Foreign Affairs Committee to hear from prominent Guatemalan justice campaigner

December 2nd, 2014 - Pat Breen

Lawyer and social activist Dr Claudia Paz y Paz Bailey will appear before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade tomorrow to consider the human rights situation and access to justice in her native Guatemala.

While the historic peace accords in 1996 marked the end of over three decades of civil war in Guatemala, the country continues to be scarred by the legacy of the conflict which resulted in more than 200,000 deaths and 1 million refugees. Although there have been positive developments towards democratisation since the end of the conflict, institutions remain weak, and violent crime endemic.

Chairman of the Committee Pat Breen TD says: “Tomorrow’s meeting will be a valuable opportunity to engage with an authority on human rights and justice issues in Guatemala. In 2010, Dr Paz y Paz became the first woman to assume the post of Attorney General in Guatemala. During her term she made a number of breakthroughs in high profile cases related to drug trafficking, organised crime and corruption. She prioritised measures to combat violence against women, establishing a special court to try femicides and other violent crimes against women and adopting an integrated approach to assisting women who reported abuse.

“Her dismissal in May 2014 prompted widespread international criticism and concern for the independence and integrity of the Guatemalan justice system. It was seen by many observers as a result of Ms Paz y Paz’s efforts to combat the high levels of impunity endemic in Guatemala. Committee Members look forward to assessing what actions from Ireland, the European Union and the international community are required to bolster human rights, the rule of law and access to justice in this fragile Central American democracy.”

The meeting takes place tomorrow 3 December 2014 in Committee Room 1, LH 2000 at 2:30 pm. Public proceedings can be viewed online here:

Committee proceedings can also be viewed on the move, through the Houses of the Oireachtas Smartphone App, available for Apple and Android devices.