In 1994, Guatemala's constitutional government under the presidency of Ramiro de León Carpio enacted amendments to the Constitution which brought about a complete reorganization of the Legislative Branch and the Supreme Court. These amendments were approved by a referendum in which 85% of the electorate did not vote.


          The assassination in April, 1994, under circumstances that remain to be clarified, of Epaminondas González Dubon, President of the Constitutionality Court, and a mainstay of the democratic system,  was the culmination of a series of factors that provoked a situation of general instability.  In view of those conditions, the government decided not to declare a state of emergency as provided in the Constitution but reorganized the civil security authorities, once again placing army officers in charge.


          Nine months later, on January 4, 1995, President Ramiro de León Carpio announced a new general reorganization of the security agencies, at the same time removing the Minister of the Interior, the Vice Minister of the Interior, as well as the Director of the National Police, and the Chiefs of Traffic, the Treasury Police, and the Immigration Police. 


          In regard to the Legislative Branch, with a voter abstention similar to that in the popular referendum, the National Congress was reorganized in August, 1994 by being reduced to 80 representatives, with the first majority obtained by the FRG (Guatemalan Republican Front) which follows the line of General Efraín Rios Montt.  A coalition of the other parties won the presidency of the body until December, 1994 when, with the support of the Christian Democrats, representative Rios Montt representative was appointed to the office.  General elections will be held in October, 1995 and the elected officers will take office in January, 1996.


          The Supreme Court was likewise reorganized in accordance with the new constitutional procedure pursuant to which the Congress will choose its members from a list of 25 candidates nominated by the Executive Branch, the Universities, and the Bar and Notarial Associations.  The Chief Justice of the new Supreme Court of 13 members is Oscar Barrios Castillo.


          The peace negotiations between representatives of the Government and the URNG were resumed in January, 1994 by the current administration which achieved a Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights which provides, among other points, that a Mission of Verification be sent to confirm compliance with the respective agreement.  This Mission began operations on November 29, 1994 for an initial term to run until June, 1995 and will maintain a presence throughout the territory by means of a complement of 400 members comprising human-rights observers and police, military, and legal advisers.[1]





          Even though the IACHR was able to ascertain that the democratic process has made progress in Guatemala, the advances are under threat from the persistent violation of human rights being committed in a climate of impunity. Such impunity becomes more glaring in a society in which severe social discrimination and social inequity continue to exist.[2]


          The IACHR considers that positive openings have been made in democratic political dialogue in Guatemala.[3]  In its missions of observation in 1994, the IACHR was cognizant of broad and ongoing discussion taking place at political, university, journalistic, and community forums on subjects concerning the country's  governability and the transformation of the government, the electoral system, military service, the financial and tax system,  the role of political parties, human rights, and the relation between human rights and civil order and security. 


          The IACHR was able to confirm the participation of the communications media in the process of democratic opening, a situation which it considers of value inasmuch as these media reflect concepts, a variety of viewpoints, and criticism all of which are basic in laying the foundation for democratic development and the defense of human rights.


          The IACHR also verified that a highly active process of institutional reform is in place--as a consequence of the new democratic openings--which, in turn, creates conditions for fostering the expansion of democracy and the defense of human rights to an even greater degree.  The IACHR also observed the enactment during this period of new standards in the criminal and procedural fields, particularly the entry into force--albeit with many obstacles--of the Code of Criminal Procedure and the separation of state adjudicatory, accusatory, and representational jurisdictions which are at present divided among the judicial organ, the public prosecutor, and the Attorney General, respectively.


     The IACHR calls attention to the recent approval of tax reform and of the law establishing nonpayment of taxes and social security contributions as a criminal offense.  Although an initial step, this is important for improving tax revenues which are the lowest in the region (7%).  The IACHR considers these laws to be an achievement for strengthening fulfillment of the guarantees that the State must provide for the effective exercise of human rights, for civic security as much as for the sake of minimum socioeconomic rights.


          Granted that progress, as described, has been made, the IACHR nevertheless expresses its deep concern with regard to the continuing serious violations of human rights that have been brought to its attention and to the climate of impunity in which these take place and proliferate.


          According to statements made by the Ombudsman for Human Rights to the IACHR, extrajudicial executions (excluding common crimes) increased in the first ten months of 1994 to 269 victims as compared to 196 for the same period in 1993.  There were 98 such   executions in August of 1994 alone.  According to the same institutional source, "efforts against impunity have been stepped up but still with minimal results.  Cases in which there is no impunity are exceptional."  During the same period of January to October, 1994, his office also accepted 193 complaints of threats; 122 of abuse of authority; 68 of illegal detention; 40 of kidnapping and "disappearing"; and 21 of terrorist attacks.  Also, 298 complaints of unofficial military service and 81 of Army recruitment of minors were received.


          Impunity has consequences that go even beyond the rights of the victims by creating a climate that affects civic security, promotes corruption, and is incompatible with a government of law.  Numerous individuals complained to the Commission that any police or civil officer could abuse authority with minimal risk of being punished.  Many Government officials conceded to the IACHR's delegation that this was true.




          The IACHR also had the opportunity on its visit to Guatemala to cover a group of topics of special importance with regard to human rights which are commented on below.


          1)          The right to life continues to be violated on a regular basis in a general climate of impunity.  The 269 complaints of extrajudicial executions (Source Office of the Ombusdman for Human Rights, January to October, 1994) in addition to being tragic are particularly disturbing because many of them follow a pattern of selective murder of officials, and community, union, university, human-rights, and other leaders, seeking thereby to instill generalized terror and to choke off the process of constitutional and democratic opening.


          Magistrates and police investigators involved in or handling cases involving the army or security forces have also been murdered under circumstances that suggest revenge against them for having carried out their professional assignments which consequently terrorizes their colleagues.


          The Commission has received complaints relative to cases such as the aforementioned murder of Epaminondas González Dubon, President of the Constitutionality Court.


          Edgar Ramiro Elías Ogaldez, a judge for ten years in Mixco and Chimlatenango was killed on August 18, 1994, after having been followed and threatened.  Judge Ogaldez had been trying various cases in which former members of the Army were involved and had ordered the arrest of one of them.  Investigators of Judge Ogaldez's murder, in turn, received threatening telephone calls and were being watched.


          During this period, the IACHR applied to the Guatemalan government for protective measures to be taken to safeguard the lives and personal safety of the Magistrates of the Third Division of the Appeals Chamber, MARIO SALVADOR JIMENEZ, MARIA EUGENIA VILLASENOR, AND HECTOR RAUL ORELLANA who had received death threats in connection with cases under their jurisdiction in which Army personnel were involved.  Magistrate Villasenor was forced to leave the country.  On her return to Guatemala, the new Supreme Court decided that she should be transferred to the court of Appeals in Antigua.


          Chief of Police César Augusto Medina Mateo was extrajudicially executed on October 12, 1994. He had been head of the FSC (Civil Security Force) and was departmental chief of the National Police in the Department of El Quiché.  According to information from his colleagues, he had demilitarized the police of that department.  He was also responsible for having issued warrants for the arrest of Civil Self-Defense chiefs and patrolmen accused of being directly responsible for the death of Carpio Nicolle.


          2)          In view of the impending elections of 1995, the right to elect and be elected in free and honest elections, with equality of access to public office, calls for special guarantees.


          The IACHR recommends that measures be taken as soon as possible for the enforcement of this right.  Such measures should include:


        - Developing a system of trustworthy IDs;


        - Making progress in the centralization of civil registries in the Electoral Supreme Court while providing facilities to that Court in the interim for cooperating with Municipal Registries;


        - Developing civic education programs to ensure fullest participation;


        - Establishing subordination of the civil security forces to the Electoral Supreme Court during the electoral process;


        - Ensuring, without exceptions, the right of citizens and representatives of the various shades of opinion to stand for public office in accordance with standards aimed at guaranteeing such participation, e.g. authorizing the "Comités Cívicos" at the departmental level to present candidates for Department representatives to the National Assembly.


          The IACHR calls for confirming and maintaining the independence of the entities that monitor elections by providing them, as well, with sufficient resources.


          3)          Guatemalan labor laws are flagrantly violated particularly in rural zones where there are no effective agencies, either administrative or judicial, to facilitate the peaceful settlement of disputes.[4]


          The IACHR ascertained that labor laws, particularly those with respect to unionization, wages, and working conditions, are not observed in a large number of farming sectors,   The Ministry of Labor itself was quoted in the press in 1993 as saying that most coffee plantations do not pay the minimum wage.


          Working conditions are even worse for hundreds of thousands (the figures vary from two to three hundred thousand) temporary workers who come to the coast with their families during harvest seasons.  The IACHR received information from international experts to the effect that conditions in some zones, particularly on cotton fincas, are worse than in any other OAS member country.  These conditions seem to have improved lately in sugar mills.


          The murder and persecution of union leaders and the absence of effective investigation of them contribute to increasing friction and insecurity in rural areas. As a consequence of the ineffectiveness of the Ministry of Labor and the nonenforcement of the law, the peasants in various departments of Guatemala are currently occupying dozens of fincas.


          These exceptional de facto steps in defense of labor rights in turn give rise to stepped-up retaliatory measures on the part of the owners who, on the basis of charges of squatting, call on the police power to put down such actions. In a country where impunity is the prevailing rule, the excesses in repression and uncontrolled use of police power lead to violations of human rights, thereby jeopardizing them and the State's international responsibility.


          On the basis of information received by the IACHR regarding labor disputes it confirmed the need for strengthening such institutions as the Ministry of Labor's services of inspection, mediation, and negotiation, labor courts, and other judicial agencies.  The Commission does not favors the use of extralegal measures to settle conflicts and considers that the best means of avoiding them is the proper functioning of those institutions which, as the Commission has been able to verify, are weak and ineffectual.


          The IACHR is currently processing a most serious complaint concerning the murder of three peasants in the course of police actions on La Exacta finca.  On this visit, the Commission received new and useful information that will assist in the investigation of the case.  For instance, and without prejudice to the case the Commission was informed by the Government and petitionarie that the original official version that the peasants had shot and wounded several policemen was unfounded.


          The IACHR was also made aware of some exemplary cases in which action by government agencies with the support of the Attorney General's Office had brought about positive solutions which should be further developed and extended. It was informed, as well, of government actions for improving the work of the Ministry of Labor's Office of Labor Inspection  which received 1,221 complaints, carried out 3,249 regular inspections,  and initiated 199 punitive proceedings between January and August, 1994.  In addition, the IACHR was aware that 57 union organizations have been registered since November 1933 when the present administration simplified and accelerated the respective procedure.


          4)          Impunity can be scaled back through stricter application  of the new Code of Criminal Procedure in force since July, 1994  and by strengthening the independence of the judiciary and the Attorney General's Office.


          The basic features of the new Code of Criminal Procedure are:


          - The introduction of the accusatory system;

          - The establishment of oral proceedings;

          - The new criminal justice organization;

          - The Public Prosecutor's Office in charge of investigation;

          - The introduction of the Public Defense Service;

          - The strengthening of channels other than the judiciary for the settlement of    disputes;

          - The concentration of resources on combating criminal behavior  that causes -- the greatest social harm;

          - The revision and introduction of procedures for challenge;

          - Special procedures for such categories as drug dealing and crimes against the    environment;

          - The judicial control of law enforcement;

          - The introduction into procedure of the civil aspect;

          - A bilingual system in proceedings;

          - Revisions of the Military Code.


          Military jurisdiction is partially eliminated.  The Public Prosecutor's Office will be in charge of investigation in cases of common crime committed by army personnel or military crimes associated with common crime. Sentencing will be by a civil court, even though under military judges.  The Military Judge Advocate's Office will be replaced by the Military Court of Investigation which will play a role equivalent to that of lower court judges in overseeing the action of the Public Prosecutor's Office in those cases.


          The new law assigns the Public Prosecutor's Office a leading role in law enforcement.  It oversees the investigative process, collects evidence, and conducts the trial until sentence is passed.


          There are major difficulties in implementing the new criminal trial system.  By the end of 1994, only eight cases have been tried under the new public oral procedure.


          The President of the Supreme Court informed the IACHR of the attempts made and the successes achieved in reorganizing the Judicial Branch with a view to improving the integrity of the judicial process, its service to the public, and the timely  handling of judicial proceedings.


          The Commission confirmed that the prevailing impunity stems in large measure from the ineffectiveness of the police, judges, prosecutors, and other personnel of the justice system in carrying out duties essential to order and security.  Positive measures, such as increased funding for those entities, reformation of criminal procedure and the justice system, and the new setup of the Public Prosecutor's Office are offset by serious attacks and even murder of judges, policemen, and enforcement officers who try to do their duty under the law.


          5)          Public security services are not organized nor do they have the means with which to maintain order and respect for human rights.


          Adequate training, equipment, and salaries for the police under civilian authorities is essential for the security that the state must provide and guarantee to the population.  The IACHR was aware that the authorities had various plans under consideration for creating a modern, efficient police force that would protect the population and respect their rights.  During the IACHR's stay in Guatemala, it had the opportunity to observe willingness on the part of the President and the Congress to allocate more funds for a service which in everybody's opinion  urgently needed better equipment and personnel. 


          In this context, the IACHR looks with concern upon the uncontrolled growth of private police forces whose contingents amount to twice the number of national police.  Those private police are for the most part former members of the Army.  In view of the ineffectiveness of the security offered by the state, their guiding principle in carrying out their duties is not obedience to the law but protection of the life and property of one sector of the population, thereby violating the State's obligation to provide guarantees for all.  Supervision is practically nonexistent and authorizations to operate are issued in an unregulated manner, inasmuch as they may be approved by the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Defense, and even by agencies that are concerned with ordinary business enterprises.


          6)          The action of the CDVC's (former PAC's) has led to the establishment of a local militarized police force that is a source of violations and insecurity over which there is no adequate government control.


          As indicated in its previous reports,[5] the IACHR views with great concern the "existence of about half a million persons organized militarily in the PAC's (or Civil Self-Defense Committees) with armed-action capability and under no effective government control. Furthermore, the Commission considers it necessary to disband them.  The experience of other countries demonstrates that when situations of insurgency are overcome which had given rise to organizations of that nature these may turn into a serious obstacle to internal peace when they constitute destabilizing and illegal factors."


          In its interviews throughout the country, the IACHR has reconfirmed that the self-defense patrols are an element of human-rights violation and increased social insecurity and, in not carrying out their alleged police function, they hamper the action and the strengthening of the national and municipal police.  The government that has imposed and armed them is incapable of controlling their impunity and tends to protect them when they commit abuses of authority.


          The government justifies the patrols--and the risk of violations that their magnitude and uncontrolled character implies--in its note to the IACHR of December 29, 1994[6] which, in defending their existence, points out:


          The Government of Guatemala is making the strongest efforts to put an end to the internal armed confrontation by means of dialogue and political negotiation with URNG; at the present time, this process has reached an advanced stage and the signing of Binding and Lasting Peace agreements is anticipated at the earliest possible moment.  When this takes place, the subversive movement will lay down its arms, its members will demobilize and return to civilian life, the CVDC will no longer have reason for being, and will for that reason disband, either spontaneously or through intervention by the authorities...


          However, in another note of the same date,[7] the Government claims:


          This domestic confrontation with groups outside the law may be defined as internal disturbances in accordance with International Law and therefore the Geneva Conventions and their Protocols I and II, concerning threats to civilians in time of internal conflict, are not applicable...Guatemala faces no situation of armed internal conflict at this time...


          The existence of more than half a million armed patrolmen whom the government is incapable of controlling and who are a constant threat to civil tranquility and security can not be justified.


          The Commission in relation to the transformation fo the PACs into Voluntary civilian Committees for Development (CDVCs) has stated that:  "The Commission holds, that any conversion must take place has it has said before 'in the framework of a democratic society' that is subjec to and with respect for the civilian authorities and enabling the inhabitants of the village, canton or municipality to express democratically their choice for disbandment or conversion, without giving those committees any priviletes at the expense of other civilian associations...However, given the discretionary authority and record of abuses of the patrols, any conversion from the present position of power of these armed groups would entail the issuance of regulations and highly rigorous measures to ensure that the new name does not conceal and disguise a continued exercise by them of illegal power that strikes at human rights."[8]


          7)          There is a positive change in the situation of human rights in the so-called "Communities of Population in Resistance" (CPR) in the Ixcan and Sierra of El Quiché.


          Keeping in mind their own recommendations in the report published in June, 1994, the Commission checked the situation of the CPR.  It verified a positive change as manifested in the absence of attacks and destruction and in a growing respect for the rights of freedom of movement, trade, and expression for its people.  According to information received by the IACHR, the normalization of the respective civilian populations is gradually improving.


          The Commission received some complaints from the Sierra area regarding hostility on the part of self-defense patrols and the behavior of some regular army personnel. The IACHR presented the complaints and received assurances from the military authorities that rights in those localities would be respected.


          The IACHR was visited by representatives of a group of some 100 families living in the Petén who consider themselves part of the CPR.  In addition to complaints of mistreatment and persecution during the period of the conflict, they are now demanding a solution to their problem of resettlement and that they be respected by the armed forces and neighboring defense patrols.


          8)          The return and resettlement of refugees from the conflict and of the internal displaced persons continues to go forward despite the ongoing problems and distrust.


          Six thousand refugees returned to Guatemala in 1994 under organized conditions coordinated by the CEAR (Special Committee for Aid to Refugees and the Displaced) and government and private organizations.  The agreements reached with the refugees included support for recovering or obtaining land, credit, and supplies.


          Significant advances have been made in the implementation of  those agreements albeit in the face of serious problems, because of lack of funds, bureaucratic delays, and basically on account of the difficult of assuring lands suitable for the resettlements.


          The IACHR was informed of settlement problems aggravated by legal uncertainty as to land tenure and the displacement of populations as a result of the conflict. The IACHR discussed with the CEAR, FONAPAZ, AND COPREDEH the various aspects involved in handling those conflicts in a manner appropriate for obtaining adequate satisfaction for the damages suffered by the populations concerned.


          Technical commissions representing the various interests have  been set up in order to facilitate settlement of conflicts. The IACHR was able to examine the work of one of them which is concerned with the holding "Los Cimientos" in the Sierra of the Department of Quiché. The responsibility with which its work was being carried out holds out hope that it will be brought to a satisfactory conclusion in the very near future.


          The returnees of the zones visited by the IACHR laid out the prevailing economic and social situation and the urgency of being able to count on supplies, farm implements, and funds, as well as having access to education and basic health care.


          9)          The activity of terrorist groups contributes to the general insecurity.


          The IACHR has presented its position on the activity of irregular armed groups in its previous reports.



          The IACHR decries the delinquency and terrorism practiced by the insurgent groups and recognizes the right and duty of a democratic and constitutional government to combat them to the full extent of the law but within the legal framework and using means consistent with a regime of law.


          Among the various assaults, the following are the most flagrant:


          Extorsion and illegal appropriation: The Commission also received information regarding appropriation of food from the corn patches of the village by the guerrilla.  Village Vi Tzitze, 9 km. from Chajul.


          In May, 1994, accusations by the CACIF Chamber of Commerce that the guerrilla had under threat demanded $88,000 from various rural landowners were confirmed by the URNG.  (Prensa Libre, May 11).


          The Commission received information regarding attempted kidnapping of relatives of landowners for the purpose of extorting money.  (Finca San Francisco Los Salamares, Chiquimulilla, Santa Rosa).


          The guerrilla attacked the garrison of Chupol on August 14, 1994 killing three (2 soldiers and 1 civilian) and wounding 23 (12 soldiers and 11 civilians).


          On September 3, the guerrilla killed 2nd Lieutenant Amarild Sanán Hernández after being captured and unable to continue firing, near the village Patzaj, Township of Comalapa, Chimaltenango.


          Reiterating what was stated in its previous reports and taking into consideration the foregoing, the Commission can  assert that the successful conclusion of the peace talks currently in progress between the Government and the representatives of URNG will contribute to creating more favorable conditions for the effective exercise of human rights in Guatemala.


          The Commission bases the foregoing conclusions on various considerations.  In the first place, the absence of armed conflict lessens the possibility of incidental harm to the civilian population and reprisals against it.


          Furthermore, it is common knowledge that the subsistence of pockets of guerrilleros is put forward as an argument by those who seek to preserve the current militarization of rural areas and substantial sectors of Guatemalan life by fomenting generalized fear, weakening the power of the civil government, hampering the work of justice, impeding the normal resettlement of displaced persons and refugees and, thereby, sabotaging full enjoyment of human rights on the part of Guatemalans in different parts of the country.




          In the course of its visit to Guatemala in December, 1994, the Commission received a report from COPREDEH on compliance with its recommendations, as well as those put forward by Dr. Monica Pinto, the special United Nations expert for Guatemala.[9]


          The Government reports in those documents that it has issued instructions or taken measures to ensure more effective exercise of human rights.  The IACHR recognizes the effort made although, as the previous report indicates, the results are still incipient and unsatisfactory.  The IACHR trusts that the Government of Guatemala will make those measures more effective and insists on full compliance with the 44 recommendations set forth in its Annual Report 1993 of March 1994 inasmuch as the problems and situations which prompted their formulation are still present.

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    [1]  The IACHR has established direct collaborative relations with the MINUGUA to which it has turned over copies of all its general reports and individual case reports on Guatemala published during the period 1980-1994.  The IACHR has issued a call to the Parties and all sectors of the Guatemalan people to cooperate in the closest possible way with those who make up this Mission. (IACHR OAS, Press Release. Guatemala, December 15, 1994).

    [2]  See IACHR "Fourth Report..." cited.  Chaps. I and III; and IACHR, Annual Report 1993, Chap. IV.  Guatemala, Section II.

    [3]  The IACHR carried out two missions of observation in loco in Guatemala in 1994, one in March which was primarily aimed at the situation of the Communities of Population in Resistance (see Special Report. OEA Ser.L/V/II.86, June 1994) and another in December (see Press Release #27 at the end of this Annual Report 1994).

    [4]  See Fourth Report...cited, Chap. IX, Section on Union Freedom, Rights, and Labor Courts.  On its 1994 visits, the Commission confirmed the subsistence of most of the problems indicated there.

    [5]  IACHR, "Fourth Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Guatemala:  OEA/Ser.L/V/II.83 and "Annual Report 1993 Chap. IV. OEA/Ser./L/V./II.84.

    [6]  Note M12-OEA-D1.2. Nº 962.94 of December 29, 1994.

    [7]  Note M12.OEA-D.1.2 Nº 962-94 of December, 1994.

    [8]  IACHR, Annual Report 1993 Chapter IV. pag. 423.

    [9]  U.N. Economic and Social Council.  E/cn.4/1994/10.