Report Exposes Guatemalan Judges Tied To Organized Crime
By Erin Siegal
December 06, 2012

TIJUANA, Mexico -- CICIG, the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, has published a list of the top 18 judges in Guatemala whose decisions have "favored" organized crime. Corruption in the Guatemalan judiciary is an ongoing problem.

The 95-page study, called "Los Jueces de la Impunidad," analyzes each judge's record in detail. It also looks at specific rulings.

Geoffrey Ramsey, a researcher for InSightCrime: Organized Crime in the Americas, recently published an analysis of the CICIG study. InsightCrime is a nonprofit and consulting firm dedicated to research and analysis on organized crime in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Ramsey called the report "incredibly significant."

"The Commission alleges that Judge Julio Geronimo Xitumul, for instance, improperly favored ex-President Alfonso Portillo when the latter was arrested in 2008 on corruption charges, in which Xitumul oversaw the investigation into allegations that the official had accepted bribes and embezzled millions of dollars in public funds.

Like the more recent 2011 trial which ended in Portillo's acquittal, the case was marked by several suspicious irregularities, including Xitumul's unusual and potentially unconstitutional decision not to hold Portillo in pre-trial detention. While the former president will still be extradited to the United States to face money laundering and embezzlement charges, his 2011 acquittal and his suspicious avoidance of imprisonment before then are widely seen as an indication of the state of Guatemala's justice system."

Ramsey goes on to note that the study is essentially "a direct challenge to corrupt judges in the country," and that the report constitutes "a test for the state of impunity in the country."

Most judges named in the report have not been formally charged. In Guatemala, a judge must first be stripped of impunity for accusations of criminal wrongdoing to be filed.

Organized crime syndicates in Guatemala are deeply entrenched in state politics, with roots leading back to the country's 36-year civil war, which ended in 1996.

CICIG works in the country in order to help strengthen the rule of law by battling impunity.