Global perspective Human stories

Most Guatemalans have yet to feel benefits of peace, UN mission reports

Most Guatemalans have yet to feel benefits of peace, UN mission reports

The lack of implementation of key commitments contained in Guatemala's peace agreements has prevented widespread enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights by the country's population, according to a report released today at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

According to the report by the UN Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA), a large part of the Guatemalan population - especially indigenous people, women and poor peasants - has yet to feel the benefits of peace. The Mission also warns that lack of implementation of the peace accords threatens to raise the level of conflict in the country.

MINUGUA's verification work, which has recently turned its focus to the police, the Public Prosecutor's Office and the judiciary, is being carried out amid difficult circumstances that limit the enjoyment of human rights, such as criminal violence, lynchings and "social cleansing" operations, the report says. Earlier, the Mission focused on verifying the demobilization of the URNG (Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca), the redeployment of the armed forces and the disbanding of the military commissioners and the Voluntary Civil Defence Committees.

"In addition to the climate of threats and intimidation, there have recently been attacks that curtail the action of members of the judiciary, journalists and human rights defenders," says the report, which was forwarded to the UN General Assembly by Secretary-General Kofi Annan. "The inherited pattern of impunity is becoming a systematic, cross-cutting phenomenon, as illustrated by the failure to clear up and punish almost all the serious violations that took place during the armed conflict and most of the significant cases that have occurred more recently."

According to MINUGUA, the influence of situations left over from the armed conflict is "obvious" and the State authorities "must give priority to eradicating them." The Public Prosecutor's Office bears special responsibility for breaking the vicious circle of impunity. The armed forces, for their part, must promote a policy that eliminates any possibility of obstruction of justice, the report says.