COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION
OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES
PARTIES UNDER ARTICLE 9 OF THE CONVENTION
Concluding observations of the Committee on the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination
1. The Committee considered
the seventh periodic report of Guatemala (CERD/C/292/Add.1) at its
1190th and 1191st meetings (CERD/C/SR.1190 and 1191), held on 5
and 6 March 1997. At its 1210th meeting, held on 19 March 1997,
it adopted the following concluding observations.
2. The Committee welcomes
the opportunity to engage in a frank and fruitful dialogue with
the Government of Guatemala. The Committee expresses its appreciation
of the continuous dialogue with Guatemala during this time of important
changes and developments in the State party.
3. The Committee expresses
its appreciation for the important information provided in the report
and by the delegation in the oral presentation. This information,
including recent developments in the State party, enabled the Committee
to obtain a better and more up-to-date picture of the situation.
Nevertheless, the Committee regrets that the report did not contain
sufficient information on the actual practice in the State party
with respect to the implementation of the Convention and did not
take sufficient account of the concluding observations of the Committee
with respect to the previous report (A/50/18, paras. 298-319).
4. The Committee noted
that the State party has not made the declaration provided for in
article 14 of the Convention, and some of its members requested
that the possibility of making such declaration be considered.
B. Factors or difficulties impeding the implementation of the
5. It is recognized
that much needs to be done to overcome the effects of the long-lasting
conflict in the State party. Efforts towards the full enforcement
of the principles and provisions enshrined in the Convention have
been hampered by the difficult circumstances in the country after
decades of unrest and civil war. It is acknowledged that the changes
need to go beyond disarmament and that attitudes and values related
to the culture of violence have to be changed in order to achieve
peace. It is noted that the exercise of racial discrimination, especially
against indigenous populations, is still prevalent in some parts
of the society.
C. Positive aspects
6. It is noted with
satisfaction that despite severe economic and social difficulties
considerable efforts are being made to implement the provisions
of the Convention.
7. It is appreciated,
in particular, that important legal developments have been achieved
recently. A major achievement in this respect has been the Agreement
on Identity and Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Agreement for
the Resettlement of Uprooted Populations, which were signed in the
process of concluding the peace agreements. Furthermore, it is noted
with satisfaction that following the Committee's recommendation,
ILO Convention No. 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Populations
in Independent Countries was ratified by the State party in 1996.
It is also noted with appreciation that, under the Constitution
of the State party, international obligations including the International
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
prevail over national law. In addition, steps taken to revise the
Penal Code to include the prohibition of racial discrimination and
to introduce legislation on land rights and the protection of indigenous
identity are welcomed.
8. It is noted with
appreciation that the military commissions and the civil defence
volunteer committees have been dissolved.
9. It is noted with
satisfaction that various bodies are being established in order
to facilitate racial reconciliation and to promote democratic society
based on the principle of equality. It is welcomed in particular
that a Joint Commission has been established, and that it consists
of members of both the indigenous and non-indigenous populations.
The establishment of the Commission on Historic Clarification (Truth
Commission) in order to investigate killings and disappearances
during the armed conflict is also welcomed. In this context, it
is noted with appreciation that the delegation of Guatemala assured
the Committee that military files would be made available to the
Truth Commission. It is also noted with satisfaction that a secretariat
of indigenous peoples in the public prosecutor's office and a commission
on homeless children have been set up.
10. It is noted with
satisfaction that the number of complaints on the grounds of human
rights violations has decreased.
11. It is noted with
appreciation that a large number of people, mainly indigenous, who
had fled their lands and the country during the time of armed conflict
have returned to the territory of the State party and that the State
party has established a fund to assist the returnees in the process
12. The Committee welcomes
the stated intent of the delegation of the Government of Guatemala
to include a member of the indigenous population in its delegation
during the presentation of its next periodic report.
D. Principal subjects of concern
13. Concern is expressed
at the climate of violence and intimidation which still exists in
the State party and that the detrimental effects of this climate
are mostly borne by the indigenous population. This seriously jeopardizes
the conditions of security of persons as referred to in article
5 (b) of the Convention.
14. Concern is expressed
that the recommendations of the Committee concerning the implementation
of article 5 of the Convention have not yet been fulfilled by the
State party; concern is also expressed that the Committee's recommendation
that the State party provide detailed information on the implementation
of the provisions of the Convention has not been fully complied
15. Concern is expressed
at the lack of legislation aimed at eliminating racial discrimination
as required by article 2 of the Convention.
16. Concern is equally
expressed at the lack of legislation prohibiting incitement to racial
discrimination as required by article 4 of the Convention.
17. Concern is expressed
that the indigenous population does not enjoy effective protection
and remedies in the national courts from violations of human rights
and fundamental freedoms owing to the lack of interpreters and the
insufficient availability of public legal defenders.
18. Concern is expressed
that officials of the State party continue to enjoy impunity from
criminal prosecution for abusing and violating the human rights
of poor people, especially indigenous people and women. This has
led people to take the law into their own hands and has resulted
in a significant number of lynchings. This situation reflects the
despair and lack of confidence of the population in the effective
exercise of justice.
19. Concern is expressed
at the situation of land rights in the State party. Despite the
Government's efforts, the problem of allocation of land and/or compensation
continues, especially with respect to the return of lands to the
indigenous peoples after the end of the armed conflict. Of special
concern are confrontations arising over the ownership of property,
in the course of which indigenous peoples have been detained and
20. It is noted with
concern that the previous recommendation of the Committee concerning
the training of law enforcement officials in the light of the Committee's
General Recommendation XIII has not been implemented.
21. It is noted with
concern that adequate and proportionate participation of the indigenous
population in Parliament, in the public service and in public life
at the national level has not been achieved; in particular, members
of indigenous communities are under-represented among judges and
in the administration of justice.
22. Concern is expressed
that the widespread dissemination of the periodic report of the
State party, as well as the concluding observations of the Committee
in the respective languages of the population, has not been fully
23. Although efforts
have been made to promote affirmative measures in the fields of
education and training and to provide bilingual education for the
entire population, the situation is not yet satisfactory.
E. Suggestions and recommendations
24. The Committee recommends
that the State party continue and strengthen efforts to change the
climate of violence and to support rapid disarmament.
25. The Committee reiterates
its recommendation that the State party fully implement the Convention,
particularly its articles 4, 5 and 6, and provide information on
its application. It is further suggested that the State party furnish
detailed information on the effectiveness of newly adopted laws
and newly created bodies on ethnic relations. It is also requested
that the State party include in its next report information on complaints
received and judgements issued concerning racial discrimination.
26. The Committee recommends
that the State party continue the process of incorporating the prohibition
of racial discrimination in national legislation, and the adoption
of laws to implement the agreement on the identity and rights of
27. The Committee recommends
that the State party take steps to ensure the effective implementation
of new laws and provide for access to the judiciary by all members
of the population, in particular by furnishing adequate interpretation
services for indigenous people at all levels of judicial proceedings.
The Committee reiterates its previous recommendation that the training
of law enforcement officials should be improved in the light of
the Committee's General Recommendation XIII.
28. The Committee recommends
that the authorities of Guatemala take effective measures to end
the impunity of State officials who act illegally and to guarantee
the availability of remedies and due process for all members of
29. The Committee recommends
that efforts should be continued to ensure the full participation
of all citizens in public life, in particular in elections, after
having been adequately informed in the respective languages spoken
in the State party.
30. The Committee recommends
that the State party take measures to ensure a fair and equitable
distribution of land, taking into account the needs of the indigenous
population, including those persons returning to the territory after
the end of the armed conflict.
31. The Committee stresses
the importance that land holds for indigenous peoples and their
spiritual and cultural identity, including the fact that they have
a different concept of land use and ownership. It is suggested that
the State party use the provisions of ILO Convention No. 169 as
a guideline for resolving land distribution issues and to consider,
in the light of that Convention, the question of compensation for
properties that cannot be restituted.
32. The Committee suggests
that efforts be increased to promote affirmative measures in the
fields of education and training and to introduce bilingual education
for all parts of the population.
33. The Committee suggests
that the State party consider the establishment of a national commission
to undertake specific activities in response to recommendations
and suggestions made by the Committee.
34. The Committee suggests
that widespread publicity be given to the Convention, the periodic
reports submitted by the State party and the concluding observations
of the Committee, in major languages of the population.
35. The Committee recommends
that the State party ratify the amendments to article 8, paragraph
6, of the Convention adopted at the fourteenth meeting of States
36. The Committee recalls
with appreciation the State party's invitation to have one of its
members come to Guatemala to assist the State party in the implementation
of the Convention.
37. The Committee recommends
that the State party's next periodic report be a comprehensive report
and that it provide replies to the questions raised during the consideration
of the report.