The Forced Exile

Juan Francisco Sandoval*

Versión en español aquí.

On March 5, 2003, I joined Guatemala’s Public Prosecutor’s Office as an intern, as part of my mandatory criminal practice, during my undergraduate studies in legal and social sciences at the State University of San Carlos, Guatemala (Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala). I never imagined that this initial internshipwould turn into a love for the defense of truth and justice, and that I would later participate in the prosecution and trial of three Guatemalan presidents, a vice president, dozens of legislators, state ministers, magistrates,and judges. All of these officials, and in turn cases, shared the common characteristic of having served as part of illicit political and economic networks that sought to generate impunity for their crimes.

The opportunity to work in public service allowed me to bring a little hope to the people of Guatemala who –like the majority of Latin American countries– have been destined to a history and  life of eternal resistance in the face of injustice.

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The Urgent Need to Consolidate Democracy and the Rule of Law in Haiti

Gaël Pétillon*

Versión en español aquí. 

According to the Haitian Constitution, the legislative, executive, and judicial powers constitute the essential foundation on which the State’s organization is based. Within the exercise of their respective powers, duties, and functions, they are entirely independent. However, since January 2020, the failure to hold legislative elections has resulted in a gradual deterioration of this branch of power, the mandate of all deputies and two thirds of the senate having ended. The assassination of President Jovenel Moïse on the night of July 6th to 7th, as well as the death of the President of the Court of Cassation have worsened the situation from an institutional standpoint. This situation has exacerbated the dysfunction of the three branches: the National Assembly and the Superior Council of the Judiciary (Conseil Supérieur du Pouvoir Judiciaire – CSPJ) are now null, while the executive struggles to lead the nation effectively. An institutional vacuum is being created on top of the political and health crisis. Moreover, the recent earthquake of August 14, 2021 generated additional urgent needs, further exacerbating the aforementioned shortcomings and suggesting an upcoming deterioration of the human rights situation in Haiti.

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From hope to skepticism: The International Commission Against Impunity in El Salvador (CICIES)

Last week, as the number of COVID-19 cases in El Salvador climbed to at least 32, Salvadoran Congress approved a two-billion dollar loan for emergency government funding to combat the pandemic. Because Congress approved the funds during a state of emergency, the executive branch has more discretion in how the money is spent than it would under normal conditions. At the same time, government restrictions on freedom of the press have been ramped up, making it more difficult for journalists to obtain and share information. Salvadoran civil society is already monitoring these actions for potential corruption; however, the increased powers afforded to the executive branch – and increased restrictions on civil society – in the current crisis mean that now, more than ever, El Salvador must have effective anti-corruption mechanisms in place. The International Commission Against Impunity in El Salvador (CICIES), established last year, should be playing a visible and vigilant role right now; in this article, DPLF outlines some of the major concerns about CICIES, its formation, and its current status, all of which may impede its ability to play such a role.

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The Uncertain Future of Reparations in Post-Conflict El Salvador

Leonor Arteaga and Amanda Eisenhour*

  • Civil society has pushed the government of El Salvador to establish both symbolic and material reparations programs for war victims through executive decrees.
  • These programs, while crucial first steps, have been plagued since their inception with chronic underfunding, ineffective and splintered bureaucracy, and the exclusion of victims.
  • These programs could be at greater risk as the Bukele administration dissolves a key department implementing reparations, and the programs remain without legislative backing.

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On the anniversary of the murder of St. Oscar Romero, new possibilities for justice?

DPLF Team, with thanks to Ali Boyd for her assistance*

On March 24, 1980, Oscar Romero became the most emblematic casualty of the brutal civil war in El Salvador, which would go on to last twelve years. As the culmination of a deliberate state plot, he was shot and killed while celebrating mass. More than 75,000 civilian victims would come to share the fate of the Archbishop of San Salvador during the course of the war. Though the conflict was then in its infancy, Romero unequivocally denounced the violence, prophetically speaking directly to the death squads and to government officials during his weekly homily less than 24 hours before he was killed. The murder of the beloved Archbishop has galvanized the Salvadoran people for the last four decades. And with the canonization of Oscar Romero in October of 2018, the fight for justice at home – in the domestic court system – has once again captured the headlines. Seguir leyendo