Transparency and anti-corruption safeguards in key institutions comprising the Guatemalan justice system – from the supreme court to prosecutor general to the country’s criminal forensic labs – are highly inefficient, ineffective, and lacking both material and human resources to fill their mandate, according to a new collaborative project published by Acción Ciudadana, the Guatemalan chapter of Transparency International, and Global Integrity.
These data will not surprise most Guatemalans, whose fragile judicial system manages to solve less than 10% of open judicial cases each year.
At a release event last week in Guatemala City to discuss the findings, experts and advocacy groups called for greater transparency and accountability to fight widespread corruption in the justice sector. They also pled for increased budget and training for key offices in charge of administering justice in the country.
This is certainly not the first time anyone has drawn attention to corruption and poor transparency in the justice sector in Guatemala, but most reports and papers too often lament how the corruption challenge is “systemic,” with little additional unpacking of the problem. To gain a better understanding on what’s working and what’s not within Guatemala’s justice sector, Acción Ciudadana and Global Integrity scored and analyzed 600 specific indicators covering existing laws, implementation, access to information, accountability, management and budget.
Each of these aspects was carefully analyzed for the country’s key justice institutions: Supreme Court of Justice, the office of the General Prosecutor, the Institute of Forensic Science, the criminal investigations unit, and the Guatemalan Office of Public Defense. The results were used to determine the gaps and most problematic areas preventing lasting transparency reforms from taken hold.
The authors stressed the importance of data in being able to pinpoint “actionable” reforms that could realistically be addressed in the short and medium-term. Among the issues raised and debated were the low levels of use of Guatemala’s recently approved access to information law, and gaps in the legal code that prevent public officials’ personal asset disclosures (including from those in key positions in the justice sector) from being made publicly available.
The project data usefully highlight important themes that can help to orient the Guatemalan fight against corruption in the justice sector. Fernando Carrera, Director of Soros Foundation in Guatemala (whose organization helped to fund the joint project), closed the release event with remarks that emphasized the importance of enacting long-term policies to target the weaknesses that the study revealed. He suggested using the report’s recommendations to prioritize reform interventions and also as a tool to evaluate the performance and progress of those reforms.
You can visit the project website here: http://www.transparenciajudicial-gt.org, where the final report and the indicators are available and can be shared and discussed.
You can read more about the findings and the event in local media:
Editorial by Siglo 21
Report by Siglo 21
Report by Prensa Libre
Report by Emisoras Unidas
Guatemala was also included in the latest Global Integrity Report 2010, in which the country obtained a “weak” overall score for national-level transparency and accountability mechanisms.