Guatemala: IBAHRI condemns proceedings against Judge Carlos Giovanni Ruano Pineda

Wednesday 16 August 2023


The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) condemns the pre-trial proceedings initiated against Guatemalan Judge Carlos Giovanni Ruano Pineda by the Foundation against Terrorism – described in reports as a far-right group with a track record of targeting judges and anti-corruption prosecutors.

The group is seeking to remove Judge Ruano's judicial immunity – a tool designed to empower judges to render unbiased and equitable judgments devoid of unwarranted external pressures or manipulations. If the Foundation against Terrorism is successful in its quest, Judge Ruano will be exposed to retaliation for exercising his judicial functions.

On 27 October 2022, the Foundation against Terrorism filed a complaint against Judge Ruano for the crimes of usurpation of powers, resolutions that violate the Constitution of Guatemala, abuse of authority, simulation of a crime, and breach of duty. The proceedings initiated against Judge Ruano appear retaliatory in nature, as they are linked to his official duties in handling a corruption-related case where he exposed a Supreme Court magistrate who tried to apply pressure on him regarding a trial that involved her son. The Guatemalan Constitutional Court is due to decide whether the pre-trial proceeding against Judge Ruano can advance.

IBAHRI Co-Chair and Immediate Past Secretary General of the Swedish Bar Association, Anne Ramberg Dr Jur hc, commented: ‘The IBAHRI is very concerned by and condemns any action that penalises judicial actors simply for carrying out their duties. The steps being taken by the Foundation against Terrorism blatantly contradict the principles of judicial independence outlined in the United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary. Judicial immunities are fundamental for the effective and autonomous functioning of a judicial system, which, in turn, is key to upholding the rule of law for an equitable society. Seemingly, the message being sent to judges, anti-corruption prosecutors and generally all citizens of Guatemala is that the powerful are above the law and cases of corruption are not to be investigated or brought to trial. This cannot be allowed to stand. Justice is too important to be hijacked by a few.’

IBAHRI Co-Chair Mark Stephens CBE stated: ‘It is imperative that the international community denounces the unethical use of law in Guatemala as a tool of retribution against the country’s judges. Judge Ruano and his peers must be given international support as they carry out their duties according to sworn oaths. The ongoing proceedings against Judge Ruano aim to strip away the safeguard against unjust prosecution that is afforded to judges through judicial immunity, a cornerstone tenet of judicial independence. Unlawfully revoking it, is a very dangerous move. This trajectory must be halted. We call on the Guatemalan authorities to protect judges and prosecutors from retaliation in the form of legal actions for their efforts in combating corruption and defending human rights for all. We also call for the authorities to fulfil their obligations to protect judicial independence as enshrined in international agreements such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the American Convention on Human Rights.

It is reported that more than 12 judges and prosecutors have fled Guatemala pending arrest warrants or charges. The legal action against Judge Ruano is symptomatic of judges and prosecutors finding themselves increasingly targeted for their work on sensitive corruption and human rights cases in Guatemala.


Notes to the Editor

  1. The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, with the aim of protecting and promoting the rule of law globally, the IBA was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice. The IBA acts as a connector, enabler, and influencer, for the administration of justice, fair practice, and accountability worldwide. The IBA has collaborated on a broad range of ground-breaking, international projects with the United Nations, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, The Commonwealth, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, among others.
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