Jose Arturo Aguilar is an internationally-renown human rights’ defender, investigator and political strategist with over 20 years championing justice and democracy in Latin America.
Most recently, he served as Senior Political Officer to Commissioner Ivan Velasquez, head of the UN-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). The commission has been a driving force in a series of investigations against top government officials, and it even helped inspire a nationwide protest movement in 2015 that led to the resignation and eventual imprisonment of president Otto Perez Molina and at least 40 others for public corruption.
Prior to his work at CICIG, Aguilar was Secretary of Strategic and Private Affairs to Guatemala’s first woman Attorney General, Claudia Paz y Paz, named by Forbes as one of the “five most powerful women changing the world” and a leading candidate for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize. A key member during her tenure, Aguilar built key alliances with regional governments in Latin America, Europe and across all levels of the U.S. government. He was also instrumental in developing a large network of political contacts and allies across different sectors of society. The team made strides in the prosecution of organized crime resulting in a significant drop in impunity rates. They also made world history in the prosecution of Efrain Rios Montt, the first former head of state to be convicted of genocide by a court in his own country.
His passion for service began while his home country of Guatemala was still at war. At just 18 years old, Art was instrumental to solving the murder of Bishop Gerardi in Guatemala—one of the first landmark cases against the military in the post-civil war era, as an investigator and later Coordinator of the Legal Area of the Office of Human Rights the Archbishop of Guatemala (ODHAG). The case was immortalized by American novelist and New Yorker contributing writer Francisco Goldman in “The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop?” Aguilar went on to champion other cases, eventually landing a key position as the coordinator for strategic litigation at the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Guatemala (OHCHR), where he trained and advised large groups of indigenous peoples’ NGOs on strategic constitutional litigation before being recruited by Attorney General Paz y Paz in 2011.