Event: Judicial Independence at Risk in Guatemala and Colombia.

Watch this event again in English here

Virtual Event on 2 March 2022

Organisers: ABColombia, Federation of European Bars, Colombian Caravana of UK Lawyers, CAFOD, CINEP, CALDH, PBI UK

Chair: Former British Ambassador to Colombia, John Dew


Her Excellency Joanna Korner CMG QC, International Criminal Court Judge

  • The Importance of Trial Management in the Delivery of Justice for Victims

Héctor Reyes, Director, The Centre for Legal Action on Human Rights – CALDH

  • Guatemala: Judicial Independence and the impact of the rollback of hard-won historical gains

Julian Salazar, Centre for Investigation and Popular Education/Programme for Peace – CINEP

  • The importance of judicial independence in the transition context of Colombia

Lizzette Robleto de Howarth, International Programmes Manager, The Law Society of England & Wales

Louise Winstanley, Programme and Advocacy Manager, ABColombia.

  • What can the international community and particularly lawyers do to support lawyers and human rights defenders in Colombia and Guatemala.


According to the United Nations, the independence of the judiciary and the free exercise of the legal profession continues to be under threat in many countries of the world. Judges, prosecutors and lawyers are subject to attacks and violations of their rights, including threats, intimidation, external interference in conducting their professional activities, arbitrary detention, prosecution, and killings. (UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers purpose of the mandate)

The importance of judicial independence in the transition context of Colombia: Of the three institutions that make up the Transitional Justice system in Colombia, the one that has generated most disagreements in the political sphere has been the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP). The JEP, as a transitional court, advances in the formation of its national and regional structures, as well as in the authorization of procedures within a scenario in which the perpetrator is held accountable for the crimes committed during the conflict, and in which the victim can have their rights recognised. It fulfills this mission under crossfire from high-ranking state officials and from political sectors of the country that are averse to the Peace Accord. The legitimacy of the JEP depends, in addition to its independence and compliance with clear procedural rules that guarantee impartial trials for the perpetrators, on the implementation of mechanisms for the participation of victims.

If one of the objectives of transitional justice is the recognition of the victims, then it is imperative that its legitimacy comes precisely from them. The attacks that undermine the judicial independence of the JEP demonstrates that we are far from understanding that the transition to peace will be very difficult if we remain in the old schemes of retributive justice and do not try to walk the paths of a new paradigm of restorative justice, which helps both victims and perpetrators to reintegrate within their communities through the full use of their citizenship.

Guatemala: Judicial Independence and the impact of the rollback of hard-won historical gains: Guatemala, almost 25 years after the signing of the Peace Accords, is going through a political and institutional crisis and a major setback in matters of Justice and Human Rights that are impacting specifically on indigenous peoples, and particularly, women. Coupled with this, a power alliance has co-opted all State agencies characterised by the strategic convergence of the ultra-conservative and religious fundamentalist sectors, that together with structures of the old oligarchic-military order and organised crime, are recapturing the State for the purpose of corruption and entrenching impunity, as well as the maintaining their privileges. Since the departure of the International Commission against Impunity (CICIG) in 2019, the advances achieved in ​​Justice and Human Rights have been dramatically reversed, along with the fight against corruption – which has been
historically entrenched in Guatemala.


Her Excellency Judge Joanna Korner CMG, QC is a Judge of the International Criminal Court.

Judge Korner was from 1975–1993, a practicing barrister at 6 King’s Bench Walk. In 1993, she was made a Queen’s Counsel and became a Recorder (judge) in the Crown Court of England and Wales in 1994 undertaking serious criminal cases including fraud, murder, serious sexual offences and other grave crimes. In 1999, Korner became a Senior Prosecuting Trial Attorney at the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. In 2012, Korner became a Judge of the Crown Court of England and Wales. In 2014, Korner was appointed to the specialist fraud court presiding over trials of public interest involving hacking, insider trading, multimillion-pound scams and large-scale theft. In 2019, Joanna Korner was nominated to be the United Kingdom’s candidate for the 2020 judicial elections of the International Criminal Court based in The Hague, Netherlands. In December 2020, Judge Korner was elected to serve as a Judge of the International Criminal Court, for the term 2021-2030.

The Center for Legal Action on Human Rights -CALDH

The Center for Legal Action on Human Rights -CALDH- is a non-profit Civil Society Organisation (CSO) with a vast experience in Guatemala. It has developed strategic litigation processes in the framework of serious human rights violations that occurred during the internal armed conflict, achieving historic sentences in the Guatemalan Courts including, the first sentence for Forced Disappearance (Choatalum Case, 2008); Judgment for the Sánchez Massacre Plan (2012); two Sentences for Genocide against the Maya Ixil Peoples (2013 and 2018); Sexual Violence and Forced Disappearance (Molina Theissen Case, 2018). To date, CALDH has litigated cases against land, territory and human rights defenders (Saúl Méndez and Rogelio Velásquez Santa Cruz Barillas Case, 2015); Freedom of Expression (Case of Journalist Oswaldo Ical); Femicide and other forms of violence against Women (Juana Raymundo Case, 2020). As well as obtaining judgments in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (Plan de Sánchez, 2004; María Tiu Tojin 2008; Gómez Virula, 2019). Based on the tireless struggle of the survivors, mainly Mayan Indigenous Peoples, CALDH has strongly promoted processes of recovery and re-signification of Historical Memory, today in the Casa de la Memoria Kaji Tulam (Kaji Tulam House of Memory) and a large number of processes with communities, Mayan Indigenous Peoples, women, and youth nationwide.


CINEP (Centre for Investigation and Popular Education) is a leading independent ‘think tank’ engaged in investigation and advocacy work on issues related to the conflict and social policy in Colombia. It has developed one of the most highly respected data bases on the conflict situation and human rights in Colombia.  

It carries out programmes in rural regions with communities and important research on the conflict, violence, human rights, public services, politics and the State, poverty, development and social movements and popular education. This research has led to the development of a large database of information and analysis along with proposals for policy changes. It also develops comprehensive proposals for the construction of peace in Colombia.

In accordance with Colombia’s Final Peace Accord in 2016 (6.3.2), CINEP/PPP is a part of the official monitoring body of the implementation of agreements. As the Technical Secretariat of the International Component of Verification, along with the Resource Center for Conflict Analysis (CERAC), it contributed to verify the status of implementation, identify delays and deficiencies, and promote improvements.

Lizzette Robleto de Howarth is responsible for the international public interest work and international rule of law programmes at the Law Society of England and Wales. Before joining the Law Society, she worked for over 16 years in international development, focusing on international public policy, research and advocacy.

She holds a LLB in law, a LLM in human rights, a LLM in international economic law, justice and development, and she is currently a MPhil/PhD candidate. Her work has been published by the Birkbeck Law Review and the United Nations Association, among others.