Guatemala UNbacked probe of illegal armed groups extended by two years

In agreeing to extend the mandate of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) after a request by the Government of the Latin American nation, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon underscored the importance of ensuring continuity for efforts already underway and supporting efforts to address impunity.The current mandate of the Commission, which officially began its work last January, expires in September.The CICIG seeks to bolster the rule of law in Guatemala and is permitted by its mandate to conduct independent investigations and help authorities bring representative cases to trial in national courts. It differs in that regard from international tribunals and is thus an “innovative” effort, Carlos Castresana, who heads the Commission, told reporters in New York in February.After more than three decades of armed conflict came to an end in 1996, illegal security organizations, which used to prevent the courts from acting in cases of human rights abuses, “have basically been reduced to organized crime” groups, he noted. The year 2008 saw the expulsion of 1,700 people – including 50 senior officials – from the police force, within which there is “a lot of endemic dysfunction and corruption is rife,” Mr. Castresana said.The CICIG is funded entirely by voluntary contributions from the international community, receiving over $20 million in donations or secondments of personnel through the end of last year.Based in the capital Guatemala City, it currently has approximately 150 international Guatemalan national staff, most of whom are criminal justice experts with experience in organized crime. 21 April 2009The mandate of the independent body set up with United Nations help to investigate the activities of illegal armed groups in Guatemala will be extended for two years, it was announced today.

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