University of Minnesota

Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Guatemala, Inter-Am. C.H.R.,
Doc. 21 rev. (2001).





1. Over one million Guatemalans were displaced or driven from their country during the years of the conflict.[1] Many were members of indigenous communities driven from their traditional areas, but many ladino peasant families fled as well. Hundreds of thousands left their places of origin for other areas in Guatemala. Of these, some 40,000 thousand fled into the Guatemalan jungle in the Department of El Quiché, where core groups of some 23,000 eventually concentrated in the areas of the Sierrra Ixil and the Ixcán, and emerged as the “communities of population in resistance.”[2] Approximately 150,000 Guatemalans fled to Mexico, where some 45,000 were accorded status as refugees by the UNHCR. Another 50,000 or so lived in the states of Chiapas, Campeche and Quintana Roo without formal recognition, and the remainder in different areas of Mexico. Much smaller numbers fled to other countries.

2. The Commission, for its part, has given close attention to the plight of the population uprooted by the conflict since the early 1980’s.[3] It was at that time that the “scorched earth” strategy of massacres and the eradication of whole villages implemented by the Lucas García regime and continued by the Efraín Rios Montt regime led to massive flows of displaced persons. The separation of families, communities and cultural groups tore the social fabric of the country. As the Commission for Historical Clarification concluded:

The forced displacement of civilians in Guatemala stands out in the history of the armed confrontation because of its massive nature and its destructive force. It embodies the rupture of social fabric in its most direct and heart-rending form. Families and communities were fractured and cohesive social ties weakened.[4]

The process of reintegration likewise affects society as a whole, and provides an important point of evaluation for progress toward national reconciliation.

3. For the refugees and the internally displaced who have returned to their land, or who have voluntarily resettled, the end of the conflict marked a crucial transition toward a future in Guatemala with dignity and the potential for development. Those who fled the massive and gross human rights violations of the conflict are unequivocal in the value they attribute to the fact that their children no longer have to live in terror, or face the onset of night fleeing in the mountains.[5] The advances they have realized, with the support of the State and the assistance of the international community, most especially the UNHCR, are, however, accompanied by tremendous challenges. The broadest challenge is that of reintegrating the social fabric torn by displacement. This process is, in turn, impeded by systemic problems with access to land and security of tenure, the lack of an integral and sustainable rural development policy, the scarcity of resources, and insufficient access to basic services such as health care and education.

4. The Agreement on Resettlement of the Population Groups Uprooted by the Armed Conflict (“Resettlement Agreement”) provides the framework for the return and reintegration of refugees, internally displaced persons and popular resistance groups to their places of origin or other locations of their choice in Guatemala. It recognizes “the national, traumatic dimensions of the uprooting that occurred during the armed conflict … which caused violations of human rights and great suffering in the communities which were forced to abandon their homes and ways of life, and in the populations that remained in those areas.” It further recognizes that, as a result, this population deserves “special attention.” This Agreement was concluded following extensive negotiations between the State and diverse sectors of civil society, most especially the Permanent Commissions of Representatives of Guatemalan Refugees in Mexico. It was as a result of such negotiations that the Guatemalan Government and the Permanent Commissions concluded the 1992 agreement setting forth fundamental conditions and guarantees for organized collective return.

A. The Legal Framework

1. National Law

5. In looking at the rights of displaced persons, it must first be recalled that they are entitled, under conditions of equality, to enjoy the same range of rights and freedoms as all other persons. For the internally displaced and returnees, this refers to their rights as inhabitants and citizens of Guatemala. For refugees outside Guatemala, this refers to their rights as inhabitants of the country of asylum, as well as to return to Guatemala.

6. The general right to freedom of movement and residence is guaranteed in Article 26 of the Constitution. Pursuant to its terms, every person has the right to enter, remain in, pass through and leave national territory, as well as change domicile or residence, subject only to the limitations established by law. No Guatemalan may be expatriated, or prohibited from entering the country, or denied a passport or other identification documents. Further, Guatemalans may enter and leave national territory without the need for a visa.

7. As noted, the Resettlement Agreement provides the framework of commitments that apply to return and resettlement. It applies to all persons uprooted in connection with the conflict, including refugees, returnees, internally displaced persons and popular resistance groups. The objectives of the comprehensive resettlement strategy include, first, ensuring that the uprooted groups fully enjoy all their fundamental rights, particularly those affected during the uprooting process. Second, these groups, which were socially, economically and politically marginalised, are to be reincorporated under conditions that will enable them to play a dynamic role in the development of the country. Third, priority is to be given to the fight against poverty and extreme poverty, recognized to have a particularly serious affect on these groups. Fourth, the Agreement calls for the strengthening the democratization of State structures to ensure that the rights and duties of these groups are from the local to the national level of government. Fifth, the Agreement provides for the promotion of genuine reconciliation and a “culture of peace, based on participation, mutual tolerance, reciprocal respect and commonality of interests.”

8. Under the terms of the Resettlement Agreement, the parties committed themselves, inter alia, to pay special attention to the rights of those uprooted, with special emphasis on the protection of female-headed families and widows and orphans, and the protection of indigenous culture, customs and social organization. The parties agreed to cooperate in demining activities, and defined urgent measures required to resolve the problem of lack of personal documentation. Further, the State committed itself to strengthen its policy for protecting citizens abroad and to ensure voluntary resettlement under conditions of security and dignity. With respect to education, the State committed itself to recognize the educational levels of those affected by a process of rapid evaluation and/or certification, and the parties requested that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization develop a plan to support continuity in education. With respect to land tenure, the Agreement acknowledges the generalized problem of legal uncertainty, and the State committed itself to ensuring that abandonment of land due to the armed conflict is not treated as voluntary abandonment, and to “promote the return of land to the original holders and/or [to] seek adequate compensatory solutions.” With respect to political rights, the Agreement required that the organizational structure of uprooted populations be respected.

9. The productive integration of the uprooted population into national development is the other major focus of the Agreement. The Agreement recognizes the need for sustainable agricultural development projects in the primarily rural resettlement areas, and the State committed itself to identifying land for resettlement and offering options for its purchase. The Agreement prioritizes food security and access to basic services such as housing, sanitation, drinking water, health and education; enhancing productivity and promoting local markets; the generation of jobs and income; and the sustainable management of resources. These objectives must be pursued by, inter alia, the promotion of local participation in decision making, the legalization of land titles and water rights, enhanced access to credit assistance services, and training programs. The State committed itself to eliminate de facto discrimination against women in access to land, housing, credits and participation in development projects, and to ensure a gender-based approach in all aspects of development policy. Further, the State committed itself to strengthening local institutions and expanding efforts to decentralize government. Finally, the Agreement called for the mobilization of national resources, and recognized the need for strong international support in its implementation.

10. In accordance with the terms of the Agreement, a Technical Committee charged with implementation of the Agreement was established in 1994, comprised of two representatives of the Government, two of the uprooted population, and 2 representatives with consultative status from the donors and cooperating entities. Further, the organizations of displaced persons themselves constituted the Consultative Assembly of Displaced Populations in 1996.

2. International Law

11. Those uprooted by war are entitled, as noted above, to full respect for their rights under domestic and international law. With respect to freedom of residence and movement, Article 22 of the American Convention provides, in pertinent part, for the exercise of these freedoms within a country subject to the provisions of law. Every person has the right to leave any country, and the exercise of this right and the foregoing right may only be limited by law for specific reasons of public interest. Article 22(5) expressly provides that “[n]o one may be expelled from the territory of the state of which he is a national or be deprived of the right to enter it.” It may further be noted that Article 20 protects the right to nationality, and in pertinent part provides that “[n]o one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality or of the right to change it.”

12. The other international instruments, such as the ICCPR and those listed in previous chapters to which Guatemala is a Party, apply fully to the internally displaced and returnees. The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (“Guiding Principles”), prepared by the Representative of the UN Secretary General on Internally Displaced Persons, Francis Deng, serve as the most comprehensive statement of the norms applicable to the internally displaced. As the Commission indicated in its Third Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Colombia, these principles provide authoritative guidance on how the law should be interpreted and applied during all the stages of displacement, including, most relevantly for the present analysis, principles 28 through 30, which relate to return, resettlement and reintegration. Principle 29 provides that the competent authorities are responsible for establishing the conditions and providing the means for safe and dignified voluntary return to their homes or places of origin, or to resettle voluntarily in another area of the country. The authorities should endeavor to facilitate their reintegration, and to ensure their participation in the process of return and reintegration. Pursuant to principle 29, those who have returned or resettled shall not be subject to discrimination, and shall have the right to participate fully in public affairs and to have access to public services. The authorities have the duty to assist such persons in recovering goods or property lost through displacement, or where that is not possible, to assist in obtaining compensation or reparation. Principle 30 requires the authorities to facilitate the access of international humanitarian organizations and other such actors to the affected persons to assist in their return and reintegration.

B. Analysis of Selected Advances Realized and Pending Challenges for the
Protection of the Rights of those Uprooted by the Conflict

13. The process of return, resettlement and reintegration is characterized by the significance of the advances achieved and the profundity of many of the pending challenges. There have been many positive developments in the situation of persons displaced by the conflict. In general terms, as reported by the Office of the Defender for the Uprooted and Migrants of the Ombudsman for Human Rights, refugees identified the following as the most critical advances: their collective participation and organization; their return to their country; the opportunity to recuperate their culture and family life; and, in some cases, the opportunity to own a small parcel of land.[6]

14. More specifically, from 1984, when the first individual returns took place, to mid-1999, when the process of organized returns was concluded, a total of 43,663 refugees returned to Guatemala under the auspices and with the assistance of the UNHCR. Of these, approximately 30,000 returned to Guatemala following the signing of the Resettlement Agreement in 1994.[7] As a result of cooperation between the Guatemalan and Mexican Governments, and the generosity of the Mexican State, refugees who remained in Mexico at the close of 1998 had the option to chose repatriation to Guatemala or integration into local communities in Mexico.[8] The approximately 22,000 who have stayed in Mexico thus chose to remain there. The Consultative Assembly of Uprooted Populations reported that, as of mid-1999, over 7000 members of the Communities of Population in Resistance from the Sierra and the Petén had been resettled.[9]

15. The UNHCR has played an indispensable role in facilitating these positive developments and in providing assistance in the repatriation process, through grants and distribution of basic living materials, as well as reintegration initiatives, through assistance with the process of obtaining personal documentation, training, distribution of educational materials and other community-based projects.[10] The role of international donor organizations has likewise been of great importance in the process of reintegration.

16. The sections that follow assess the progress achieved and challenges that remain in several interrelated priority areas: reintegration, land, development, and access to basic services. Overall, the State has implemented key aspects of the Resettlement Agreement, but critical aspects of compliance remain pending. One of the broad complaints is that the State is not complying with its obligation to recognize the nature of the uprooted population as exceptional, and is instead treating the commitments of the Resettlement Agreement as part of its more general commitment toward the population living in poverty.[11] Also in broad terms, while refugees and the CPR’s have been resettled, reports indicate that a substantial part of the internally displaced have yet to receive the attention they require.[12] One of the obstacles in this regard is that many of the displaced are not recognized as such; they remain dispersed and living in conditions of poverty and marginalization. For those who are recognized, the cessation of operations of the National Commission for Attention to Repatriates, Refugees and the Displaced, and the pending withdrawal of the UNHCR from reintegration efforts (in mid-2001)[13] gives rise to uncertainty in terms of sources of support.

17. During its on site visit, the Commission traveled to Nebaj and met with hundreds of members of the local population, including many who had been uprooted by the conflict. Some had walked for hours to express their profound disappointment with the lack of improvement in their conditions of life following the signing of the peace. They highlighted, in particular, their concern that their children lack access to adequate education and health care, and that their communities lack development assistance and productive investment.

1. Reintegration

18. The principal challenge for many communities is reintegrating those who have returned or resettled into local life, and establishing a viable situation of coexistence. The disintegration of community life, manifested in the phenomenon of internal displacement, was pursued by the State as part of its counterinsurgency policy during the early 1980’s and beyond. As the Commission for Historical Clarification confirmed:

the stigmatisation by the State of the displaced population [during the conflict], in many cases, fomented and perpetrated divisions in their communities. In accusing the displaced people of being guerillas or in spreading the message that they were responsible for the confrontation, their return to their places of origin was hindered and they were marginalised by those who had remained in these communities.[14]

19. The deeply-rooted fear and mistrust sown by this policy will not be easily overcome. The communities affected by displacement, including both those who fled and those who remained, had been targeted for military control and repression, including through the commission of massacres and other atrocities. Survivors watched as family members and neighbors were sacrificed to the violence of the scorched earth policy. Those who fled were subject to military persecution, deprivation of basic needs, and the loss of their homes and communal life. The CPR’s, in particular, were subject to harsh military persecution, exposure to the elements, malnutrition, and the deaths of the vulnerable among them unable to withstand the conditions.[15]

20. The objective of the Army was to assert military control over those who remained in the communities as well as over those who fled to other areas. For those who stayed, service in the PAC’s was first a legal, and then a de facto requirement. Service was forced on some; others took advantage of the link with military power to persecute their fellow citizens. The Army offered amnesties to those who fled, and settled those who accepted in highly militarized communities (model villages or development centers) where they were subjected to military control and “re-education.”[16] The process of return and reintegration brings these people, formed as a result of their distinct experiences, back together.

21. As noted above, one of the principles of the Agreement is that the resettlement strategy will promote the reconciliation of the interests of those resettled and those already living in the resettled areas. In fact, many communities have dealt very successfully with return and resettlement. For many people, this involved the reintegration of close-knit family groups and communities, with great fulfillment for all concerned.

22. However, in other cases, return and resettlement has generated serious social conflict. Many of the difficulties in this regard are caused or exacerbated by conflicts over land -- between those who have returned or been resettled, and those who stayed, or who arrived or were settled there under the auspices of the State during the conflict. This Commission, for example, has been tracking the situation in Los Cimientos, in Chajul, El Quiché, in relation to its processing of case 11.197. The case was brought on behalf of the segment of the population forcibly displaced by the Army in 1981 that returned and has been unable to vindicate its claim to the land that was taken from it. As is widely recognized, the inability to clearly define the property claims within the community is both a cause and a consequence of the conflictive situation in the area. The scarcity of opportunities, resources and services, and the resulting harsh conditions of life in many resettlement areas further complicate efforts at reintegration. These interrelated issues will be dealt with further below.

2. Land Tenure

23. Access to land and security of land tenure continue to be priority challenges in the process of reintegration. The refugees whose return was organized settled in 50 locations, 32 of which were large farms purchased with State funds.[17] The program for buying farms for the resettlement of the CPR’s was completed with the purchase of approximately half a dozen farms.[18] These groups have access to land, which provides an indispensable first step in their quest to reestablish themselves. In other positive developments, the State has built approximately 1500 homes, legalized over 150 urban plots, and recently delivered 955 property titles to the population settled in the Franja Transversal del Norte.[19] A further advance is the juridical recognition of the right of uprooted women to own land, or to be co-owners with their husbands reflected in the Law of the Land Fund. These advances must be duly recognized and valued.

24. At the same time, many of those with land continue to face challenges concerning the sufficiency of the size and productivity of the land, as well as access to basic services. The situation of the community Unión 31 de Mayo El Tesoro, one of the five resettlement communities of the CPR’s of the Sierra is referred to in section 4, below.

25. Moreover, the situation with respect to other internally displaced persons is much more difficult. The State promised to purchase 23 farms for resettlement during 1999, but only purchased four. In its most recent report, MINUGUA expressed serious concern that the Land Fund had still not been allocated the funds necessary to purchase the remaining 19. The purchase of land in other areas remains pending, as does the resolution of an unquantified number of legal disputes over land,[20] as well as initiatives to compensate for land taken during the conflict.[21] In a significant number of instances this is because the responsible State entities have not been allocated the necessary funding.[22] In its observations to the draft report, the State indicated that “the delay in the purchasing of farms for the uprooted population has been influenced by various factors, many of which are beyond the power of the State to resolve. It mentioned, for example, the lack of probative documentation concerning land to be brought/sold, families who squatted on land to be bought/sold and who now refuse to leave, prices in excess of market value, the existence of outstanding mortgages, and disagreements among members of leadership groups about the transfer of some families.

26. The uprooted population itself has emphasized, among other things, the problem of the illegal occupation of land, in particular by families settled in model villages during the conflict, the deficiencies of the title registry system, the lack or insufficiency of funds to buy land, the insufficient productivity of the land, and unresolved claims for assistance.[23] The Defender for the Uprooted Population and Migrants of the Ombudsman for Human Rights has indicated that the lack of legalized land title is one of the gravest problems affecting this population, pointing out that without legal title, it is impossible to obtain loans for development projects.[24] The Defender also points out the situation of some farms in the Southern Coast purchased by the National Land Fund and titled to the National Institute for Agrarian Transformation – both of which no longer exist – and further notes problems with boundary demarcation, multiple titles and settlers.[25] Other related issues concern problems caused by land speculation, insufficient access to credit and debt.[26] Women, in particular, remain hindered in their ability to own and administer land by de facto barriers within their communities, particularly with respect to access to credit.

3. Development

27. MINUGUA has reported a number of advances in the area of development, for example, basic infrastructure projects, and the execution of feasibility studies for production projects through the Land Trust Fund of the Technical Commission for the Implementation of the Resettlement Agreement.[27] Further, the international community, and particularly the UNHCR, has played an important role in local productive development, although the efforts of these diverse groups have lacked central direction or coordination. A number of the State’s development initiatives remain in a nascent stage of design or implementation. For example, a trust fund to be held by the Consultative Assembly of the Uprooted Population and the Ministry of Agriculture is still being negotiated.[28] Further, the project titled “Productive Agro-Forest Development” aims to assist in this area, but its scope does not meet the demand.[29]

28. As prioritized by the Commission of Accompaniment, and as MINUGUA has consistently emphasized, there is an urgent need to develop and implement a long-term integral rural development policy in order to ensure the reinsertion of the uprooted population in conditions of dignity.[30] One recent press report characterized the post-conflict era as marked by a climate of violence and “an environment that appears to say no to development.”[31] The lack of productive investment in many of the resettled communities is threatening the principle of return with dignity, and has begun driving some of those resettled to look for other opportunities.[32] In some cases, individuals are forced to find work in Guatemala City or the southern coast to support their families in the resettlement community. In other cases, family members work in Mexico and send remittances for this purpose. A small number of the refugees who returned to Guatemala from Mexico pursuant to the signing of the peace have found conditions so inhospitable that they have opted to go back to Mexico. For example, in September of 2000, 220 families were permitted to return by the Mexican authorities. The former cited a lack of land and Government support, and indicated that the farm where they had been settled in Huehuetenango had not provided for their subsistence.[33]

29. The affected population has indicated the need that development projects be more closely linked to the specific needs of the community.[34] The UNHCR has highlighted the need for longer-term support for agricultural projects, as well as the promotion of other types of employment opportunities in areas where agricultural production is limited.[35] Further in this regard, the Commission received information during its visit about the need to enhance salaries.

30. Importantly, the affected population reports that, while the Resettlement Agreement requires that they be full participants in development plans at the local, municipal and regional levels, their proposals are not being taken into account and there are no specific mechanisms to ensure that this is done. With respect to the issue of women’s participation in decision-making, reports indicate that the male leadership of most local organizations considers that organizing by women is an independent effort that doesn’t merit incorporation into the larger sphere of decision-making.[36] Further, women report that they continue to face de facto barriers in joining local cooperatives and associations.[37] Further, while there have been a few development projects targeted toward women, and these represent an important initiative, they have reached only a small fraction of those concerned, and need to be integrated into a larger policy.

4. Access to Basic Services

31. For many of those who have returned and resettled, access to a small plot of land to plant crops and build a home represents an indispensable step forward in recuperating what was lost during the conflict. Further, with strong assistance from the international community, the State has effectuated some positive measures to extend access to basic services in the rural areas inhabited by this population. Along with the initiatives of the land and social funds of the State, the UNHCR has provided important support through its Quick Impact Projects, which deal with such basics as water, education, health and income generation.[38] For example, a community such as Victoria 20 de Enero in Ixcán, that has benefited from a combination of State, UNHCR, and nongovernmental programs, has potable water, latrines, basic primary education, a health post, a community room, and a sports field.[39]

32. However, many communities do not have full access to such basic services as education and health care, or to basic infrastructure such as access roads, potable water, electricity or housing assistance. The Assembly of Civil Society has expressed great concern that the State has failed to ensure resettlement in conditions of dignity with sufficient access to basic services.[40] Many continue to face hunger, disease and desperation. While the Agreement on Resettlement gives special priority to the needs of female-headed households, widows and orphans, due to the special losses they sustained by reason of the conflict and consequent uprooting, these groups continue to be especially disadvantaged in terms of their conditions of life.[41] It must also be noted that the internally displaced who have not been incorporated in formal resettlement efforts, and who are dispersed in conditions of poverty and marginalization, are among the least recognized and most vulnerable members of this population.

33. A recent newspaper report on the second anniversary of the resettlement of the community of Unión 31 de Mayo El Tesoro, in Uspantán, Quiché, highlighted the precarious conditions of life there.[42] Accessible by helicopter, because there is no access road, the nearest village is a nine-hour walk. The first impression described was of a community forgotten by development and modernity. Along with its own efforts to advance, the community was requesting State assistance with basic services of health, education and development, as well as reparations for the property they were deprived of during the conflict. In its response to the draft report, the State recognized as accurate the situation described in this community. It emphasized, however, that this is the result of a variety of factors, including the fact that it is located in what was a zone of conflict during the war, that it was created only two years ago and is now inhabited by 450 families, and that it is a very isolated and sparsely populated region. It is “precisely this situation, combined with having been a conflict area, that has not permitted a greater presence of state development entities until very recently.”

34. Education is an issue of great importance for the uprooted population. While refugees and the internally displaced adopted innovative strategies to continue with education within the limits of their situations, a 1998 study indicated that 50% of returnees were illiterate.[43] In terms of positive action, the Ministry of Education has provided a subsidy to amplify educational coverage in uprooted communities, distributed school materials and textbooks in communities with the greatest need, and developed a Specific Plan of Education for the Uprooted Population. In terms of pending challenges, this Plan has reportedly not been financed in many of its important aspects.[44] Further, infrastructure issues remain pending, such as the need for additional schools and the upgrading of existing facilities to ensure students and teachers an adequate environment for learning and safety.[45] Teacher training is another ongoing challenge. Bilingual education initiatives for indigenous communities offer important promise, but are extremely limited in coverage and require a great deal more support.

35. Most critically, some rural areas remain geographically excluded from the coverage of existing educational services. When the Commission was in Nebaj during its on-site visit, a resident of a small village explained that his child and others did not have access to primary education because the nearest school was hours away on foot. Additionally, as is discussed further in chapter XII, concerning the rights of the child, many children are excluded from educational opportunities by conditions of poverty and the demands of work. Only 55% of Guatemalan children attend primary school nationwide, and the levels of exclusion are greatest in the rural areas inhabited by those uprooted during the conflict.[46] In relation to the situation of communities in the Ixil area (Nebaj-Cotzal-Chajul), in its response to the draft report the State reported that FONAPAZ and various international cooperation institutions had made it possible to provide many schools, piped drinking water, and sewage systems. Further, it indicated that “it is expected that the building of the highway linking the Ixil municipalities with the Ixcán region – a project for which the Presidency has already set aside funds and which is to be completed within two years – will accentuate the benefits for this area.”

36. Health care is another priority area for the uprooted population, and a number of communities now have a clinic, health post or a team of trained health promoters. A series of additional projects was recently announced, the execution of which would extend coverage to additional communities.[47] Further, a recent report pointed out the improvement of health services for several thousand people in Sayaché and the south of La Libertad, Petén, where primary care was now available, and steps were being taken to fortify secondary care.[48] However, reports as of late 1999 indicated that many resettled communities didn’t have a clinic or health post, and that the health promoters or midwives providing services lacked the necessary medicines or other resources to provide even minimum care. Those in the more isolated outlying villages generally have the least access to such services. The statistics on adult and child mortality discussed in chapters III and XIII of this report, respectively, provide a fuller picture on the urgent need for further improvement in this area.

37. With respect to housing assistance, following the deactivation of the Guatemalan Fund for Housing between January and May of the present year, the Ministry of Communications, Transport, Public Works and Housing announced the allocation of 200 million quetzales for housing solutions for the uprooted population.[49] The execution of this funding would provide an important impetus for progress in this area, where much work remains to be done. MINUGUA has highlighted the need for an integrated housing plan to prioritize attention to those with the least income.[50] The creation of durable solutions for housing for those uprooted during the conflict remains a priority challenge.

38. Many communities continue to lack electricity, potable water and access roads.[51] As the figures provided in chapter II, supra, demonstrate, the levels of exclusion from such services are generally highest in rural areas and predominantly indigenous communities. Access to such services is clearly a critical factor for fomenting local development. In an issue related to basic safety, the Defender of the Uprooted Population and Migrants of the Ombudsman for Human Rights expressed special concern that, notwithstanding the positive demining efforts of the OAS, the Congress, the Volunteer Firefighters and the Army, there are still mines in some resettlement areas, which have claimed victims.[52]

39. For many, the lack of personal identification documentation continues to constitute a serious obstacle to the exercise of basic rights, including access to State services. On the positive side, pursuant to the Special Temporary Law on Personal Documentation, which remains in effect until October 15, 2000, and the National Plan for Personal Documentation, almost all returned refugees and demobilized members of the URNG now have personal identification. This amounts to almost 50,000 people,[53] and represents a substantial advance. This problem, however, is national in scope, and thousands and thousands of internally displaced persons still lack personal documents, and are accordingly unable to effectuate basic transactions, exercise their franchise to vote, gain access to a range of basic services, or obtain identification documents for their children. Further, notwithstanding the issuance of a manual on the application of the special law and some training activities of the UNHCR, some Civil Registries refuse to apply it. The State has demonstrated a very positive effort to date, which demonstrates that the problem may be resolved through the extension of the special measures in place and additional efforts to reach and serve those who remain undocumented.

Conclusions and Recommendations

40. The process of reintegration underway with respect to the population uprooted during the conflict embodies some of the greatest advances realized pursuant to the signing of the peace, as well as some of the greatest pending challenges. As the Agreement on Resettlement recognizes, this population suffered greatly as a result of the causes and consequences of their uprooting, and merit special attention to restore respect for their rights.

41. The consistent evaluation of the national and international communities is that the Resettlement Agreement has been partially complied with, and that much remains to be done to respond to the fundamental rights and needs of this population. Some of the outstanding commitments are resource-based, requiring an additional investment of capital and technical support. This is particularly the case with respect to completing the purchase of farms for the internally displaced, the financing of development projects and related technical assistance, and the execution of additional projects to provide access to basic services. Others are systemic, requiring the exercise of political will and action to overcome longstanding deficiencies such as the absence of systems to accurately register and confirm land title, to effectively resolve land disputes, and to design and implement comprehensive policies to overcome extreme poverty through sustainable, integral, participatory development.

42. On the basis of the foregoing analysis and conclusions, the Commission offers the following recommendations designed to aid in this process; namely, that the State:

1. Allocate to the public institutions assigned to implement aspects of the Resettlement Agreement the human and material resources necessary for the effective discharge of their mandates, and, in particular, that it strengthen the Technical Committee created to coordinate and facilitate the terms of the Agreement.

2. Take the budgetary, administrative and other steps necessary to complete the process to purchase land for the uprooted population.

3. Adopt further measures, including the allocation of the necessary human and material support, to facilitate the legalization of land titles and resolution of ongoing legal disputes over the ownership of land.

4. Take additional measures – in accordance with the commitment of the Resettlement Agreement to give priority attention to female-headed households, and the terms of the Law of the Social Fund -- to support the right of women to own land, and to co-own land with their husbands or partners, including through measures to train officials working in this sphere, and to promote knowledge of and respect for this right among local populations. In order for this right to be exercised effectively, the State should strengthen efforts to provide women with access to credit and development projects.

5. Develop a comprehensive, long-term, integral sustainable development policy within which the specific needs of different communities can be addressed, and amplify the integration, coverage and depth of development projects and programs, with additional attention to advisory services and technical training. This should also include encouraging non-agricultural employment alternatives in areas of low agricultural productivity.

6. In connection with the proceeding recommendation, adopt the concrete measures and procedures to implement the commitment of the Agreement on Resettlement that population groups uprooted in connection with the conflict shall participate in decision-making in the design, implementation and oversight of the policies and projects that affect them, at the local, regional and national levels. In this regard, effective participation necessarily requires the dissemination of adequate information to be used in the taking of decisions.

7. Devote special attention to amplifying the coverage and enriching the content of education and health services for this population, continuing to prioritize the need for primary education and health care, and the need for bilingual education in indigenous communities.

8. Provide additional resources for the creation of basic infrastructure so that all communities have access, at a minimum, to potable water and sanitary facilities sufficient for the protection of health, and for advancing the provision of housing assistance, as well as the installation of access roads, electricity and communications infrastructure.

9. Take the legislative and other steps necessary to prolong the application of the Special Temporary Law on Personal Documentation, and intensify efforts under the National Plan for Personal Documentation to ensure that all members of the population uprooted by the conflict can obtain identity documents.

10. Continue the collaboration of the Congress, OAS, and Volunteer Firefighters to ensure the completion of demining efforts.



Notes Ch. XIV______________________________

[1] See MINUGUA, Fourth Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Guatemala (“Fourth Report”), OEA/Ser.L/V/II.83, doc. 16 rev. 1, 1993, at ch. VII. The Commission for Historical Clarification estimated the displacement of between 500,000 and 1,500,000 between 1981 and 1983. Commission for Historical Clarification, Guatemala: Memory of Silence Tz’inil na’tab’al, at “Conclusions and Recommendations,” para. 66.

[2] IACHR, Special Report on the Human Rights Situation in the So-Called “Communities of Peoples in Resistance” in Guatemala, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.86, Doc. 5 rev. 1, June 16, 1994, at sec. II.

[3] See Special Report on the Human Rights Situation in the So-Called “Communities of Peoples in Resistance” in Guatemala, supra; see also, Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Guatemala, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.61, doc. 47, 1983, Third Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Guatemala, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.66, doc. 16, 1985, Fourth Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Guatemala, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.83, doc. 16 rev. 1, 1993, and the update reports in the Annual Reports of the IACHR for 1983 through 1997: OEA/Ser.L/V/II/63, doc. 10, 1984; OEA/Ser.L/V/II/66, doc. 10 rev. 1, 1985; OEA/Ser.L/V/II/68, doc. 8 rev. 1, 1986; OEA/Ser.L/V/II/71, doc. 9 rev. 1, 1987; OEA/Ser.L/V/II/74, doc. 10 rev. 1, 1988; OEA/Ser.L/V/II/76, doc. 10 rev. 1, 1989; OEA/Ser.L/V/II/77, doc. 7 rev. 1, 1990 OEA/Ser.L/V/II/79, doc. 12 rev. 1, 1991; OEA/Ser.L/V/II/81, doc. 6 rev. 1, 1992; OEA/Ser.L/V/II/85, doc. 9 rev., 1994; OEA/Ser.L/V/II/88, doc. 9 rev., 1995; OEA/Ser.L/V/II/95, doc. 7 rev., 1997; OEA/Ser.L/V/II/98, doc. 6 rev., 1998.

[4] Commission for Historical Clarification, supra, para. 65.

[5] Ricardo Miranda Castillo, “Resistencia,” Revista Domingo, La Prensa, 28 May 2000 (quoting a former member of the Communities of Population in Resistance whose neighbors had been massacred, and home burned to the ground in 1980).

[6] Ombudsman for Human Rights, Informe Circunstanciado, pp. 178-79.

[7] MINUGUA, Fourth Report, para. 8. It should be noted that, for refugees not included in the process of organized returns, repatriations continue on an individual basis, but with less favorable conditions of assistance.

[8] UNHCR Global Report 1999, section on “Guatemala/Mexico.” In 1999, 1,544 Guatemalan refugees in Campeche and Quintana Roo were given Mexican citizenship. 4,877 refugees had their migration documents renewed in Chiapas. All seven refugee settlements in Campeche and Quintana Roo were recognized as Mexican villages, elections were held for municipal authorities, and measures were taken to expand access to Mexican credit institutions. In Chiapas, State authorities took responsibility for basic health and educational services in refugee settlements, and refugees were given the ability to buy plots of land as a result of the decision to allow them to settle permanently. Id.

[9] “Declaración Pública de la Asamblea de las Poblaciones Desarraigadas con motivo del 5º Aniversario del Acuerdo de Reasentamiento,” 17 June 1999.

[10] See e.g., UNHCR 1999 Mid-Year Progress Report, at section on “Guatemala and Mexico;” UNHCR Mid-Year Report 2000, section on “Central America.”

[11] Asamblea de la Sociedad Civil, “Balance del Cumplimiento de los Acuerdos de Paz 1997-1999.

[12] Ombudsman for Human Rights, supra, p. 179.

[13] UNHCR Global Report 1999, at section on “overall assessment.”

[14] Commission for Historical Clarification, supra, para 69.

[15] IACHR Special Report on the Human Rights Situation in the So-Called “Communities of Peoples in Resistance” in Guatemala, supra; Commission for Historical Clarification, para. 67.

[16] Commission for Historical Clarification, para. 68.

[17] See MINUGUA, Tenth Report on Human Rights of the United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala (“Tenth Report”) A/54/688, 21 Dec. 1999, para. 9.

[18] See generally, id., Eleventh Report on Human Rights of the United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala (“Eleventh Report”), A/55/175, 26 July, 2000, para. 25.

[19] “Id.

[20] See generally MINUGUA Tenth Report, para. 9.

[21] See MINUGUA, Fourth Report -- Suplemento: Observaciones y Recomendaciones relativas a la Agenda de Paz pendiente, Nov. 1999, at para. 8

[22] See MINUGUA, Eleventh Report, para. 26.

[23] Presentation of the Movimiento de Desarraigados Organizados para el Desarrollo en el Norte del Quiché before the IACHR, August, 1998.

[24] See Ombudsman for Human Rights, supra, p. 180.

[25] See id.

[26] See MINUGUA, Fourth Report – Suplemento, para. 7.

[27]See id., para. 11.

[28] See id.

[29] See MINUGUA, Eleventh Report, para. 27.

[30] See id., para. 23.

[31] “Reportaje sobre situación en Ixcán,” Revista Domingo, Prensa Libre, 9 July 2000.

[32] See “Declaración Pública de la Asamblea de las Poblaciones Desarraigadas,” supra; Reuters, “Guatemala war refugees have second thoughts,” 6 Sept. 2000 (citing unconfirmed reports that some 500 Guatemalans had returned to Mexico since 1999 due to unmet expectations).

[33] See Claudia Vásquez, “Ex refugiados regularizan su status migratorio,” Prensa Libre, 19 Sept. 2000.

[34] See Presentation of the Movimiento de Desarraigados Organizados para el Desarrollo en el Norte del Quiché, supra.

[35] UNHCR Global Report 1999, “overall assessment.”

[36] Ombudsman for Human Rights, supra, 180-81.

[37] See Yolanda Montejo, “Mama Maquín en la lucha por el derecho de la mujer a la propiedad y copropiedad de la Tierra y la participación en la organización de la comunidad,” (ponencia), Foro “Lecciones Aprendidas en el Trabajo con Mujeres Guatemaltecas Refugiadas y/o Retornadas,” 9 Oct. 1998, p. 9.

[38] UNHCR, Guia Informativa, Briefing Note, 10 Aug. 1998. It is important to note that these programs are developed at the grass-roots level, with the full involvement of the beneficiaries, and include training for the beneficiaries.

[39] Id.

[40] See Asamblea de la Sociedad Civil, “Balance del Cumplimiento de los Acuerdos de Paz 1997-1999.

[41] See UNHCR Global Report 1999 (identifying attention to the needs of children and adolescents as a priority pending issue).

[42] See “A dos años de reasentamiento, comunidad de Quiché vive en condiciones precarias,” Prensa Libre, 9 July 2000.

[43] See UNHCR Global report 1999, at “Guatemala/Mexico.”

[44] Ombudsman for Human Rights, supra, p. 179.

[45] See id.

[46] See chapter II, supra (reporting statistics on access to education), and chapter XII, infra (discussing problem as it affects all children).

[47] See MINUGUA, Eleventh Report, supra, para. 24.

[48] See Ombudsman for Human Rights, supra, p. 180.

[49] See MINUGUA, Eleventh Report, para. 53.

[50] See id.

[51] See id.

[52] See Ombudsman for Human Rights, supra, p. 180.

[53] Asamblea de la Sociedad Civil, “Balance del Cumplimiento de los Acuerdos de Paz 1997-1999.




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