For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Brenda Bowser Soder
O -202/370-3323, C – 301/906-4460

Human Rights and Impunity in Guatemala

Guatemala - Human Rights First, in conjunction with the organizations comprising the Convergencia por los Derechos Humanos,
has concluded an observatory mission to Guatemala on the state of human
rights.  After analyzing their findings, Human Rights First and the Convergencia por los Derechos Humanos have arrived at the following conclusions:

1.  Past Mass Atrocities Must Be Investigated and Prosecuted

Atrocities committed during the internal armed conflict are rarely
prosecuted, resulting in impunity for the perpetrators of crimes
against humanity and genocide.  Despite important achievements,
including an order to release military archives related to cases of
genocide, the capture of the intellectual authors of the detention of
Fernando García, and a Constitutional Court ruling on forced
disappearances in the case of Choatalum, the immense majority of
victims of the conflict await resolution from the justice system. 
Therefore, we demand the following necessary steps:

  • The immediate investigation of accusations of mass
    atrocities, crimes against humanity and genocide committed during the
    internal armed conflict.  The Public Prosecutor’s Office should
    investigate and criminally prosecute those responsible, in particular
    senior officials who oversaw the commission of these crimes.  The
    government should strengthen the Public Prosecutor’s Office for Human
    Rights, and in particular the Unit for Historical Clarification. 
    Furthermore, the Guatemalan state should immediately execute
    outstanding orders for the arrest of certain key officials, for example
    Colonel José Antonio Solares Gonzáles, who has an outstanding arrest
    warrant for giving the order to commit the massacre of Río Negro in
  • Reform of the Injunctive Relief (Amparo) Law
    to prevent defendants accused of serious human rights violations from
    paralyzing criminal proceedings against them.  The Guatemalan Congress
    should approve this week
    a bill before it to reform the Injunctive Relief Law, particularly as
    the bill has already been under consideration by the Congress for
    several years.
  • The publication of the military archives, including those documenting the following military operations: Campaña Sofía 82, Firmeza 83 and Operación Ixil
    The Constitutional Court has ordered that these archives be produced. 
    Furthermore, the commission for the declassification of military
    archives should release, as soon as possible, all of the secret
    military documents related to the armed conflict so as to guarantee
    access to this information and respect the right to information and
    truth.  The Human Rights Ombudsman should immediately make publically
    available the digital archives of the now defunct Presidential Guard (Estado Mayor Presidencial), which have been in its possession since 2005.

2. The International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG)

CICIG has begun to participate in key criminal cases designed to
dismantle illegal security forces and clandestine security apparatuses
in Guatemala.  Furthermore, CICIG has played an important role in
strengthening judicial institutions in Guatemala and has successfully
denounced public officials who have impeded its work.  However, CICIG
will be unable to complete its work without the support of the
Guatemalan state and necessary legal tools.  Therefore, it is necessary

  • The Public Prosecutor’s Office and the judicial system support
    the investigations and criminal prosecutions of the Special Prosecutors
    and CICIG.  The purging of ineffective or obstructionist personnel from
    the judicial system is a fundamental part of CICIG’s mandate, and one
    that should be carried out as quickly as possible and without
  • The Guatemalan Congress approve the ten legal and
    institutional reforms recommended by CICIG in order to eradicate
    clandestine apparatuses operating in Guatemala, including the creation
    of high impact courts, and a reform to the Organized Crime Law
    regarding benefits for informants.

3.  The Situation of Human Rights Defenders

According to a report presented by the Protection Unit for Human
Rights Defenders in Guatemala (UDEFEGUA), in the fist six months of
2009 there were 171 attacks against human rights defenders.  Of these,
ten were murders, 17 were attempted murders and 18 were baseless
criminal charges.  This situation represents a deterioration in the
conditions under which human rights activists work, and therefore it is
necessary that:

  • The Public Prosecutor’s Office prioritizes the
    investigation of threats and killings of human rights defenders to
    combat widespread impunity and to dissuade further acts of violence
    against them.  The Public Prosecutor’s Office should immediately,
    comprehensively and impartially investigate these crimes, as well as
    criminally prosecuting those responsible.
  • The Guatemalan President approve as soon as
    possible a Government Agreement which installs: (1) an Agency for the
    Analysis of Attacks on Human Rights Defenders (Instancia de Análisis de Ataques en contra de las y los Defensores de Derechos Humanos),
    and which further strengthens this institution once its continued
    operations is guaranteed; and (2) a Program and Policy for the
    Protection of Human Rights Defenders (la Política y el Programa de Prevención y Protección para Defensores de Derechos Humanos).
  • The Ministry of the Interior strengthen the Human Rights Unit of the Criminal Investigation Division (División de Investigación Criminal, or DINC) of the National Civilian Police.



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Human Rights First is a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in New York and Washington D.C. Human Rights First believes that building respect for human rights and the rule of law will help ensure the dignity to which every individual is entitled and will stem tyranny, extremism, intolerance, and violence.

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