San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Guatemala high court orders arrest warrant for former leader Serrano reinstated

GUATEMALA CITY – Guatemala’s Supreme Court on Thursday reinstated an international arrest order for ex-President Jorge Serrano (1991-93), currently exiled in Panama, after accepting an appeal against a Tuesday ruling that ordered charges against him dropped.

“The resolution [Tuesday] by the [lower] Court [of Appeals] is suspended. It has no legal merit for the moment until this issue is permanently resolved,” Supreme Court Chamber of Appeals President Arturo Sierra said.

According to Sierra, the tribunal he presides provisionally accepted an appeal filed by the country’s Attorney General’s Office against a Tuesday ruling by a lower court that reversed the capture order against Serrano, citing an alleged violation of due process.

In that ruling, the lower appeals court said that an arrest warrant issued on June 2, 1993, when Serrano was head of state following a silent coup, was invalid because no motion had been filed to remove his immunity.

On May 25, 1993, in the middle of a national political crisis, Serrano dissolved the Guatemalan Congress and Supreme Court, and “issued censorship orders against the press,” according to a report by the United Nations Historical Clarification Commission, created by the 1996 Peace Accords that ended a brutal 36-year civil war. Serrano “suspended 46 articles of the Constitution,” the report added.

Ten years before governing Guatemala under the extremist Solidarity Action Movement, Serrano presided over the State Council under the dictatorship of Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt, from 1982-1983. Ríos Montt currently faces charges of genocide. He was previously convicted and sentenced to 80 years in prison, but a Constitutional Court threw out the conviction, citing procedural errors.

The high court is expected to rule on the most recent appeal in Serrano’s case in coming days, Sierra said.

The silent coup headed by Serrano was the final constitutional rupture in the country since the so-called democratic era initiated in 1986, after a series of military governments.

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