Corruption on the Gualcarque River — Will Its Victims Have their Day in Court?

Naomi Roht-Arriaza**

Who are the victims of grand corruption?  The answer used to be “no one” or, at best, the state itself.  But especially with the advent of a human rights approach to corruption in the Inter-American and United Nations human rights systems, that perception is slowly changing.  Grand corruption affects the full range of human rights of individuals and groups.  When rights are violated, states have an obligation under international law to investigate, prosecute, and provide redress.  The UN Convention Against Corruption mirrors this requirement in Article 35. 

And yet national courts have been reluctant to recognize the rights of those who have suffered damage — either to participate in proceedings involving grand corruption or to recognize them as victims due compensation.  In part, the reluctance stems from difficulties legal doctrine creates for establishing the causal link between a specific act of corruption and harm to a specific person or group.   To create the same “justice cascade” as in human rights cases, corruption victims should be able to seek relief through either a criminal or civil action and as either individuals or communities or through representative organizations.  Where a state prosecutor has brought charges, victims should be able, as they can in  France and Spain, to be full participants in the prosecution.      

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Lucha contra la corrupción con un poder judicial independiente y con integridad

Daniel Kempken*

La corrupción es un factor de inestabilidad en todo el mundo que sólo puede combatirse con un poder judicial independiente. La implementación de los enfoques prometedores dela Convención de la ONU contra la Corrupción (CNUCC) debería ser reforzada por la comunidad internacional. Para ello, se puede aprovechar una próxima sesión especial de la Asamblea General de la ONU que abordará la lucha contra la corrupción, así como laConferencia de los Estados Parte de la CNUCC.

La Convención de la ONU contra la Corrupción marca el rumbo

En el derecho internacional, la conexión entre la lucha contra la corrupción y el fortalecimiento de un poder judicial independiente y con integridad está estipulada en el artículo 11 de la CNUCC, que ha sido ratificada por 181 estados. El Relator Especial de la ONU sobre la Independencia de los Jueces y Abogados no se cansa en señalar que la lucha contra la corrupción y la independencia del poder judicial deben ir de la mano. En las normas de aplicación del artículo 11 de la CNUCC y en los comentarios sobre la Convención, se exige a los Estados Parte procedimientos objetivos de selección de jueces, así como normas de integridad y transparencia. Entre los aspectos más importantes están además la protección contra la remoción, la remuneración adecuada y la seguridad personal de los jueces y juezas.

Para poner en práctica lo que establece la CNUCC, habría que insistir todavía más en esa conexión inseparable entre la lucha contra la corrupción y el fortalecimiento de la independencia e integridad del poder judicial. En el marco de la cooperación internacional, hay que plantear con mas fuerza esta conexión.

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Judicial immunity: a double-edged sword in Guatemala*

Hannah Jane Ahern** and Ursula Indacochea***

On February 1, 2021, Judge Erika Lorena Aifán Dávila, judge for the First Criminal Court of First Instance, Na and Crimes against the Environment of the department of Guatemala with competence to hear High Risk Proceedings, Group D, issued an arrest warrant against former judge Mynor Mauricio Moto Morataya, at the request of the Special Prosecutor’s Office against Impunity (FECI). Moto was being investigated for the crime of conspiracy to obstruct justice, in the framework of the case known as “Parallel Commissions 2020,” a high profile case of corruption and manipulation in the high court election process that took place last year. Moto is a key figure in that complex case of co-optation of justice, and until shortly before his capture was ordered, he served as judge for the Third Criminal Court of First Instance, Narcoactivity and Crimes against the Environment.

In her position, Judge Aifán oversees cases of atrocities committed during the armed conflict, macro-corruption, and other high impact crimes, which has exposed her to threats of violence, harassment, smear campaigns, and other attempts to hinder her work. Recognizing the threats, pressures and reprisals she has faced, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has previously granted her precautionary measures, ordering the State of Guatemala to protect her life and integrity. Aifán is widely recognized as an anticorruption champion, not only in Guatemala, but also internationally; most recently, she is a recipient of the 2021 International Women of Courage award from the U.S. State Department.

The arrest warrant issued against Moto caused a stir, as it came after he was elected by the Guatemalan Bar Association as magistrate to the Constitutional Court of Guatemala, and was irregularly sworn in by Congress on January 26, 2021. Precisely in order to serve in his new position, Moto requested the Guatemalan Council of the Judiciary to place him on “leave of absence” from his position as criminal court judge until April 13, 2021, a request which was granted. Therefore, when Aifán ordered his arrest, Moto was no longer serving as a judge, nor had he yet assumed the position of magistrate of the Constitutional Court.

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Honduras, where the “shield” against corruption has worked


How are the corruption cases left by the MACCIH advancing before the Honduran courts? How much have the reforms to some laws approved by the deputies of the National Congress affected them? A brief and worrisome panorama shows that the “shielding” of corruption networks has worked in this Central American country.

To analyze the issue, the corruption case known as “Red de Diputados” becomes emblematic. In December 2017, the binomial formed by the Support Mission against Corruption and Impunity (MACCIH), and the Special Prosecutorial Unit against Impunity for Corruption (UFECIC, today called UFERCO), presented this case, initiating a criminal action against five deputies of the National Congress in collusion with three members of an NGO called the National Association of Producers and Industries of Neighborhoods and Colonies of Honduras (ANPIBCH), through which they illegally appropriated public funds that were intended for social projects.

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