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UN to send mission to Guatemala to set up body to probe illegal armed groups

UN to send mission to Guatemala to set up body to probe illegal armed groups

A United Nations political mission will leave for Guatemala later this month to begin the preparations for establishing an independent body to investigate the presence and activities of illegal armed groups in the Central American country.

The announcement of the mission follows a meeting yesterday at UN Headquarters in New York between Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe and a senior Guatemalan delegation led by Vice-President Eduardo Stein to discuss next steps toward setting up the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).

Mr. Pascoe said that the UN attaches great importance to the Commission and will work expeditiously toward establishing it with both the personnel and the resources it needs to be effective as an independent entity designed to assist Guatemala in its fight against impunity.

When the Guatemalan Congress voted to establish the CICIG as a matter of urgency last month, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon applauded the decision, saying in a statement that the country “has sent a clear message, both to its people and to the international community, that it is committed to fight crime and impunity, and to provide security for its citizens.”

The Commission will be able to conduct its own investigations and also help local institutions, particularly the Office of the Public Prosecutor. While it will be an independent, non-UN body, its commissioner will be appointed by the Secretary-General and report periodically to him.

One of its tasks is to recommend public policies and any legal or institutional measures for eradicating the illegal armed groups and preventing their re-emergence. The costs are expected to be borne by voluntary contributions from the international community.

Over three decades of conflict in Guatemala ended with the signing of peace accords in December of 1996, but concern has been mounting in recent years that illegal security groups and clandestine security organizations have continued to operate with impunity, conducting criminal activities and violating human rights.