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Guatemala: UN urges justice in case of murdered human rights activist priest

Guatemala: UN urges justice in case of murdered human rights activist priest

Reacting to the recent repeal of a sentence for the murder of Guatemalan human rights activist Monsignor Juan José Gerardi Conedera, the United Nations has urged that those responsible be brought to justice without delay.

While underscoring the need to respect the constitutional rights of the accused, the UN Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA) issued a statement on Tuesday warning that the repeal could delay the process of shedding light on the crime and punishing those responsible, putting at risk a four-year judicial effort.

Guatemala must meet this historical challenge by reopening the case under conditions that reflect the superiority of justice over any manifestation of power, MINUGUA said in a statement. In the face of possible threats and intimidation, the Mission stressed that the State must not repeat the mistakes of the past and must guarantee the security of all those who participated - or would participate - in the legal proceedings.

Given the seriousness of the crime, MINUGUA voiced hope that the memory of Monsignor Gerardi would be dignified by judging those responsible with the full weight of the law.

Monsignor Gerardi was murdered on 26 April 1998, just two days after making public a report, Guatmala: Nunca Mas, which documented, through testimony of the victims, 36 years of violence during the country's armed conflict. His case is widely viewed as a test of the country's ability to reverse the culture of impunity and ensure that justice prevails.