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UN urges establishment of human rights office in Guatemala

UN urges establishment of human rights office in Guatemala

Tom Koenigs
The United Nations mission in Guatemala today said it strongly supported plans for the establishment of a local office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in the Central American country.

The new office would have a mandate to monitor and assess the situation of human rights as well as to provide technical assistance to the Government of Guatemala, according to the UN Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA).

Speaking at a press conference, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, and head of MINUGUA, Tom Koenigs, said he hoped Guatemala would make good use of the unique opportunity that the new OHCHR office would present.

At the end of this year MINUGUA, established in January 1997 after 36 years of civil war, is scheduled to withdraw, leaving human rights monitoring to the new OHCHR office. The UN has been monitoring human rights under the 1994 Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights, which became part of a comprehensive peace agreement in 1996 between the Government of Guatemala and the Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca (URNG).

Earlier this year, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) reported that “criminality and violence continued at alarming rates, posing security risks, particularly to women. It has been reported that in 2003, an average of one woman a day was killed by violence.”

While assisting the Government with the overall human rights situation, the new office aims to promote “the full enjoyment of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Guatemalan people in general, and more specifically of individuals and communities at risk of being victims of human rights abuses, including vulnerable groups such as women, children, indigenous peoples, minorities, human rights defenders, journalists and others,” OHCHR said when it announced plans for the office late last year.