Parting Message from Justice Barrientos Called for Continued Reforms, Commitment to Justice

(Read in English below)

El Magistrado César Barrientos Pellecer se esmeró en alcanzar los más altos estandardes de la justicia y el estado de derecho. Sus esfuerzos valientes a implementar reformas al código procesal penal llevó a numerosas reformas procesales y administrativas, así como a la implementación exitosa de los tribunales de mayor riesgo, en los cuales jueces conocen casos de profunda importancia para la nación. El Magistrado Barrientos nunca vaciló en cuestionar el estatus quo y sus votos razonados defendieron y permitieron mayor respeto para víctimas, protecciones más fuertes para poblaciones vulnerables y para los derechos indígenas y el cumplimiento estricto con las obligaciones del Estado de Guatemala bajo leyes internacionales.

El siguiente mensaje es muy probablemente el último que envió la mañana de su muerte el 2 de marzo de 2014. Ofrece una visión clara y sucinta de lo que debe ser – y puede ser – el proceso penal. Aunque escrito en una voz imparcial, está claro que este breve manifiesto representa su compromiso firme y ferviente con la justicia. Es, en gran parte, un llamado apasionado a dar seguimiento a lo que él inició.

— — —

Hola. Dios con usted. Le envío lo que pienso del proceso penal haber que podemos hacer al respecto:

Se ha mejorado la eficiencia del proceso penal. Debemos ahora reflexionar si observamos las reglas del debido proceso, si respetamos los derechos humanos de los procesados y las víctimas y si cumplimos con el pacto social de dejar que los jueces resuelvan los conflictos judiciales sin presiones ni intimidaciones.

El proceso penal de la democracias se desenvuelve guiado por el derecho humano a la presunción de inocencia del procesado hasta que una sentencia condenatoria firme demuestra lo contrario. Esta garantía expresa la sujeción del Estado y sus habitantes al derecho y su decisión de vivir con justicia.

El proceso penal es como un juego limpio en el que los fiscales y querellantes actúan de buena fe, en forma profesional, y esencialmente quienes ejercen la acción publica con objetividad, autonomía, y con apego a la legalidad. La carga de la prueba como obligación del MP, la prueba licita y la ausencia de duda de culpabilidad (por el in dubio pro reo) son condiciones de punibilidad, cuyo fin es el consciente esfuerzo social por la rehabilitación de los condenados.

Los jueces han de dirigir el proceso estrictamente ceñidos a los tratados y acuerdos internacionales en materia de derechos humanos y nuestra Constitución.

Los medios de comunicación deben apoyar y difundir la promoción y respeto del debido proceso y los ciudadanos comprender que el enfrentamiento esencial al delito esta en su prevención mediante el esfuerzo de construcción de una sociedad mas igualitaria, con mayores oportunidades y mas que todo, solidaria.

[Hay que] Revisar cada determinado tiempo lo que hacemos, como lo hacemos y como mantener, profundizar y asegurar el debido proceso penal es una tarea ineludible de garantía ciudadana y de vida en libertad e igualdad frente al poder del estado.

Magistrado Barrientos
2 de marzo de 2014


Supreme Court Justice César Barrientos Pellecer strove to uphold the highest standards of justice and rule of law. His valiant efforts to reform the criminal justice system led to numerous procedural and administrative reforms, as well as the successful implementation of the High Risk Courts, where judges deliberate over cases of profound importance for the nation. Justice Barrientos never shied away from challenging the status quo, and his numerous dissenting votes argued for increased respect for victims, stronger protections for vulnerable populations and for indigenous rights, and strict adherence to Guatemala’s obligations under international law.

The following message is possibly the last he sent the morning of his death on March 2, 2014. He provides a clear and succinct vision of what the criminal justice system should – and can – look like. Though written with an impartial voice, it is clear that this short manifesto represents his fervent and unwavering commitment to justice. It is, in a sense, an impassioned call for others to continue where he left off.

— — —

Hello. God be with you. I’m sending what I think of the criminal justice process; let’s see what we can do in this regard:

The efficiency of the criminal justice process has been improved. Now we should reflect on whether we observe the rules of due process, if we respect the human rights of those facing charges as well as those of the victims, and if we fulfill the social pact to permit judges to resolve judicial conflicts without pressure or intimidation.

In a democracy, the criminal justice process unfolds based on the human right of the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’. This guarantee is meant to ensure that the state and its inhabitants are subject to the law and to their decision to live with justice.

The criminal justice process is like game where you play by the rules, in which the state prosecutors and other plaintiffs act in good faith, with professionalism, and in essence are those who carry out public service with objectivity, autonomy, and according to the law. The MP’s [Public Prosecutor’s Office] obligation to provide proof, lawful proof, and guilt beyond reasonable doubt (por el in dubio pro reo) are conditions of punishment, whose goal is the conscious social effort to rehabilitate those found guilty.

Judges should conduct this process with strict adherence to international human rights treaties and agreements and to our Constitution.

The media should support and spread the promotion and respect of due process, and citizens should understand that the principal way to address crime is that of prevention through the construction of a more equal society, with more opportunities, and above all, one based on solidarity.

[We need to] periodically review what we do, how we do it, and how to maintain, deepen and ensure criminal due process is an unavoidable part of the guarantees to citizens and to a life with liberty and equality opposite the power of the state.

Justice Barrientos,
March 2, 2014

One thought on “Parting Message from Justice Barrientos Called for Continued Reforms, Commitment to Justice

  1. Guatemala is presently lead by a genocide general that pretends that the courts are being lead by judges who defend the human rights of the relatives of the victims that have been massacred by the brutal military tactics of the Army.
    Democracy to the ultra Right means the non-existence of Human Rights to the less fortunate citizens, whose asking for justice, in their opinion, means that they are “communists”. That’s the reason the country cannot go forward in understanding that respect for justice means to adhere to judgments based on justice by the laws of the Courts. The Government and the ultra Right wants to taint the judges that disagrees with them as leftist or “guerrilleros”.

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