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06GUATEMALA2473 2006-12-19 18:12:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Guatemala
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1. Summary: The Government of Guatemala (GOG) signed an
agreement with the United Nations December 12 to establish
the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala
(CICIG). Pending approval and ratification by the Guatemalan
Congress, the independent UN-led body will investigate
illegal security groups and clandestine security
organizations operating with impunity and threatening human
rights in Guatemala. Under an initial two-year mandate,
CICIG will assist Guatemalan institutions with investigation
and criminal prosecution of crimes committed by members of
such groups, a legacy of the internal armed conflict that
ended in 1996. The signed agreement is expected to be
presented to the Guatemalan Congress in mid-January 2007.
Early comments from legislative leaders make it clear that
approval will not come quickly. End summary.

2. The GOG and the United Nations signed an agreement
December 12 to establish an independent UN-led body to combat
impunity and to strengthen the rule of law in Guatemala.
Under its initial two-year mandate, the International
Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) will assist
Guatemalan institutions to investigate and prosecute crimes
committed by members of illegal security groups and
clandestine security organizations, a legacy of Guatemala's
36-year armed conflict that ended in 1996 with the
UN-brokered peace accords. The Commission will determine the
existence of such groups, their structure, forms of
operation, sources of financing and possible relation to
State entities or agents and other sectors that threaten
civil and political rights in Guatemala.

3. The Commission will be led by a commissioner appointed by
the UN Secretary-General and will be empowered to promote
criminal prosecutions by filing criminal complaints; to join
criminal proceedings as a private prosecutor; and to provide
technical advice to State institutions in the investigation
and criminal prosecution of crimes committed by members of
illegal security groups and clandestine security
organizations. It will also have the authority to advise
State institutions in the implementation of administrative
proceedings against State officials allegedly involved in
such organizations, and to report to administrative
authorities the names of civil servants who have allegedly
committed administrative offenses in the exercise of their
official duties. The Public Prosecutor's Office will retain
final decision-making authority as to who will be criminally

4. The agreement is expected to go to the Guatemalan Congress
for discussion and approval once Congress returns from recess
on January 14. The complex internal process could take as
long as three months or more and will require a simple
majority (80 of 158 votes) in Congress for ratification.

5. Preliminary reaction from various congressional blocs and
editorial writers reveals a deep divide over the utility and
constitutionality of CICIG. While some have praised the
agreement as a positive, significant step in the fight
against impunity and violence that have become increasingly
prevalent in Guatemala, some human rights groups have
expressed reservations and criticized the agreement for its
non-retroactive application to past illicit activities.
Critics within the human rights community assert that past
activities should be investigated because those who now run
organized crime groups violated human rights and committed
crimes in the past. Some congressmen expressed opposition to
CICIG based on their concerns that it would diminish
Guatemala's sovereignty, while some op-ed writers asserted
that it would undermine Guatemala's own institutions charged
with enforcing the laws.

6. Ruben Dario Morales, Secretary-General of the National
Advancement Party (PAN) and president-elect of Congress,
publicly expressed reservations over the effectiveness of
such commission to combat the endemic problem of impunity.
In local press, he emphasized the need to create a permanent
entity -- a national system of security -- and to establish a
State policy against crimes committed by illegal security
groups and clandestine security organizations. Private
sector leaders, including Humberto Preti, former head of the
principal business association CACIF, have argued that the

Commission is only a temporary solution to the persistent
problem of impunity and expressed concern that it may be
little more than a leftist intervention that will address
only crimes committed by the right wing.

7. Comment: The CICIG agreement is a promising, if
long-delayed, initiative of the Berger Administration to
strengthen the rule of law and protect human rights in
Guatemala. Based on preliminary reaction, however, Embassy
anticipates a vigorous and protracted debate in Congress.
While the GOG tells us they consulted with all interested
parties on the text of the agreement prior to signing with
the UN, it apparently has not done a thorough job of lobbying
and convincing congressional blocs to support the agreement.
The Embassy has been actively engaged in lobbying for
congressional approval of CICIG (formerly known as CICIACS)
since the beginning of GOG-UN negotiations more than a year
ago, and as the text is presented to Congress early next year
we will intensify our lobbying efforts.