Vance Center Implements Support for the Guatemalan Association of Judges for Integrity

February 2021

The Vance Center organized a series of virtual engagements with the Guatemalan Association of Judges for Integrity, seeking to strengthen the Association’s institutional capacity and judicial independence in Guatemala. This focus on the Guatemalan judiciary began in 2013 with a delegation examining the rule of law in light of the Guatemalan Constitutional Court’s reversal of the conviction of Efraín Rios Montt and continues today with support from the National Endowment for Democracy.

The  webinar “Strengthening Judicial Independence through Integrity in Guatemala”, included participants from the public and private sectors from Latin America and beyond: Professor Diego Garcia Sayan (UN Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers), Judge Erika Aifan from Guatemala, Ciro Colombara (member of the Executive Committee of the Pro Bono Network of the Americas); Omar Ortiz Bosch, (Vice President Legal, Central America and the Caribbean and Deputy General Counsel Latin America, Chubb), and Lizzette Robleto de Howarth (Director of International Programs of the Law Society of England and Wales).

The President of AGJI Judge Carlos Ruano and Vance Center Latin America Policy Director Jaime Chavez Alor delivered introductory remarks at the webinar. Participants underlined the efforts of AGJI to protect judicial independence in Guatemala. Prof. García Sayán recognized the fundamental role AGJI plays for judicial integrity as a key aspect of judicial independence. The recording of the webinar is available here. Guatemalan media wrote a piece on the webinar.

In the webinar, AGJI launched its new webpage, created through the Vance Center Project, which includes a blog, with contributions so far by AGJI´s President Judge Carlos Ruano, Prof. Garcia Sayan,  Chavez Alor, Guatemalan Supreme Court Justices María Eugenia Morales Aceña and Delia Marina Davila Salazar, President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Joel Hernández García, and  Todd Crider and Antonia Stolper, members of the Vance Center’s Lawyers Council for Civil and Economic Rights in the Americas.

The Vance Center and AGJI also conducted a virtual workshop series “Promotion and Defense of Judicial Independence” over four weekly sessions, covering: regional mechanisms to protect judicial independence; international mechanisms to protect judicial independence; legitimacy of judicial decisions as a guarantee for independence; and the relation between the judiciary and the media.

The Vance Center invited high-level panelists for each of the sessions, including Professor Douglass Cassel (Counsel at King & Spalding), Mika Kanervavuori (Representative in Guatemala of the Office of the High Commissioner of the United Nations for Human Rights), Tania Sagastume and María Mujica (Office of the High Commissioner of the United Nations for Human Rights in Guatemala), Dr. Laurence Patin (Mexico Evalua), Hon. Edgar Ulises Renteria Cabañez (Federal Judge, Mexico), Hon. David Ordoñez Solís (Judge, Spain, and representative of the Ibero-American Commission of Judicial Ethics), and Ramiro Alvarez Ugarte (Researcher at the Center for Studies in Freedom of Expression of the University of Palermo). The first two sessions were open only to Guatemalan judges, and for the third and four sessions, civil society organizations and media were welcomed. The Guatemalan press highlighted the workshop.

The Vance Center and AGJI also conducted a virtual roundtable “Challenges to the Work of Judicial Associations” to support AGJI’s efforts to create a 5-years work plan. In this roundtable, participants from Peru, Panama, Colombia, the Central-American Federation of Judges, and the Ibero-American Group of Judges discussed work plans and membership, financing of judicial associations, challenges in internal governance, communications and public relations, threats to personal safety, and proposals for solutions to these challenges.

The Vance Center will continue its support to AGJI through various activities in the following months.