In a 2021 human rights report, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) gave Guatemala the IV.B categorization. This implies that Guatemala is a state that is in serious violation of international human rights norms and agreements. The IACHR justified this classification by stating that the “actions [carried out] by the Guatemalan government… undermine judicial independence and call into question the fight against impunity and corruption.” In addition, the IACHR said the Guatemalan government had contributed to the “progressive weakening of democratic institutions and the institutional framework for human rights.”
The IACHR report described how, in Guatemala, continuing acts of violence and attempts to criminalize human rights defenders and activists make it more difficult to exercise the right to defend human rights. According to the report, “[T]he crisis in the Guatemalan justice system is extremely troubling because such actions are apparently part of an intended co-optation strategy by parallel power groups and structures involved in corruption schemes and interested in ensuring impunity and perpetuating the means of corruption.”
In their report, the IACHR observed “ongoing actions to dismantle the institutional framework to fight corruption” these actions culminated “in the dismissal of the head of the FECI [Juan Francisco Sandoval] in apparent reprisal for the investigations he was leading that were said to involve high-level authorities of the Guatemalan State.” The IACHR also observed an intensification of efforts to criminalize and stigmatize magistrates, judges, and other independent operators of justice in the country, and an increase in judicial persecution and harassment due to the manipulation of criminal law.
The IACHR also noted a weakening of the Constitutional Court in its report. The Court “had in recent years stood out for its work in defense of human rights, democratic institutions, and the principles that govern the democratic system in keeping with the country’s Constitution...As a consequence, the IACHR has been receiving information for several years concerning attacks on and interference with the independence of the Constitutional Court, and these incidents intensified in 2021...Finally, in 2021, the IACHR was extremely concerned to observe that the selection of judges to the Supreme Court and the Courts of Appeals for the 2019-2024 period, which should have taken place in 2019, continues to be delayed by Congress...As of the closing date of this report, the current justices of the Supreme Court remain in office indefinitely, even though their mandates came to an end in 2019, which compromises the independence of the justice system in Guatemala."
Giammattei, in response to the inclusion of Guatemala under Chapter IV.B, traveled to Washington, where he met with the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States to protest the IACHR’s report. He also gave interviews attributing Guatemala’s categorization under IV.B to the country’s classification of abortion as a crime and he attended the International Religious Freedom Summit, where he proclaimed Guatemala the “pro-life capital of Latin America.” Additionally, he met with Homeland Security Director Alejandro Mayorkas. According to press reports, Giammattei said he and Mayorkas designed a road map that, as Giammattei put it, “will permit us to count on the most recent technology to identify persons with biometric controls and determine, for example, if they are being sought.”