University of Minnesota

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





1. One of the deep concerns of the Commission during the armed conflict was the utilization of torture as a practice intended to sow terror not only in those directly targeted, but also in the population in general. That pattern and practice have, since the conclusion of the conflict, been transformed into a violation of the past. As is the case with other basic rights, the full implementation of the terms of the peace accords, in particular those concerning the security forces and the administration of justice, would support important additional advances in the protection of the right to personal integrity.

2. The current threat to personal integrity perceived by much of the population is that posed by common crime and violence. The legitimate demand of the citizenry for security has become a central point of orientation for public policy. Although there have been some noteworthy advances in the configuration, training and deployment of the new National Civil Police, serious weaknesses in its capacity persist, and certain measures adopted give rise to further problems. For example, the use of members of the armed forces in police patrols neither resolves the weaknesses in the police nor contributes to the separation of the respective roles of these institutions required in the peace accords. Nor, as the Commission has commented in other chapters, is the deployment of military troops in law enforcement activities conducive to the protection of the rights of civilians. Moreover, the deficiencies in the investigation, prosecution and punishment of crime and human rights violations highlighted in other chapters of this report have the effect of creating a climate of impunity which encourages the persistence of such problems.

3. Certainly the legacy of years of conflict and violence is not easily overcome. In particular, the proliferation of firearms remains a constant threat to personal security. Reports indicate that there are approximately 150,000 registered firearms and 2,000,000 unregistered firearms in circulation.[1] Arms are easily available for criminal purposes, to licensed and unlicensed private security companies (with trained and untrained agents) and for arms trafficking. This lack of control constitutes a further hindrance in the ability of the authorities to combat crime through proper investigation.

4. Further concerns about the right to personal integrity revolve around three principal issues. The first relates to the persistence of reports concerning the use of torture or inhumane treatment by agents of the security forces for the purpose of extracting information or “confessions” from detained suspects. The second concerns threats to personal security arising in relation to the prison system.

5. The third issue involves a different type of concern, namely the steady increase in threats and attacks perpetrated against members of organizations involved in the promotion and protection of the rights of the populace. This type of persecution is worrying not only insofar as it places individuals at serious risk, but also as it has a broader effect of sowing fear and “chilling” the freedom of expression and action of such groups. This represents a concern for all Guatemalans working in favor of the consolidation of participatory democracy.

A. The Legal Framework for the Protection of the Right to Personal Integrity

1. National Law

6. The first articles of the Constitution speak to the mission of the State to safeguard the wellbeing of its people. Article 1 speaks to its role in protecting the individual and the family, and Article 2 to its role in safeguarding essential individual rights, including to security. Article 3 provides that the State guarantees the right to integrity and security of the person.

7. With respect to persons in detention, the Constitution provides a series of specific safeguards, which are discussed at further length in the chapter concerning the right to liberty, infra. In particular, Article 6 provides that any person deprived of liberty must be placed at the disposition of a judicial authority within 6 hours of detention. Article 8 specifies the rights that apply to detainees, including to have access to legal counsel, who may be present in the various proceedings. Articles 8 and 9 stipulate that detainees may not be compelled to provide declarations except before judicial authorities and that non-judicial interrogations lack probative value.

2. International Law

8. The right to humane treatment and prohibition of torture are fundamental obligations which may never be subject to derogation. They are norms of ius cogens which impose obligations erga omnes on all States. As a State Party to the American Convention, Guatemala is bound by the provisions of Article 5 which recognize the right of every person "to have his physical, mental, and moral integrity respected," and prohibit the use of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment or treatment. Article 5 provides specific safeguards that apply to any person detained to ensure that such persons are treated with respect for their human dignity. A number of these specific protections are analyzed in more detail in the chapters which follow concerning the right to liberty and the situation in the prison system.

9. Guatemala is also Party to the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture, as well as to the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. However, it has not submitted the declarations provided for under Articles 21 and 22 of the latter Convention accepting the competence of the Committee against Torture to review individual complaints.

10. Torture is defined in the inter-American system as:

any act intentionally performed whereby physical or mental pain or suffering is inflicted on a person for purposes of criminal investigation, as a means of intimidation, as personal punishment, as a preventive measure, as a penalty, or for any other purpose. Torture shall also be understood to be the use of methods upon a person intended to obliterate the personality of the victim or to diminish his physical or mental capacities, even if they do not cause physical pain or mental anguish.

Articles 1, 6 and 8 speak to the special duty of the State to ensure that all suspected instances of torture are subject to effective investigation, prosecution and punishment.

11. Guatemala is also Party to the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (“Convention of Belém do Pará”), which sets forth the rights and duties of the State to prevent and respond to violence based on gender. The issues of gender violence and the response of the state thereto will be taken up in chapter XIII, infra.

B. The Right to Personal Integrity and the Situation of Persons under the
Control of the Security Forces: An Overview

12. Reports since 1998 indicate an important reduction in the overall number of denunciations concerning the right to humane treatment. However, while this overall decline includes an encouraging reduction in reported cases of the excessive use of force, it is marked by an extremely disturbing increase in reported cases of torture and inhuman treatment. Further, while the Army and National Police were responsible for the majority of violations reported in 1998 and the first part of 1999, the most recent reports attribute the responsibility for most violations to members of the National Civil Police.

13. To illustrate, in its report for April through December of 1998, MINUGUA reported admitting 49 complaints concerning 404 alleged violations. It confirmed 170 violations: 10 cases of torture, 6 of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of punishment, 26 cases of ill-treatment, 109 cases of excessive use of force, and 19 cases of threats.[2] Those most often responsible were agents of the National Police, National Civil Police, the executive branch and the army. In its report for January through November of 1999, the Mission admitted 64 complaints concerning 213 alleged violations. It confirmed 127 violations: 27 cases of torture, 46 cases of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of punishment, 35 cases of ill-treatment, 4 cases of excessive use of force, and 15 cases of threats.[3] These were attributed in almost equal proportions to the National Police and the National Civil Police.[4] In its most recent report, covering the first half of 2000, the Mission indicated having admitted 41 complaints concerning 103 alleged violations. It had confirmed 91 violations, the majority of which were attributed to the National Civil Police, and involved torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and the mistreatment of detainees.[5]

14. The following sections analyze some of the kinds of cases reported by the Ombudsman for Human Rights, MINUGUA and other human rights entities and organizations in Guatemala. As will be noted, a number of the concerns reflected are closely related to subjects covered in the chapter concerning the right to life, as well as those concerning the right to liberty and conditions in the prisons.

1. The Right to Personal Integrity and the Arrest and Interrogation
of Detainees

15. Reports indicate that some police agents use illegal force to threaten and intimidate suspects from the time of arrest through interrogation. The Ombudsman has reported on a number of cases in which police officers beat and abused persons being arrested who were not attempting to resist.[6] In most of these cases, he attributed responsibility to agents of the National Civil Police.

16. The case of José Rogelio Orozco Ramírez provides an example.[7] While in the municipal market of La Reforma on April 24, 1999, he was pushed and beaten while being arrested by an agent of the local National Civil Police, leaving him with injuries to his face. At the request of the Ombudsman’s Office, he was examined by a forensic doctor, who confirmed the presence of such injuries. The officer himself denied any use of force. Further investigation indicated that the officer involved was the subject of various complaints for aggression and abuse of authority filed before the local justice of the peace.

17. The majority of the cases reported by MINUGUA under this heading indicate that members of the National Police and, more recently, the National Civil Police, employ measures of physical or psychological pressure to coerce detainees to provide information or “confessions.” There is a disturbing consistency to the cases confirmed, which often involve the placing of oilcloth hoods over detainees’ heads, coupled with beatings and threats.[8] As noted in relation to a number of cases discussed in the chapter on the right to liberty, infra, police officials often alter reports to provide a justification for arrest and account for delay between arrest and detention.[9]

18. Other measures of force may also be used. MINUGUA reported that on December 31, 1998, Moisés Rivas Morales was arrested by agents of the National Civil Police of Puerto San José, Escuintla. There was a six hour gap between his arrest and his placement in a detention cell. When placed in the cell, he bore injuries to his head, and his hair had been hacked off. Witnesses indicated that the injuries had been caused by a leather whip, and their severity required his transfer to a hospital. The case against him was later dropped, and the arrest deemed unlawful. The Office of Professional Responsibility of the National Civil Police later determined that officers in that locality were responsible for a series of abuses, and found in their possession the leather whip and scissors described by witnesses.[10]

19. Some particularly shocking cases have been reported at the hands of agents of the Criminal Investigation Service of the National Civil Police.[11] For example, on February 12, 1999, cafeteria owner Nelson Mauricio Martínez was captured by armed men in civilian clothing. He was taken to a field, and interrogated about some kidnappers and a cell phone. For two hours he was handcuffed and beaten. His captors put an oilcloth over his face, nearly suffocating him, and jammed a pistol in his mouth, breaking his teeth. An agent put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger, and they threatened to kill his wife and children. MINUGUA reported that a suspect’s cell phone had contained the phone number of a public phone in Martinez’ cafeteria, accessible to all customers. A forensic report prepared a month after the attack indicated that Martínez would require a month of medical treatment, be unable to work for that time, bear permanent scars, and remain impeded in his ability to chew.[12] This case is somewhat exceptional in that it was denounced by family members, and investigated by MINUGUA, the Ombudsman for Human Rights and the Office of Professional Responsibility, which lead to the agents implicated being placed before the local court of first instance for processing. Information reported concerning other cases indicated little or no serious efforts to investigate.[13]

20. In its comments on the draft report, the State reported in relation to these themes that “a training plan is being implemented among the different entities that comprise the police corps, so that in carrying out a detention, the members of the police Institution act in accordance with the law … because there is awareness of practices that are damaging, traditional and deeply rooted that often cannot be easily eradicated in a short time.” The Commission values training measures of this nature as a necessary and important factor in the struggle against the problems indicated, although it must also emphasize that additional factors are required in this struggle. The consistency of the reports and the nature of the complaints alleged suggest that an important aspect of the problem is an institutionalized acceptance among some members of the security forces that mistreatment of detainees constitutes a valid method of investigation of criminal cases. The information before the Commission further demonstrates that the message of respect for human rights transmitted by training efforts is not sufficiently supported by efforts to investigate allegations of torture and mistreatment, and to prosecute and punish those responsible. Torture and inhuman treatment must be met with official condemnation, and the uniform message that such conduct is criminal and will be punished as such.

2. The Right to Personal Integrity and Prison Security and Discipline

21. The situation of the prison system gives rise to threats to personal security in several distinct respects. In the first place, as is discussed at more length in the chapter concerning prison conditions, problems with security, infrastructure and corruption lead to repeated escapes which place the general public at risk. Second, these same problems, particularly insufficient human and material resources, can place the guards themselves at risk. In this regard, in October of 1999, two guards escorting a prisoner sentenced to 50 years for kidnapping on a public bus with no measures of security were shot. The prisoner escaped, and both guards died. Third, reports indicate that some prison guards use measures of physical or psychological coercion as a form of intimidation, discipline or reprisal against detainees.

22. From the information before the Commission, it is not clear that there are available or effective internal complaint mechanisms within the prisons. Further, as the Commission discusses in the chapter concerning conditions in the prisons, the use of so-called committees of order and discipline composed of inmates to “police” fellow inmates gives rise to a number of serious problems, not least of which is the lack of a clear chain of command, control and responsibility between prison officials and the guards who should be responsible for security and control. A number of these issues are analyzed in chapter VIII, infra, concerning the situation in the prisons.

C. Threats and Attacks against Human Rights Defenders and Social Leaders

23. Human rights defenders and those who fight for the protection of human dignity play an indispensable role in society in times of peace as well as in conflict. The Commission has directly observed the committed, courageous and valuable work carried out by human rights organizations in Guatemala, both during the difficult and dangerous years of the conflict, and during the opening of new political spaces made possible by the signing of the peace. The individuals who work in the promotion, monitoring and defense of human rights and their organizations play a crucial role in ensuring the free exercise of fundamental freedoms and overseeing democratic institutions. In recent years, human rights defenders and other representatives of civil society in Guatemala have played a dynamic and influential role in the design and implementation of the peace accords, and in the ongoing work of constructing a national agenda of reconciliation and democratization.

24. In light of the importance of this work and the need to protect those who carry it out, the Commission has repeatedly emphasized the need for full implementation of the collective commitment expressed by the member States in the General Assembly Resolution concerning “’Human Rights Defenders in the Americas’ Support for the Individuals, Groups, and Organizations of Civil Society Working to promote and Protect Human Rights in the Americas.”[14] This resolution sets forth the undertaking of the States of the hemisphere to take the measures necessary to protect the lives, personal security, and freedom of expression of those who work to ensure fundamental rights. Within the UN framework, the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms is a further manifestation of the commitment of States to ensure the protection of human rights defenders in the discharge of that work.[15]

25. In this regard, the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights expressly recognizes the importance of condemning all acts which intimidate human rights defenders. It sets forth the commitment of the State to take special measures to protect those working in human rights, and to promptly and exhaustively investigate any complaints of threats or acts of intimidation.

26. It is in this context that the Commission has tracked with deepening concern the increase in threats and attacks against human rights defenders in Guatemala over the last two and a half years. Information received by the Commission indicates that, while such threats declined significantly in the period leading up to the signing of the peace, they began to increase again within a year, and have risen steadily since then.[16] The year 2000 has seen not only an increase in the number of threats and attacks, but also an intensification in their seriousness. MINUGUA has noted a link between this evolution and the quest to clarify past human rights violations, particularly insofar as the initiation of new judicial proceedings for this purpose are concerned.[17] Taking into account the characteristics of these acts of intimidation, particularly the selectivity of the threats, the fact that certain vehicles involved bore license plates assigned to the Estado Mayor Presidencial, and the operational capacity of the perpetrators, MINUGUA has concluded that they have been carried out with the participation and tolerance of State agents.[18]

27. The most recent attack, notable for is brazenness, took place on September 4, 2000 in the offices of the Association of the Families of the Detained-Disappeared of Guatemala (“FAMDEGUA”) in a busy area of Zone 2 of Guatemala City at mid-day. Four unknown men, acting in plain view, entered the offices, held those present at gunpoint, searched the offices, and took computers, diskettes, office equipment and a vehicle belonging to the organization. Information stolen included files and diskettes pertaining to the judicial prosecution of the case of the massacre of Las Dos Erres, with respect to which the organization has played a central role in pursuing justice. Having taken note of these serious events, denounced by a number of sources, the Commission adopted precautionary measures and requested that the State take the steps necessary to ensure the personal security of the Director, Aura Elena Farfán, and members of FAMDEGUA.

28. The State has publicly acknowledged the seriousness of this act of intimidation against human rights defenders, and has expressed its condemnation of the attack and will to implement protective measures.[19] In communications related to the precautionary measures requested, the State has indicated that, in view of the important quantity of death threats against human rights defenders and other social leaders, it would take energetic measures against these crimes and protect those affected. It further noted that this situation would not be permitted to constitute a set back in its efforts to conclude a friendly settlement of the case concerning the massacre of Las Dos Erres.[20] As the State indicated in its comments on the draft report, it is important to note that a number of the individuals presumably implicated have been arrested, and some of the objects stolen have been recovered.

29. The Commission has issued a number of other requests for precautionary measures to protect human rights defenders during the period covered by this report. In fact, almost all such requests issued since 1998 with respect to Guatemala have concerned threats and attacks against persons working in this field. A series of such measures were granted to protect persons involved in the Interdiocesan Project for the Recovery of Historical Memory (“REMHI”) and efforts to pursue justice in the killing of the leader of that Project, Monsignor Juan José Gerardi Conedera. In May of 1998, the Commission requested that measures be taken to protect 111 persons involved in the REMHI Project, in light of threats and acts of intimidation against individuals and the organization. In April of 1999, the Commission granted such measures on behalf of attorney Ronalth Ochaeta and his family. Mr. Ochaeta had worked closely with Monsignor Gerardi on the REMHI report and was actively involved in the pursuit of justice for his murder. The one year anniversary of that report and the murder were being commemorated at roughly the time that armed men broke into and searched his home, and threatened members of his household. They left him a “message” consisting of a piece of cement, widely interpreted as a reference to the weapon used to kill the Monsignor. In September of 1999, the Commission granted precautionary measures on behalf of Special Prosecutor Calvin Manolo Galindo and his family, and Deputy Prosecutor Marcos Aníbal Sánchez and his family, who were then investigating the Gerardi case and had received serious threats. A number of these and other persons involved in the Gerardi investigation later left the country citing security concerns.

30. At the Commission’s request, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights granted or maintained provisional measures requests during the period of this report related to the protection of family members, witnesses and/or lawyers involved in the prosecution of the Carpio, Blake and Bámaca cases, the latter two of which are under the cognizance of the Court. These and the situation of threats and attacks against individuals, and prosecutorial and judicial personnel involved in human rights cases are discussed in the chapter on the administration of justice, above. The closely related situation of threats and attacks against members of the press is described in the chapter on freedom of expression, below.

31. The Commission has received a variety of other reports concerning threats and attacks against human rights defenders. These have especially included individuals and organizations working to establish accountability for past human rights violations. In 1998, the subjects of such reports included additional persons associated with the REMHI project and the Archbishop’s Human Rights Office,[21] and FAMDEGUA.[22] The Commission also received information concerning threats and acts of intimidation against members of the Defensoria Maya,[23] Coordinadora Nacional Indígena y Campesina (“CONIC”)[24] and Mamá Maquín.[25] In the case of the latter organization, which defends women’s rights and the rights of returned refugees and displaced persons, members of the office in the capital received death threats, and members of the office in Ixcán were attacked as they were returning from a meeting by men bearing guns, grenades and machetes. The men insulted and beat the women, hit them with the broad side of their machetes, and sliced up the documents from the meeting.[26]

32. In its report for 1999, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances took special note of reports of harassment and intimidation of members of organization seeking to clarify past disappearances, citing threats against FAMDEGUA in July of 1999.[27] It also referred acts of intimidation against members of the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Team (“EAFG”) by soldiers while they were excavating graves in Huehuetenango.[28]

33. A series of human rights and environmental organizations expressed their concern with respect to the unclarified killings of environmental activists Erwin Haroldo Ochoa, a legal advisor, and Julio Armando Vásquez Ramírez, an administrative assistant, on February 29, 2000, in Izabal.[29] Attorney Ochoa had been involved in a number of activities including activism on behalf of protected areas and the pursuit of numerous legal cases in the environmental arena.

34. In April of 1999, Amnesty International expressed concern in light of threats against Human Rights Ombudsman Julio Arango Escobar. In May of 1999, a number of organizations expressed concern and condemnation with respect to the unexplained murder of indigenous community leader Juana Lucía in Alta Verapaz. On November 18, 1999, the Ombudsman of Human Rights issued a resolution demanding the cessation of threats and acts of intimidation against Helen Mack Chang, stemming from her efforts to clarify responsibility in the killing of her sister.[30]

35. In May of 2000, the Alliance against Impunity, National Coordinator of Guatemala’s Widows (“CONAVIGUA”), Peasants’ Unity Committee (“CUC”), FAMDEGUA and the Center for Human Rights Legal Action (“CALDH”) held a press conference to denounce and condemn threats received by journalists, judges and human rights and social activists, and to demand their investigation.[31] Nobel laureate Rigoberta Menchú Tum indicated that she and members of the Menchú Foundation had been subject to various threats and acts of intimidation since she filed allegations of genocide against eight former high officials of Guatemala before the courts of Spain.[32] Feliciano Pu, a member of the Foundation and nephew of CUC leader Rosario Pu, had been attacked with a knife and gravely wounded by a group of men in Chimaltenago. Rosario Pu indicated that she too had been threatened. Threats were also reported against Miguel Angel Albizures, of the Alliance against Impunity, Rosalina Tuyuc, of CONAVIGUA, and Frank La Rue, of CALDH. Other reports indicate that Miguel Angel Albizures, who also writes for El Periodico, and two other journalists received threats after breaking a story about the existence of a clandestine intelligence service denied by the State.[33] Labor leaders have also been the subject of threats.[34]

36. Reports issued in July of 2000 concerned threats against members of Sí, Vamos por la Paz and the Center for Informative Reports about Guatemala (CERIGUA), as well as against persons involved in the Gerardi case.[35] With respect to the latter, two members of the Archbishop’s Human Rights Office had received multiple anonymous threats – one was told he was on a “black list” – and the judge in the case had been threatened as well.[36] In this regard, it must be noted that, as indicated in this section, as well as in the chapter concerning the administration of justice, it is not just members of nongovernmental organizations who are targeted. A significant number of public servants pursuing justice and the protection of human rights have suffered threats or attacks as a consequence of their work.

37. The legitimate work of human rights defenders, including denouncing the serious abuses committed by the parties to the armed conflict, has led certain actors to seek to silence them through a variety of methods. Note must be made in this regard of the legal case filed against Nobel laureate Rigoberta Menchú. In response to her actions to seek justice for past violations before the Spanish courts, a Guatemalan attorney who has defended various members of the military in cases concerning human rights violations has filed charges against her, including for the crime of treason.[37] The Commission is also studying information alleging that Bruce Harris, the Director of Casa Alianza, which promotes and defends the rights of street children, has been subjected to a series of legal actions seeking to penalize him for exercising his right to freedom of expression in denouncing alleged corruption in adoption proceedings. The Commission has received information indicating that legal proceedings in some cases are not initiated to determine rights and responsibilities in conformity with the law but rather to harass human rights defenders.

38. The attacks on human rights organizations and their members, including violent attacks as well as legal and other forms of harassment and intimidation, have serious consequences for human rights defenders. The attacks are often intended to silence the opinions of human rights defenders, including the criticisms and complaints which these persons may level against the State's security forces, the Government or others. In order to achieve this objective, the attacks often aim to cause the complete disintegration of human rights organizations. For example, the recent attack against FAMDEGUA, in which a significant part of the office’s equipment was stolen, will necessarily have an adverse impact on the organization’s work in the short term.

39. In addition, while the Government has recently expressed its condemnation of such attacks,[38] which is an important manifestation of support for the organizations concerned, action to date has failed to place sufficient emphasis on proper criminal investigation to identify and punish the perpetrators. In its most recent report, MINUGUA characterized the reaction of the State as “almost nil,” indicating that the authorities charged with investigating complaints had shown disinterest, a lack of capacity, or fear.[39] As the Inter-American Court has repeatedly noted in proceedings concerning provisional measures, investigation plays a crucial role in protecting individuals at risk of attack. As long as the perpetrators of violations against human rights defenders continue to act with impunity, human rights activists will continue to face serious threats to their personal security and ability to carry out their crucial work. To date, the Commission is unaware of even one criminal investigation into an act of intimidation or violence committed against a human rights worker that has resulted in the conviction and punishment of the responsible party.
Conclusions and Recommendations

40. The right to personal security is inextricably linked to the preservation of human dignity. In terms of citizen security, the right to a dignified life requires a minimum level of security. In this regard generally, the Commission recommends that the State implement measures to control the proliferation of illegal arms circulating in the country. The Commission also reiterates the need for the prompt and effective investigation, prosecution and punishment of crime. The only effective way to control crime is to ensure that the perpetrators are held promptly responsible in all cases, thereby accomplishing the twin goals of accountability and deterrence.

41. In terms of the situation of persons in detention, given the vulnerability of any person under the complete control of the State, measures must be in place to safeguard against potential abuse. Because the very purpose of torture and inhuman treatment is to breakdown the human personality and debase human dignity, measures of prevention are crucial. Where claims of violation are alleged, the only acceptable State response is a prompt and effective investigation aimed at full clarification and accountability. Where the State fails to respond to such claims, it is responsible both for the impunity in the specific case and for encouraging the persistence of such violations. In light of these conclusions set forth above, the Commission recommends that the State:

1. Further refine the selection process to screen prospective members of the public security forces, as well as guards and other prison personnel, to ensure that individuals selected have the capacity to respect the law while enforcing it.

2. Further strengthen training programs for security and prison personnel, to develop an institution-wide knowledge of and respect for human rights norms.

3. Take the measures necessary to ensure that all detainees are immediately informed of their rights, including to a lawyer and to bring complaints in event of mistreatment, and to ensure that any detention is subject to prompt judicial supervision.

4. Adopt additional measures of training and oversight to ensure that declarations are not taken by unauthorized non-judicial personnel, and to ensure that declarations or confessions obtained under duress are not accepted into evidence.

5. Take the measures necessary to ensure that, while allegations that a State agent subjected a person in custody to torture or inhuman treatment are being investigated, the agent in question is suspended from any duties that would bring him or her into contact with persons in custody.

6. Ensure that all claims of torture or inhuman treatment are subjected to prompt and effective investigation designed to clarify the facts, identify those responsible, and ensure their prosecution and punishment pursuant to the appropriate processes of domestic law.

42. In relation to the protection of human rights defenders specifically, the Commission recommends that the State:

1. Take further measures to recognize and value the work of human rights defenders and social leaders, including through the development of additional training activities to ensure respect for human rights and human rights defenders among members of the security forces, and the issuance of clear and unequivocal statements by high level officials confirming the legitimacy and importance of the work of human rights defenders and their organizations.

2. Ensure that appropriate protective measures are made available and effective in cases where personal security is at risk.

3. Act with redoubled resolve to ensure the investigation, prosecution and punishment of threats, attacks and other acts of intimidation against human rights defenders and social leaders.

4. Consider the establishment of specialized units within the National Civil Police and Public Prosecutor’s Office, with the resources and training required to coordinate efforts and respond with due diligence to this critical problem.


Notes Ch. VI______________________

[1] MINUGUA, Eleventh Report on Human Rights of the United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala (“Eleventh Report”), A/55/175, 26 July 2000, paras. 86-87 (citing the Department of Control of Arms and Munitions of the Army).

[2] MINUGUA, Ninth Report on Human Rights of the United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala (“Ninth Report”) A/53/853, 10 March 1999, at paras. 22-24.

[3] MINUGUA, Tenth Report on Human Rights of the United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala (“Tenth Report”) A/54/688, 21 Dec. 1999, at paras. 10-11.

[4] MINUGUA, Tenth Report – Supplemento: Casos de violaciones a los derechos humanos, table 4.

[5] MINUGUA, Eleventh Report, supra, paras. 27-28.

[6] See e.g. Ombudsman for Human Rights, Contrastes 2000: Resumen de las resoluciones del período comprendido entre septiembre y diciembre de 1999, Ref. Exp. IZA 10-99/DI; ORD COAT – 02-99/DI; COAT 03-99/DI; ORD. GUA 193-98 DI; EIO. 82-98/DI.

[7] ORD COAT – 02-99/DI, supra.

[8] MINUGUA, Ninth Report, para. 24; Tenth Report, para. 11.

[9] Tenth Report, para. 11.

[10] Id., para. 13.

[11] See Tenth Report: Supplemento casos de violaciones a los derechos humanos, cases 10, 12, 13; Eleventh Report, paras. 29, 30.

[12] Tenth Report: Supplemento, case 11.

[13] See Ombudsman for Human Rights, supra, and the Eighth, Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Reports of MINUGUA, supra.

[14] AG/RES. 1671 (XXIX-0/99); see Annual Report of the IACHR 1999, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.106, Doc. 3 rev., Apr. 13, 2000, paras. 11-12; see also, Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Colombia, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.102, Doc. 9 rev. 1, 26 Feb. 1999, ch. VII.

[15] General Assembly Rresolution 53/144, A/RES/53/144, 8 March 1999.

[16] See generally MINUGUA, Eighth Report, para. 90; Ninth Report, para. 76; Tenth Report, para. 79; Eleventh Report, paras. 88-89.

[17] See Eleventh Report, supra, para. 89.

[18] Id. 89-90.

[19] See e.g., Embassy of Guatemala, Press Release of Sept. 6, 2000.

[20] See ch. I, supra, recounting the State’s acceptance of institutional responsibility for the facts denounced in this case and a number of others, and manifestation of will to conclude friendly settlements with the petitioners, under the auspices of the Commission and in accordance with the norms of the system.

[21] “Amenazas: acosan a miembros de la ODHA,” 6 May 1998, Siglo Veintiuno.

[22] Id.

[23] Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, GTM 002/9805/OBS 035, 21 May 1998; Amnesty International, urgent action 159/98, 21 May 1998.

[24] Amnesty International, urgent action 227/98, 28 Oct. 1998.

[25] Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, GTM 003/9806/OBS 042, 25 June 1998; Amnesty International, urgent action 190/98, 3 July 1998.

[26] Amnesty International, supra.

[27] Report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, E/CN.4/2000/64, 21 Dec. 1999, para. 47.

[28] Id; see also, Amnesty International, “Activistas de derechos humanos implicados en la exhumación de un enterramiento clandestino,” urgent action 27/99, 19 Feb. 1999.

[29] See Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, World Organization against Torture, and International Federation for Human Rights, GTM 001/0003/OBS 011, 6 March 2000.

[30] “Resolución en apoyo a Helen Mack,” Prensa Libre, 19 Nov. 1999.

[31] The press conference was covered by all the principal newspapers in Guatemala on May 26, 2000.

[32] See also, Amnesty International, Urgent Action 142/00, 31 May 2000.

[33] Amnesty International, Urgent Action 142/00, 31 May 2000.

[34] “Siguen amenazas contra dirigentes sociales,” AC, May 23, 2000.

[35] “Coordinadora Sí, Vamos por la Paz condena amenazas,” AC, July 13, 2000.

[36] “Amnistia Internacional denuncia amenazas de muerte contra colaboradoes de la ODHA,” FD, 7 July 2000.

[37] See Communique of the Alliance against Impunity, “Nuevas formas de persecución contra quienes piden justicia por crímenes cometidos en Guatemala,” 13 April, 2000. In its observations to the draft report, the State indicated that it “does not consider that the legal actions filed by Mrs. Rigoberta Menchú constitute treason, and accordingly, it has no relation to the attorney who filed the complaint in this respect before the courts.”

[38] See e.g., Embassy of Guatemala, Press Release of Sept. 6, 2000, expressing deep concern for the attack against the headquarters of FAMDEGUA on September 4, 2000, noting that it constitutes a serious act of intimidation against human rights defenders, and expressing the commitment to hold those responsible accountable.

[39] MINUGUA, Eleventh Rep



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