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Transforming justice in Guatemala won't be easy
You’ve seen some of the statistics from Guatemala: Nothing is done with 6% of the sexual assault complaints filed. Nothing. No action at all. And then there is that huge number: 60%. That’s how many of the complaints get hopelessly bogged down in the criminal investigations stages. For years and years. With little or no progress.
It comes as no surprise, then, that only 6% of sexual assault complaints reach a trial verdict. So much impunity! So little justice for children who suffer child sexual assault!
This isn’t going to be easy. But we have a good plan.
It’s one we have been working on with partners both inside and outside the Guatemalan government. Hand in hand with those partners, we plan to build up the Sex Crimes Unit of the national police:
- To create a specialized criminal investigations methodology for the Unit’s detectives;
- To train the detectives extensively;
- To create an atmosphere of professionalism;
- To work first in Guatemala City and prove here that the specialized Sex Crimes Unit model works. Then, we’ll replicate it in other parts of Guatemala. It will be impactful. Transformational.
This isn’t going to be easy. But it might have just gotten a lot easier because of you.
So many of you came alongside IJM and gave generously for our work in Guatemala, so that we can continue to fight for justice for children here and around the world. You signed petitions, sent letters and made phone calls urging your Members of Congress to encourage the Secretary of State to take action on this important issue. And they did it: 74 Representatives and 16 Senators wrote Secretary Kerry and asked that the U.S. invest adequate resources to improve the Sex Crimes Unit.
Will it happen? It’s too early to say. But I can say that a lot has already changed. The State Department is now taking a close look at the problem of child sexual assault in Guatemala. That wasn’t happening before. The issue wasn’t on their radar. And the State Department has asked IJM to participate in that process, to share information, and to present our ideas. IJM recently met with key State Department personnel in Washington, DC, on this issue, and a follow-up meeting has been scheduled with key embassy personnel in Guatemala. This opening of doors and generation of interest is all a result of your advocacy.
This isn’t going to be easy. But who needs easy?
This is doable. I am confident that IJM Guatemala and its partners will succeed in transforming the police response to child sexual assault and, ultimately, reduce the prevalence of this horrific crime. We could move faster and with greater impact if the U.S. government partners with us. There is now a real chance of that happening. That is in large part because of you and your strong actions: your generosity and your advocacy. Keep it up!
On behalf of the entire IJM Guatemala team, thank you! Your devoted partnership is a blessing.
Field Office Director, IJM Guatemala