Guatemala foreign ministry defends attempts to extradite ex-interior minister

[JURIST] The Guatemalan Foreign Ministry [official website, in Spanish] on Thursday defended its handling [press release, in Spanish] of the extradition of former interior minister Carlos Vielmann. A Spanish judge ordered Vielmann's release [JURIST report] Tuesday after Guatemalan authorities failed to request his extradition to face charges before the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) [official website, in Spanish]. Guatemalan authorities were accused of purposely frustrating these efforts [AP report] by CICIG head Francisco Dall'Anese, who alleged that the Foreign Ministry had withheld papers necessary to the extradition for two weeks without reason. The ministry responded by insisting that it had "complied with all terms and acted promptly in the extradition process." It went on to state that the delay was due to the need to obtain the necessary signatures from the Spanish embassy, and the extradition papers were held by the ministry for only three days. The request process was then suspended in compliance with an order [text, in Spanish] to do so by the Guatemalan Constitutional Court [official website, in Spanish]. The Guatemalan government has until December 13 to request the extradition, but Dall'Anese expressed skepticism at the prospects of this.

The arrest warrant was issued in August [JURIST report] in relation to the extrajudicial execution of seven inmates at the Pavon prison in 2006. Vielmann has maintained his innocence, contending that the inmates died in a prison riot. Official corruption has been an ongoing problem in Guatemala. In June, the Constitutional Court removed Attorney General Conrado Reyes from office after the former head of CICIG, Carlos Castresana, accused him of ties to organized crime [JURIST reports]. In March, the US State Department released its 2010 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report [text, PDF], which highlighted Guatemala as a key player in the Latin American drug trade. Corruption among high-ranking officials was cited as one of the country's biggest problems. The Guatemalan Congress voted to create CICIG [JURIST report] in 2007 in order to investigate organized crime and official corruption.

 

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