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Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture, Guatemala, U.N. Doc. A/51/44, paras. 42-57 (1996).



Convention Abbreviation: CAT


Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture

B. Guatemala

42. The Committee considered the initial report of Guatemala (CAT/C/12/Add.5 and 6) at its 232nd and 233rd meetings, on 16 November 1995 (CAT/C/SR.232 and 233/Add.1 and 3), and has adopted the following conclusions and recommendations:

1. Introduction
43. The Committee thanks the Government of Guatemala for its report. It also listened with great interest to the informative oral statement made by its representatives. The Committee wishes to thank them for their replies and for the spirit of openness and cooperation in which the dialogue took place.

2. Positive aspects
44. The Committee welcomes the honesty and frankness of the report acknowledging that torture occurs in Guatemala.

45. The Committee considers that the present peace process and the Government of Guatemala's cooperation with the United Nations are signs of progress.

46. The Committee welcomes the legal changes that have been made by the State party, including the definition of torture and penalties associated with that crime which are incorporated into the penal law. The Committee is also pleased to note that the Government of Guatemala has amended the Code of Criminal Procedure to deal with human rights breaches, and that it has abolished the military commissioners.

47. The Committee also welcomes the creation of various organs to reinforce human rights, including the Procurator for Human Rights, the Presidential Coordinating Committee for Government Human Rights Policy and national human rights committees.

48. The Committee is pleased to note Guatemala's commitment to human rights education.

49. The Committee is pleased to learn that Guatemala has begun the process of making the declaration under article 22 of the Convention and that its representatives do not see any obstacle to such a declaration.

3. Factors and difficulties impeding the application
of the Convention

50. The Committee acknowledges that Guatemala is in a difficult situation since the civil democratic Government is obstructed in its action by a deeply entrenched army and police culture.

51. The Committee also takes note of the wide disparity in the distribution of the economic wealth in the country creating conditions that may tend towards confrontation between the law enforcement organs and those parts of the population which are at the lowest end of the economic and social scale. In this respect, the Committee wishes to underline that the individual recourse procedure provided for under article 22 of the Convention would constitute a useful preventive measure once it has been accepted by the Government.

52. The Committee considers that the right of the citizens to carry fire-arms, which is enshrined in the Constitution, may be regarded as a potential obstacle to a full implementation of the Convention.

4. Subjects of concern
53. The Committee notes with deep concern that torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment appear to be endemic in Guatemala, and to include many children among its victims.

54. The Committee is equally concerned at the State's continued failure promptly and impartially to investigate and prosecute those responsible for an act of torture and ill-treatment.

55. The de facto impunity for perpetrators of torture resulting from the above-mentioned facts and the weakness shown by the judicial, administrative and police authorities in enforcing the law is likewise a matter of deep concern to the Committee.

56. The Committee is also concerned at the fact that paramilitary groups and private defence patrols still exist and operate in Guatemala.

5. Recommendations
57. The Committee recommends that the Government of Guatemala take the following measures:

(a) Strengthening, in a more significant manner, the activities of the Procuracy of Human Rights;

(b) Organizing intensive programmes of technical training for the police, prosecutors and judges;

(c) Providing means and material resources that are necessary for public law enforcement officials to fulfil their mandates;

(d) Adopting measures providing for an effective coordination between the police and the prosecutors;

(e) Protecting witnesses, judges and prosecutors from threats and intimidations;

(f) Imposing severe sanctions for those public officials who do not comply with their duty of applying the law;

(g) Completely abolishing the so-called Voluntary Committees of Civic Defence;

(h) Changing the legal provisions concerning the military jurisdiction, in order to limit the jurisdiction of military judges exclusively to military crimes;

(i) Reducing the authorization to carry fire-arms to the minimum strictly indispensable.

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