The Laureates of the Nobel Women’s Initiative have released a statement today calling on the Guatemalan government to honour the full mandate of Guatemala’s Attorney General, Claudia Paz y Paz. The statement comes in response to a surprise ruling last week from the Guatemala Constitutional Court to cut short Paz y Paz’s term by seven months. The ruling ends Paz y Paz’s term on May 17 — instead of December.
Paz y Paz has worked tirelessly to ensure perpetrators of mass human rights atrocities face accountability and justice for their crimes. Paz y Paz’s office built the case to order former President of Guatemala, Efraín Ríos Montt to trial for crimes against humanity, including genocide and sexual violence from over 20 years ago. In May 2013 Montt was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity and sentenced to 80-years in prison. Shortly after, the Guatemala Constitutional Court overturned the decision. The trial has been scheduled to resume in 2015.
The Laureates see the decision to prematurely end Paz y Paz’ s term as a threat to the independence of the Attorney General, and Paz y Paz’s efforts to bring justice to thousands of Guatemalan citizens.
“This latest decision is an affront to justice and the aspirations of those Guatemalans who are risking their lives to build a stronger, more independent judicial system in Guatemala,” said Laureate Jody Williams, “We are deeply concerned that upholding this decision is a set-back for justice in Guatemala.”
In the statement, the Nobel Laureates urge Guatemalan authorities to rectify their decision and allow Paz y Paz to complete her term as scheduled.
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The Nobel Women’s Initiative was established in 2006, and is led by Nobel Peace laureates Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Leymah Gbowee, Tawakkol Karman and Mairead Maguire. The Nobel Women’s Initiative uses the prestige of the Nobel Peace Prize and of courageous women peace laureates to magnify the power and visibility of women working in countries around the world for peace, justice and equality.
Nobel Laureates Reject Ruling Reducing Term of Guatemala’s Attorney General
Ottawa (Canada)–February 12, 2014. The Nobel peace laureates of the Nobel Women’s Initiative—Rigoberta Menchu Tum (Guatemala), Jody Williams (USA), Shirin Ebadi (Iran), Leymah Gbowee (Liberia), Tawakkol Karman (Yemen) and Mairead Maguire (Northern Ireland)—are calling on the Guatemalan government to honor the full mandate of Guatemala’s Attorney General, Claudia Paz y Paz. Last week, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court issued a ruling that cuts her term by seven months. Paz y Paz’s term ends in December, but the new ruling would mean her term would end on May 17.
“This latest decision is an affront to justice and the aspirations of those Guatemalans who are risking their lives to build a stronger, more independent judicial system in Guatemala,” said Jody Williams, who last traveled to Guatemala in 2012 and met with hundreds of Guatemalan women, government officials and representatives of international and local human rights organizations. “We are deeply concerned that upholding this decision is a set-back for justice in Guatemala.”
The six Nobel peace laureates stress that a fair and just judicial system requires that government prosecutors are able to conduct their work in an independent, autonomous and impartial manner.
This latest decision of Guatemala’s Constitutional Court constitutes a threat to the independence of the Attorney General, and is contrary to the principles behind international human rights and the rule of law.
“The work of Claudia Paz y Paz in Guatemala is notable because she has led an effective battle against organized crime, corruption, and human rights violations in Guatemala,” said Shirin Ebadi, a human rights lawyer and former judge in Iran. “We are aware that during her mandate she has greatly reduced impunity, and that she has greatly helped give women and other vulnerable members of society access to justice. This is important work, and needs to be viewed not as a threat to the system but as proof that the system is functioning as it should.”
The Nobel peace laureates are asking Guatemalan authorities to rectify this latest decision of the Constitutional Court, and allow Paz y Paz to complete her term as scheduled in December. In doing so, the laureates are joining in solidarity with civil society groups within Guatemala that are deeply concerned that the government might uphold the arbitrary decision of the Constitutional Court, and thereby undermine Guatemala’s judicial system and access to justice for thousands of Guatemalan citizens.