Guatemala: Congress Must Approve Law for National Search Commission for the Disappeared

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Guatemala: Congress Must Approve Law for National Search Commission for the Disappeared

LONDON - Amnesty International today urged the
Guatemalan Congress to approve a law for a National Search Commission
for the Disappeared as an essential step to implement the
recommendations made by the country's Historical Clarification
Commission ten years ago.

"The Historical Clarification Commission's report was a massive
landmark for human rights in Guatemala," said Kerrie Howard, Americas
Deputy Director at Amnesty International. "Now it is time for the
government to deliver some justice."

"It is very disappointing that so many of the report's
recommendations remain outstanding and that justice is yet to be seen
for the tens of thousands of cases of enforced disappearance, killings
and torture which took place during Guatemala's long conflict."

The report by Guatemala's Historical Clarification Commission -
developed under the terms of the UN-brokered Peace Accords that ended
the conflict - was published on 25 February 1999.

It found that during Guatemala's internal armed conflict - between
1960 and 1996 - around 200,000 people were forcibly disappeared or
killed and that 669 massacres had taken place, mainly in Indigenous
villages. The Commission also found the Guatemalan military and their
allies had been responsible for the vast majority of abuses and that
some of these cases constituted genocide.

On 5 December 1982, 250 men, women and children where killed when
Guatemalan security forced entered their village in Dos Erres. Since
the investigation into the massacre was formally opened in Guatemala in
1994, the defence has put in at least 30 appeals, and invoked other
delaying judicial procedures on around 49 occasions.

To date, more than fourteen years later, no high-ranking officer or
official has ever been brought to justice for their role in ordering,
planning or carrying out the widespread and systematic human rights
violations which took place in Guatemala. The few investigations that
were initiated have been deplorably slow and inadequate.

"The Guatemalan authorities have the legal and moral duty to ensure
that the crimes committed during the country's internal armed conflict,
many of which constitute crimes against humanity,  are investigated and
that those responsible are brought to justice," said Kerrie Howard
"Without justice, Guatemala will not be able to move forward from its
dark past."

Some of the key recommendations included in the Historical
Clarification Commission's report to ensure reparations for the
relatives of victims and survivors of abuses, have been implemented but
in most areas progress has yet to be achieved.

Amnesty International also welcomed news that the Government's Peace
Secretariat provided information to the Public Prosecutor's Office of
over 3,300 cases of human rights abuses committed during Guatemala's
internal armed conflict. The organization hopes this information will
help renew efforts to investigate and prosecute those responsible for
past abuses.

"The best way for the Guatemalan authorities to remember and honour
the victims of abuses committed during the armed conflict is by
ensuring that those who committed, authorized or planned those crimes
are not able to evade justice," said Kerrie Howard.

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Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. Our supporters are outraged by human rights abuses but inspired by hope for a better world - so we work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity. We have more than 2.2 million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries and regions and we coordinate this support to act for justice on a wide range of issues.

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