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Three Guatemalan women judges uphold the rule of law

GUATEMALA CA CITY (AP) – Three women judges in Guatemala have emerged as key figures in the fight for the rule of law in the judiciary, which is seen as an attack on powerful interests.

Judges Erika Aifan, Gloria Poras և Jasmine Barrios Aguilar have ruled in high-profile cases, filming harassment, assault and numerous attempts to remove them from the bench. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has ordered special protection for the three.

The work of individual judges only intensified after the death of a UN-backed anti-corruption mission in 2019, which helped dismantle major prosecutions.

Guatemala High Risk Criminal Court Judge Erika Aifan was awarded the US Department of State’s International Women of Courage Award on Monday.

“Despite her strong tenure, which she has faced throughout her tenure, Judge Aifan has become an icon of Guatemala in the fight against corruption, transparency, and judicial independence,” the US government said in a statement.

But it came at a cost.

Aifan has had 22 appeals against him for his decisions. He decides on powerful businessmen, politicians, corrupt judges, and drug traffickers.

“I am a human being, I can make mistakes, but I try to do my best, I do everything possible, because I know that this position represents the voice of many women, the hope of a better country.” Ifan said.

A scandalous case against businessman and politician Gustavo Alejos in the Aifan court has caused constant harassment for the judge. He is accused, among other things, of trying to manipulate the election of Supreme Court judges. It is reported that two of his court employees are even taking evidence or losing evidence to prevent the proceedings.

But sooner than the sanctions were imposed, the two court employees were promoted by the Supreme Court.

Gloria Poras was simply re-elected to the Supreme Court of Guatemala in the Constitutional Court for another 5 years. He has served in the court for a decade, where he is currently its president. He had 60 complaints against him, faced 13 applications to waive his immunity to be prosecuted.

“Despite attempts to undermine my independence, I am free to seek, analyze and resolve cases,” Poras said. “Decisions made by the verdict cannot be criminalized.”

Among his decisions, Porras voted to block a congressional proposal to amend the Guatemalan National Reconciliation Act to provide amnesty for crimes against humanity. He also voted to block the proposed law, which would have left the prosecutor’s office out of the case, allowing judges to negotiate directly with the accused.

Costs for Aifán և Porras are beyond prosecution. Both had to hire lawyers to spend time defending themselves against attempts to oust them.

Former Guatemalan Court of Appeals Judge Claudia Escobar knows that judges make sacrifices. Without the support of the Supreme Court, when he was attacked, he was forced to leave Guatemala in 2015.

“I admire those who judge, their personal expenses, they do it on principles,” he said. “The rule of law is deteriorating.”

In 2001, when Barrios was due to begin the trial of three servicemen accused of killing Bishop Juan Jose Erardi in 1998, two grenades were thrown at his home. No one was injured.

More than a decade later, the Barrios decided to commit the genocide of dictator Efrain Rios Montt. His verdict was overturned 10 days ago by a higher court, which included some judges who supported Rios Monti.

Because the courts in that case simply do not send Barrios cases, even though he is still a judge.

Ovidio Orellana, president of the Guatemalan Bar Association, said that “judges are an example; they can not be oppressed or attacked by any egg or egg of their choice, but rather retain the title of judge and adapt to a legal mandate.” »

Critics of the judges say they are not backing the law.

Jose Kezada, the former president of the Supreme Court and now a lawyer representing corporations, said politics is part of their decisions.

“They are not enforcing the law properly, let alone the Constitution,” he said of Aifan Ա Porras, citing illegal campaign financing cases that had previously plagued Aifan.

Former Judge Escobar says the lives of the three are a testament to what judges are going through in Guatemala. “Em is very valuable to them in terms of hunting, despite the attacks, to continue their work,” he said.

“I am convinced that most judges are honest people who want to do their job well, but sometimes it is easier to look the other way, because the risks are obvious,” he said.

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