“It’s Hard to Find an Honest Judge in Guatemala Now”

Ahead of the news of the sacking of Juan Francisco Sandoval, the head of FECI, at the weekend, El Faro published an interview with leading Guatemalan human rights advocate, Helen Mack. Alongside Sandoval, Gloria Porras, Érika Aifán, and Jordán Rodas, Helen Mack is being persecuted and criminalised by a corrupt judicial system within a corrupt state.

The interview was with Roman Gressier and provides a portent of the events of the weekend.

When corruption scandals embroil Guatemala’s political class, Helen Mack invariably takes her place on the scrum. A leading Guatemalan human rights advocate, she has spent decades in legal fights over not only government corruption, but also cases of impunity from the four-decades-long civil war ending in 1996 — beginning with her sister Myrna’s death at the hands of the Guatemalan military in 1990.

And when systemic corruption and open attacks against independent judges this year seemed to jeopardize U.S. interests, even Kamala Harris asked for her opinion. “Their priority is immigration, and if that means conceding on other topics where Guatemalan civil society won’t, then they will concede,” Mack says of the Biden administration. “Our challenge is reaching a win-win agenda.”

For Mack, that winning agenda will include justice for civil war-era crimes, as well as accountability for President Alejandro Giammattei’s handling of the pandemic.


The Myrna Mack Foundation, which Helen founded and named in honor of her sister, is one of the most high-profile civil society organizations to issue a joint call for the resignation of Giammattei, Brolo, and Health Minister Amelia Flores.

This isn’t the first time that Mack faces off with the juggernauts of Guatemalan politics. When the Guatemalan state and United Nations negotiated the creation of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) in 2006, she gave input as a representative of civil society. In its 13 years of sweeping high-level corruption probes before it was dismantled in 2019, the CICIG sent former president Otto Pérez Molina to prison for customs fraud and briefly convicted former dictator and retired general Efraín Ríos Montt of a 1982 genocide against the Maya Ixil people.

Times have changed, and Mack suggests that anti-corruption work is now more precarious than when the CICIG was created. Since the commission left the country, Mack notes an open, systematic courtroom retaliation against judges, prosecutors, and human rights advocates who took part in the Guatemalan Spring. And she is one of them.

You can read the full piece, with links, here, “It’s Hard to Find an Honest Judge in Guatemala Now”.

Pueden leer la entrevista, en español, con enlaces, aquí, “Ahora es difícil encontrar jueces honestos en Guatemala”.

You can read more on the sacking here, Guatemala’s Top Anti-Corruption Attorney Flees Country.

Categories: Corruption, Criminalisation, Genocide, Guatemala, Human Rights, Impunity, Justice, Legal, Lobbying, Solidarity in Action

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