Human rights situation in Guatemala has deteriorated, UN mission reports

Human rights situation in Guatemala has deteriorated, UN mission reports

The human rights situation in Guatemala has deteriorated, as the climate of intimidation worsened amid threats and the assassination of judges, journalists and human rights defenders, according to a new report by the United Nations mission in the country verifying its peace agreements.

The human rights situation in Guatemala has deteriorated, as the climate of intimidation worsened amid threats and the assassination of judges, journalists and human rights defenders, according to a new report by the United Nations mission in the country verifying its peace agreements.

The UN Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA) says that during the reporting period from July 2001 to June 2002, the deterioration in human rights has been closely linked to the failure to advance on other aspects of the country’s peace accords.

“More than five years after the signing of the peace agreements, Guatemala’s panorama of ethnic discrimination and profound social and economic inequalities persists,” the report says. “The State’s lack of political will and weak institutional response have defrauded Guatemalans’ expectations that the peace process would bring tangible improvement in their lives beyond the cessation of the conflict.”

The report notes that the Government has not taken decisive action towards strengthening civilian power and demilitarizing Guatemalan society, as envisioned in the accords. It also says the Government has a “grave responsibility” to confront and dismantle illegal groups and clandestine structures, which are in part an unresolved legacy of the conflict and its former counter-insurgency apparatus.

The report says that in order for the peace process, justice and reconciliation to advance, stronger actions are needed to protect human rights defenders, judicial officials, witnesses, journalists, union leaders and the clergy. The Mission urges the Government to fulfil its commitments to combat impunity and strengthen the institutions that protect human rights and battle corruption, calling such actions “key commitments” of the peace process and central demands of the Guatemalan people.

MINUGUA also welcomes the country’s ratification of several international human rights treaties during the period under review, and recommends that other steps in the same direction be taken. “The human rights framework would be strengthened by the approval of additional legislation contemplated in the peace agreements,” the report suggests.

“Consolidating advances in the peace process, progressing on its unfinished agenda and ensuring its durability are monumental challenges for the Guatemalan State and civil society,” MINUGUA says, adding that it will make priority use of its resources to help civil society, peace institutions and the Guatemalan Office of the Human Rights Counsel become stronger and more effective.