Write to your MP – Template letter on judicial independence in Guatemala and Colombia

You can cut and paste this letter into “they work for you” and email it to your MP. If you choose to send it by post instead, please note that it is essential to include your full postal address and postcode.

Dear [name of your MP here]

Subject: Judicial Independence at Risk in Guatemala and Colombia

I hope that you are keeping well.

I am writing to you as my MP to share my concerns about the independence of the judiciary in Latin America. I would like to highlight its effect on the peace processes in Guatemala and Colombia, where judges, prosecutors and lawyers are regularly subject to attacks and violations of their rights for upholding the respective peace accords. These include threats, intimidation, external interference in their professional activities, arbitrary detention, prosecution, and killings. This concerted assault on the judiciary restricts access to transitional justice for victims of violence in both countries.

Guatemala, almost 25 years after the signing of the Peace Accords, is experiencing a political and institutional crisis. Transitional justice and human rights have suffered a major setback, which has infringed the rights of women and indigenous peoples. Simultaneously, an alliance of the ultra-conservative and religious fundamentalist sectors with organised crime and the military old guard has co-opted state agencies to entrench impunity. Since the International Commission against Impunity (CICIG) was asked by the Guatemalan Government to leave in 2019, advances achieved in ​​Justice and Human Rights have been dramatically reversed, as has the fight against corruption. In February 2022, Eva Siomara Sosa and former head of the CICIG Leily Santizo were both arrested. According to public information, they are being detained without an initial hearing as a reprisal for their work. Both Ms. Sosa and Ms. Santizo led high-impact anti-corruption cases while the CICIG was in operation. Attacks of this kind have proliferated since the 2019 order, further entrenching impunity in Guatemala.

The Colombian Peace Accord was signed in 2016, and a complex and forward-looking transitional justice mechanism was established. However, it has faced major challenges as it begins to announce its cases. The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) aims to hold perpetrators accountable for crimes committed during the conflict and enable victims to have their rights recognised. Its efficacy is under threat from attacks by high-ranking state officials and political sectors of the country that are averse to the Peace Accord. The body has been subject to strident attacks from its opponents, who have attempted to stall the bill granting its by-laws, campaigned for a referendum to revoke the JEP’s mandate, and sponsored a bill to modify its mandate. In 2019 President Ivan Duque himself attempted to block legislation enacting its authority. His administration’s spending on the tribunal has not kept up with financial requirements, and its funding has been put in jeopardy by successive budgets. Government spending reached just 65 percent of the JEP’s medium-term target by 31 March 2021. The court desperately requires adequate funding and public respect in order to function effectively and bring justice to victims of the country’s internal conflict.

I am writing to ask you to bring this situation to the attention of the Minister for Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean, Vicky Ford. The UK has a particular responsibility to Colombia, having supported its Transitional Justice System both politically and financially. Guatemala receives little international attention, so it is essential that the UK takes action to raise these issues at the UN in Geneva at such a critical moment in the country’s history.

We would also ask that you enquire of the Minister about efforts of the UK government to work towards peace in Guatemala and Colombia through collaboration with its regional and international partners.

I thank you in advance for the actions that you will take on this situation and I look forward to hearing from you

Yours sincerely,

[Your name here]