutors to dismantle criminal networks intertwined with state power. For these efforts Velasquez received a 2018 Right Livelihood Award.

On 3rd September 2019, CICIG’s mandate came to a premature end. Its abrupt departure from Guatemala clearly represents a major setback for Guatemala’s unprecedented fight against corruption.

The Government of President Jimmy Morales has consistently attacked CICIG staff and public servants who have supported their investigations. These attacks come in the form of unsubstantiated accusations that the Commission violated Guatemalan law and sown “judicial terror”. This rhetoric has greatly endangered the lives of those working against corruption and impunity in Guatemala.  

We thank the Secretary-General for highlighting in the report that human rights activists have also been targeted. Such is the case for Helen Mack, 1992 Right Livelihood Award Laureate and Director of the Myrna Mack Foundation, who has been subjected to attacks and legal actions for her cooperation with CICIG.

We urge the Council to closely monitor the events in Guatemala, to ensure that the Commission’s staff face no further reprisals for their courageous work tackling widespread corruption and impunity in the country, and that these efforts continue unabated in the years ahead.