Guatemalan Congress Urged to Resist Attempts to Reapply Death Penalty

For Immediate Release

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Guatemalan Congress Urged to Resist Attempts to Reapply Death Penalty

WASHINGTON -

Amnesty International has called on the
Guatemalan Congress to abolish the death penalty instead of regulating
it as MP’s debate legislation that would allow its use for the first
time since 2000.

The new
legislation would create presidential pardons for those on death row, a
move that would allow the country to use the death penalty in what
politicians say is a response to public pressure over rising gang
violence.

 “The death
penalty is a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and violates the
right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights”, said Guadalupe Marengo, Deputy Director of Amnesty
International’s Americas program.

 “More
than two-thirds of countries have abolished the death penalty in law or
in practice as in the rest of the Americas. Even the USA, which is the
only country in the region that consistently carries out executions, is
showing signs of turning against this inhuman and degrading treatment.  Guatemala
would be turning against this positive trend if its Congress paves the
way for the reapplication of the death penalty.”

 If the Guatemalan Congress votes in favour of that legislation, ten people, who are currently in death row, could be executed.

 Amnesty
International recognises that crime in Guatemala is widespread and
Guatemalan congressmen and women have a duty to ensure they pass
legislation that will reduce this worrying trend so that residents can
live without fear. 

 “Executing
those who commit horrific crimes will not be a deterrent. Studies from
around the world show that the death penalty has no special deterrent
effect and far from making society safer, it has a brutalizing effect on
society. State sanctioned killing only serves to endorse the use of
force and to continue the cycle of violence,” said Guadalupe Marengo.

 “The
Guatemalan Congress should be voting to abolish the death penalty
instead of regulating it and address the real issues that lie behind
crime. Police and judicial systems must be equipped to eradicate
impunity and the government should address  inequality and discrimination.”

 Background information

 The Guatemalan constitution, passed in 1985, permits the death penalty under article 18.  The
last execution was carried out in Guatemala in 2000, using lethal
injection. Since then, successive governments have established a de
facto moratorium in the application of death penalty, by not
implementing measures to enable them to issue presidential pardons for
those sentenced to death.  In 2005 the Inter-American court
ruled that Guatemala could not apply the death penalty because it did
not have a procedure in place for the granting of presidential pardons.

Bill
4175, currently being debated in Congress, proposes a mechanism for
presidential pardons. If the Guatemalan Congress votes in favour of that
legislation, ten people, who are currently in death row, could be
executed.
 

Capital
punishment is irrevocable; and coupled with judicial systems prone to
human error and prejudice, the risk of executing an innocent person is
ever present.  In 2007, the UN reaffirmed and strengthened
its position against this cruel and inhumane treatment, when the General
Assembly passed a resolution calling upon member states to establish a
moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing it all together.

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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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