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Guatemala: UN rights expert warns against reinstating death penalty

Guatemala: UN rights expert warns against reinstating death penalty

An independent United Nations expert has called on Guatemalan lawmakers not to override the presidential veto of a decree that would reinstate the death penalty in a way that violates international human rights law.

“Guatemala is not prohibited by international law from imposing the death penalty. It may not, however, reinstate the death penalty by stealth,” Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said in a statement issued today in Geneva.

Mr. Alston, who reported in detail on the problem of extrajudicial killings after his visit to Guatemala in August 2006, was referring to Decree 06-2008 on regulating the commuting of sentence for those condemned to death.

“This law can only be intended as an end-run around the requirements of international human rights law,” said Mr. Alston. “If the Congress is so keen to uphold the rule of law by reinstating the death penalty it should do so in accordance with the international rule of law and not ignore the rulings of both the UN Human Rights Committee and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights directed at Guatemala.”

Mr. Alston called on the Guatemalan Congress to work out the details of a law governing the right to clemency which meets the criteria clearly spelled out by international law.