RIGHT TO PERSONAL LIBERTY
In its Report on Guatemala, the Commission stated that
after the Peace Accords were signed, the problems relating to the
right of personal freedom sprang largely from deficiencies in the
institutions and systems in place to administer justice. The
Commission analyzed the situation of detainees held in the preliminary
phases of judicial investigations, particularly at the time of their
arrest and during initial detention, and the use of preventive
The Commission finally concluded that the State’s commitment
under the peace accords to reform the police and strengthen the
administration of justice was still of vital importance as the basis
for enhancing respect for the right to liberty. With reference to the
National Civil Police, the Commission placed special emphasis on the
need to dedicate resources and particular attention to officer
recruitment and training, to supervisory mechanisms, and to
enforcement measures intended to ensure that officers observe the
applicable procedures and the law.
In light of the conclusions it reached, the Commission
recommended that the State:
1. Adopt additional measures of training, oversight, and
enforcement to ensure that agents of the National Civil Police follow
the procedures established by law in effectuating arrests, and, in
particular, to ensure that arrests are only carried out pursuant to
judicial order or in legitimate situations of flagrant offenses. In
particular, the Commission highlighted the need to strengthen the
internal system for monitoring and oversight within the National Civil
2. Implement and ensure the operability of a centralized registry
containing, inter alia, the
name of every detainee, the reason for and place of detention, when it
was initiated, and the judicial authority that ordered it. This
registry must be promptly available to family members of detainees,
defense counsel, judges and other pertinent authorities, and other
parties with a legitimate interest.
3. Undertake concerted measures to ensure that any person deprived
of liberty is subject to judicial oversight within the six-hour period
provided for in the Constitution. As one safeguard, the Commission
recommended that additional measures of training, oversight, and
enforcement be adopted to ensure that prison authorities do not accept
detainees without a judicial order authorizing their detention, as
required by law.
Formulate guidelines for officers of the National Civil Police
as to when arrest and detention should in the case of lesser offenses
be declined in favor of the issuance of a citation to appear in court
or similar alternative measures.
5. Develop training, oversight, and enforcement measures to ensure
the use of noncustodial measures in place of preventive detention in
accordance with domestic and international norms. In particular, the
State should encourage and support specialized training programs for
judicial personnel to ensure that preventive detention is applied as
an exceptional measure, justified only when the applicable legal
standards are met in the individual case.
6. Devote special attention to establishing systems to ensure the
judicial investigation, prosecution and punishment of members of the
security forces who violate the law by effectuating illegal and
7. Establish an oversight mechanism to periodically review the
situation of persons in preventive detention, to ensure that criminal
proceedings are expedited, and that persons not judged within a
reasonable time are released pending the completion of the
and Supervision in the National Civil Police (PNC)
As regards the Commission’s first recommendation, dealing
with the need for improved oversight, MINUGUA’s verification report
on the National Civil Police noted that monitoring, supervising, and
evaluating police procedures were not engrained into the PNC at the
As regards the additional training measures, the
Commission notes with concern the significant reduction in the budget
of the PNC Academy to a total of Q9 million–Q69 million less than
the amount requested for its operations.
Accordingly, the Commission urges the State to provide the
institutional support and resources necessary for the PNC Academy to
be able to continue its essential tasks of training new police
officers and providing refresher courses and specialized training.
As regards measures to ensure that PNC officers follow the
procedures set forth in law in carrying out arrests, statistics from
the PNC’s Professional Responsibility Office for the period January
to May 2002 indicate that complaints alleging police abuses, irregular
procedures, and illegal arrests were lodged in 221 cases.
The IICPG told the IACHR that even though these cases are being
investigated by the Professional Responsibility Office, to date no
members of the National Civil Police had been punished in connection
Given the failure to comply with this recommendation, the
Commission reiterates the need for the PNC to follow legal procedures
in carrying out arrests and to meet its obligations of giving prior,
detailed notice of the reason for the arrest, informing detainees of
their constitutional rights, and allowing them to communicate with
their families or attorneys.
Centralized Registry of Arrests
regards the second recommendation, the Commission has received
information indicating that the Penitentiary System Directorate is
currently drawing up a database of detainees. The Commission urges the
government to involve the PNC authorities in this effort, along with
the other competent bodies, and to provide it with the resources
needed for the launch of a single registry of detained persons. In
addition to the detainee’s name, the reason for the arrest, the date
of the arrest, and the authority that ordered it, the Commission
recommends that the registry also include information about detainees’
ethnic origin and mother tongue, with a view toward effectively
upholding the right of defense.
Bringing Detainees before the Competent Authorities
With respect to the third recommendation–measures to ensure
that anyone arrested is brought before judicial authorities within a
six-hour period–the Commission notes that no progress has been made
and, on the contrary, the average delay before detainees are brought
out to give their first statements is seven days.
The State furnished no information regarding this point.
In section 4 of Chapter VIII of the Report on Guatemala, in
consideration of Guatemalan society’s concerns about increasing
common crime and the authorities’ inability to control it, and about
the ineffective and disproportionate enforcement of preventive custody
in cases of minor offenses, the Commission recommended the adoption of
alternative, noncustodial measures, such as citations to appear in
court, house arrests, and posting bail.
The State has reported the creation of Criminal Defense Offices
in police stations, the purpose of which is to prevent people arrested
for minor offenses and misdemeanors from being taken to preventive
custody centers, thus attempting to decongest the prison system and to
guarantee the rights of those detainees. Since March 2002, the
project, which has 120 lawyers distributed around offices in Guatemala
City, Villa Nueva, and Mixco, has dealt with 1341 cases, in 555 of
which the individuals arrested were not sent to prison.
At the same time, the ICCPG has reported that preventive
detentions have been reduced, in that the percentage of people held on
a preventive basis was 47 percent in August 2002.
However, the duration of preventive custody exceeds the 90 days
permissible by law, and in cases involving kidnappings it has lasted
for as long as two years. With respect to inordinately long periods of
preventive custody, in the Report on Guatemala the Commission warned
that it represented a clear breach of the American Convention,
violating both the presumption of innocence and due process.
164. With regard to the development of training, oversight,
and enforcement measures to ensure the use of noncustodial measures in
place of preventive detention, the Commission has received information
indicating that to date, no such programs exist.
Judicial Oversight of Law Enforcement
As regards the recommendation about measures to ensure the
judicial investigation, prosecution, and punishment of members of the
security forces who carry out illegal and arbitrary arrests, the
Commission applauds the clean-up work carried out by the PNC
authorities, whereby a significant number of officers and commanders
have been dismissed because of crimes committed; it also encourages
the strengthening of the agency’s internal control offices, which
should be provided with a set of regulations for processing and
punishing officers responsible for disciplinary offenses.
With reference to those officers who carry out illegal arrests
and acts of torture, the Commission urges the Guatemalan State and, in
particular, the Public Prosecution Service and the judiciary, to meet
their obligation of conducting investigations and imposing the
THE SITUATION OF PERSONS DETAINED IN THE GUATEMALAN PENAL
In its Fifth Report on Guatemala, the Commission said that a
properly functioning prison system is a necessary element in
guaranteeing citizen security and the proper administration of
justice. It also said that prisons must be adequate to contain persons
who pose a danger to their communities and to provide the possibility
of rehabilitation for those who will reincorporate themselves in
society, and it warned that when prisons do not receive the attention
and resources they require, their functioning becomes distorted.
Instead of providing protection, they become schools for crime and
antisocial behavior, leading to recidivism in place of rehabilitation.
With that in mind, the Commission recommended that the State:
1. Establish specialized recruitment, screening, and training
programs for all personnel assigned to detention facilities, with
special attention to those who work in direct contact with inmates.
2. Improve reception procedures to ensure that every person
received in a detention facility is (1) assessed by a competent
official to identify those who may be ill, injured, at risk of harming
themselves, or otherwise require special attention, to ensure that
such persons receive the supervision and treatment required; and (2)
screened by medical personnel for infectious diseases to ensure
isolation from the general prison population where necessary and
access to proper medical treatment.
3. Establish systems to separate persons in preventive detention
from those serving judicially imposed sentences, and to ensure that
minors are not detained in adult facilities, even temporarily.
4. Allocate resources sufficient to ensure that every person held
in a detention facility has available: drinking water, sanitary
facilities adequate for the maintenance of personal hygiene and
health, including access to toilet facilities at all times;
appropriate space, light and ventilation; food of sufficient calories
and nutrition; and an adequate mattress and bedding.
5. Improve the systems in place to ensure that: such medical and
psychological care as is needed is readily obtainable; every facility
is stocked with basic medical supplies, and that, of the personnel on
duty at any time, there is someone trained to respond to health
emergencies; and, when it is not possible to adequately treat inmates
within the detention facility, that procedures are streamlined to
ensure prompt access to hospital or other care.
Adopt additional measures to ensure that, in cases where young
children are housed in detention centers with a detained parent, their
best interests prevail in establishing relevant policies, and that
they have access to the nutrition, health and educational services
necessary for their proper development.
Take the measures necessary, given that conjugal visits are
permissible, to allow these to take place in conditions which are
reasonable, and which do not discriminate between inmates in different
facilities or between male and female inmates.
8. Adopt the measures necessary to guarantee non-discrimination in
the treatment of inmates to ensure that indigenous persons held in the
prison system may communicate with personnel in their own language,
and that all inmates may practice their own religious beliefs.
9. Take additional steps to provide educational and work
opportunities to persons in preventive detention, and to prisoners
Adopt an internal discipline policy which does not permit some
inmates to persecute others in the name of “order,” and which
ensures equality of treatment among inmates; and ensure that there is
a system in place for inmates to complain about problems and abuses
within the facilities and for such complaints to be met with effective
investigation and disciplinary action.
Further fortify the applicable procedures to ensure that any
case involving the injury or death of an inmate is met with swift and
effective investigation, prosecution, and punishment.
Establish a permanent, independent oversight mechanism
responsible for the periodic inspection of detention facilities.
Devote additional human and material resources to accomplishing
the foregoing objectives, with special priority given to increasing
the number of guards available to provide security, ameliorating the
situation of overcrowding, and to ensuring that the basic human needs
of all inmates are met.
Recruitment and Training
With respect to the first recommendation–specialized
recruitment, medical screening, and training programs for all
personnel assigned to detention facilities–information furnished by
the State indicates that during 2001 the School of Prison Studies was
established as an educational office attached to the General
Directorate of the Penitentiary System. The School provides training
at four levels, covering law, human rights, intercultural and
multicultural issues, criminology, current national events, prison
administration, and prison ethics. Organized by means of a public call
for applications, the selection process includes specialized
evaluations and the completion of a 12-week introductory course. The
sixth generation graduated on April 30, 2002, with 51 new guards.
The Commission commends the progress made in training and
selecting prison personnel and, to consolidate this process, it
believes the Prison School should be provided with sufficient
resources and adequate facilities of its own for training the guards,
with enough teaching staff to provide adequate training during the
With reference to the second recommendation, the Commission
notes that reception procedures at prisons and detention centers are
still inadequate. According to the ICCPG’s study into prison
conditions in Guatemala, detainees only receive medical care if a
proper request is lodged and processed and if they are suffering from
a serious illness. The Commission reiterates the need for the
penitentiary system to be provided with comprehensive preventive
In its comments the State pointed out that contrary to the
IACHR’s claims, Guatemala’s prisons currently have medical
personnel who examine each and every individual entering the
facilities and record their findings on a medical record that is
attached to the individual’s personal file. The State also reported
that the prison system does have preventive health programs, which are
carried out regularly and include analyses and oversight of the
quality of the food and water supplied, etc.
Proper Selection of the Prison Population
The information available indicates that the third
recommendation has not been put into practice: of Guatemala’s 16
prison facilities, only three hold convicts serving their sentences;
the other centers continue to house both convicts and individuals in
preventive custody. Thus, in August 2002, the Zone 18 Preventive
Center was holding 100 convicts and 1211 prisoners in preventive
custody; at the Cantel Penal Farm there were 657 convicts and 103
preventive detainees; at the High Security Jail, 71 of the prisoners
had been convicted and 21 were behind held in preventive custody.
In its comments, the State claims that the Guatemalan prison
system keeps individuals in preventive custody separate from those
serving sentences handed down by the courts; it is also quite certain
that those centers house no underaged children, who are fully
identified prior to admission. While the IACHR appreciates the
information furnished by the State, it notes that it is general in
nature and does not respond to the specific comments made in the
The Commission notes that the fourth recommendation, intended
to ensure adequate detention conditions for prisoners, has not been
put into practice. Information supplied by the State indicates that
Guatemala has no legal regime governing the treatment of prisoners or
the conditions in which convicts serve their sentences. The Commission
has been informed that on June 6, 2002, the government sent Congress
draft legislation that would stipulate the rights and obligations of
the inmates, the administrative agencies, and the penitentiary system
The Commission notes with concern that not only have the
resources necessary for ensuring proper sanitation and space not been
supplied, but also that the overcrowding inside the country’s
prisons is particularly serious. The Commission has received
information indicating that as of October 2001, the overpopulation of
prison inmates stood at a total of 1,077. The most overpopulated
facilities, in order, are the Pavón Fraijanes Model Rehabilitation
Farm with 55.56%; the Zone 18 Preventive Center with 51.43%; the
Cantel Model Rehabilitation Farm with 46.45%; and the Pavoncito
Preventive Center with 41.82%. The overcrowding in most of these
prisons is caused by the high percentage of inmates in preventive
custody; this year, that percentage stood at 47%.
As regards the fifth recommendation, the Commission has been
informed that medical and psychological assistance has not improved
and that, on the contrary, the penitentiary system’s human and
material resources for covering all the country’s prison facilities
The Commission applauds the government’s legal initiative to
provide the penitentiary system with an organic law. It is, however,
concerned about the reduction in the penitentiary system’s budget:
the available information indicates that during 2002 it was cut back
by Q10 million. The Commission believes that full enforcement of the
law on the prison regime depends on the resources given to the
The Commission places particular emphasis on the need for the
State to adopt and enforce this law promptly and to provide the prison
system with the human and material resources necessary to ensure all
inmates decent conditions of detention and due, timely, and
comprehensive medical attention.
The Situation Faced by Detainees’
regards the sixth recommendation, the Commission has no information
about measures adopted to ensure the children of prison inmates access
to the nutrition, health, and educational services necessary for their
proper development. On the contrary, the available information
indicates that at present there are no educational programs or
regulations governing their presence inside prisons; only the Female
Orientation Center has a community home, which solely caters for
newborn children up to one year of age.
In its comments on the report, the State noted that the two
centers that allow children to remain with their mothers do have the
facilities necessary to provide minors with proper shelter, including
the nutritional, medical, and psychological services needed for their
With regard to the seventh recommendation–the adoption of
measures for guaranteeing discrimination-free conjugal visits–the
Commission has been informed that, in particular, women’s access to
this right is frequently restricted. The men’s prisons have not set
aside sufficient areas for these visits, and there are no regulations
to ensure that they are carried out on a nondiscriminatory basis.
The State reported in its comments that the prison system
authorities, along with other government agencies, are working on a
set of regulations to allow women prisoners to receive conjugal
visits. The IACHR commends this initiative to establish rules, and it
will observe them as they are issued and implemented.
Inmates of Indigenous Origin
With reference to the eighth recommendation, the Commission has
received information indicating that the prison system has not taken
steps to prevent discrimination on ethnic grounds or to allow all
inmates to practice their own religious beliefs. The penitentiary
system has no concrete information about its inmates broken down by
ethnic origin, the language they speak, or their need for translation
services. The detention centers still do not have bilingual personnel
to guarantee that such inmates can communicate in their own languages
with justice officials and defense attorneys.
The State’s comments claim that at no time do the general
procedures of the prison system allow for the discriminatory treatment
of any person on ethnic, linguistic, gender, or religious grounds.
However, the State supplied no specific information with which to
assess the situation of indigenous prison inmates.
As regards the ninth recommendation, information submitted by
the State indicates that the draft prison regime law submitted by the
government to Congress in June 2002 establishes a progressive regime
of reeducation and social rehabilitation for prisoners and provides a
procedure for remission of sentences through work and/or study.
However, the State furnished no information regarding the steps taken
to provide inmates with the opportunities for education and work that
would promote their rehabilitation.
187. In its comments the State reported that it had entered
into cooperation and support agreements with specialized institutions
in order to provide detainees with the reeducation and work facilities
necessary to impact their rehabilitation and social readaptation.
However, the State provided no information about specific measures
adopted toward that goal.
According to information given to the Commission, the prison
system does not have specialized personnel capable of teaching
specific training programs inside detention centers. Although 29% of
the prison population requires basic literacy training,
34% need to finish primary education, and 22% of them need to
finish their secondary schooling, the ICCPG reported that only 33% of
1,261 interviewed inmates were studying.
As regards work opportunities, the Commission received
information indicating that there were no comprehensive job training
programs with follow-up efforts for the pursuit of paid work in
prison. Although most of the centers have training programs and space
for workshops, they lack the tools and equipment necessary for
pursuing productive activities.
Internal Discipline and Supervision
Regarding the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth recommendations–dealing
with internal discipline and the independent supervision of detention
centers–the Commission has received no information from the State
about the implementation of a regime for disciplinary policy. On the
contrary, it has been told that order and discipline committees
continue to exist, which, in most of the prisons, keep order, maintain
their own disciplinary rules, and impose punishments.
With reference to strengthening the investigation and
punishment of violations of the personal integrity of inmates, the
information available indicates that to date no action has been taken
against prison guards for incidents in which prisoners have been
injured or killed.
Finally, given the lack of an investment budget for adapting
and improving detention facilities, the inadequacy of the guard staff,
health professionals, and trainers, the Commission insists on the need
for the State to devote sufficient human and material resources to
overcome prison overcrowding and to ensure inmates adequate conditions
RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF THOUGHT AND EXPRESSION
In Chapter IX of its Report, the Commission asked the Special
Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression to draw up the chapter on freedom
of expression. Based on the conclusions reached by the rapporteur’s
office in that chapter, the Commission urged the Guatemalan State to
take the following steps:
1. Immediately adopt measures to put a stop to the threats,
attacks and killings perpetrated against journalists and other social
commentators who are exercising their right to freedom of expression.
Article 1 of the American Convention sets out the obligation of states
to respect the rights and freedoms recognized therein and to ensure to
all persons under their jurisdiction the free and full exercise
thereof. From the obligation to ensure the free and full exercise of
the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Convention, it follows that
states are obligated to prevent, investigate, and punish violations of
the rights recognized in the Convention, to restore any right so
violated, and as necessary, to make reparation for damage caused by
the violation of human rights.
2. Pursue the draft reforms to the Law on Elections and Political
Parties, and concerning access to information and the action of habeas
data, which the President has promised to support, while taking into
consideration the recommendations and suggestions put forward by
representatives of civil society. The bills in question should contain
provisions for an independent appeals body so that any exceptions
provided for by law can be challenged directly without having to
resort to the final judicial instance.
3. Enact the measures needed to assure that the antitrust
provisions of the constitution can be enforced and take progressive
steps to ensure minority groups access to the media.
4. Carry out an in-depth investigation of the possible existence
of a de facto monopoly in broadcast television and implement mechanisms
that will assure greater plurality in the granting of channels.
5. Put in place clear rules to avoid conflicts of interest among
government officials and the media.
6. Review the regulations governing the granting of radio and
television licenses with the purpose of incorporating democratic
criteria guaranteeing equal opportunity.
7. Carry out awareness and training campaigns dealing with the
right of free expression, and continue taking steps toward eliminating
all obstacles to the enjoyment of the right of freedom of expression.
194. With the
assistance of the office of the Special Rapporteur, this chapter will
analyze the measures adopted by the Guatemalan government in
implementing the recommendations contained in the Report.
The Commission observes that Guatemala’s freedom of
expression situation has not improved significantly since 2001.
Problems still exist: continued attacks and threats against
journalists, the existence of laws and rules that do not protect
freedom of expression, and the absence of measures to ensure a greater
plurality of information sources in the country.
to Prevent and Punish Attacks against Individuals Exercising their
Right of Free Expression
In June 2001 the State of Guatemala created
the Special Prosecutors Unit for Crimes against Journalists and
Trade-Unionists, in order to investigate and prevent threats,
violent attacks, and killings carried out against investigative
journalists. In spite of this Unit’s creation, the Commission is
still deeply concerned about the vulnerability of media workers.
According to reports received, on September 5, 2001, the journalist
Jorge Mynor Alegría Armendáriz was murdered in front of his home in
an attack in which he received six gunshot wounds.
Alegría Armendáriz hosted the program Línea
Directa, broadcast by Radio Amatique in the town of Puerto
Barrios, Izabal. Alegría Armendáriz used his program to denounce
cases of corruption, including irregular business deals entered into
by the Santos Tomás de Castilla Port Corporation and the shortfall of
up to Q480 million faced by the municipality of Puerto Barrios as a
result of falsified electricity bills. On several occasions, death
threats had been made against this journalist, which he also denounced
on his radio show. The day after this killing, another journalist with
the same radio station, Enrique Aceituno, presented his resignation
after receiving threats against his life.
The Rapporteur’s office was also told that media
workers continue to receive threats in connection with their
investigative work into corruption cases. In June 2001, the
Association of Journalists of Guatemala reported that both the
journalist Julio César del Valle of Radio Única’s program Usted
tiene la palabra and Marvin Herwing, the director of the Regional
Informativo newscast on Radio Novedades in the city of Zacapa, had
received intimidating telephone calls.
In July 2001, threats were made against the lives of the journalists
Juan Carlos Aquino and Marvin Alfredo Herin González of the Regional
Informativo news program on Zacapa’s Radio Novedades,
and in August 2001, at least four journalists were physically
assaulted by police officers. The journalists were covering a street
demonstration against tax hikes.
In April 2002 the freelance journalist David Herrera was
kidnapped by persons unknown while investigating exhumations from
clandestine graves. The journalist escaped from his abductors and was
forced to flee the country.
On June 7, 2002, Abner Gouz of the newspaper El
Periódico, Rosa María Bolaños of the daily Siglo
XXI, Ronaldo Robles and Marielos Monzón of the Emisoras
Unidas radio station, and seven members of human rights
organizations received death threats. In an anonymous communiqué sent
to the headquarters of the organization “Alliance Against Impunity”
and to several media newsdesks, a group styling itself “the Real
Guatemalans” called them “enemies of the nation” and threatened
them with “extermination.”
On July 7, 2002, the Siglo XXI columnist Adrián Zapata received a call at home from
someone claiming to be a member of “organized crime” and warning
him of his impending murder.
In August 2002, the anthropologist Victoria Sandfor from the Catholic
University of Amsterdam, Netherlands, and the New
York Times journalists David González and Wesley Boxed received
death threats from Valentin Chen Gómez, a member of the army’s
Kaibil commandos, while conducting on-site research at the ongoing
exhumations in Rabinal, Baja Verapaz. The journalists were
accompanying the excavation team from the Maya Achí Association for
the Integral Development of Victims of Violence (Adivima) at a
clandestine burial site in that municipality where more than 600
people were interred after being massacred by the army and
paramilitary groups in 1981.
The Commission reminds the Guatemalan government that threats
and attacks against journalists are violations of society’s right to
receive information freely. The aim of such actions is to intimidate
the work of journalists, which has an inhibiting effect on society and
prevents the investigation of irregularities in the running of the
government and other matters of public interest. The State is
responsible for preventing and investigating those actions, and for
punishing the perpetrators.
toward Reforming the Laws on Elections and Political Parties and on
Information Access and Habeas Data
Commission has received no information on measures adopted toward
amending the Law on Elections and Political Parties.
contrast, according to information supplied, in July 2002 the
congressional Legislation Commission issued a favorable ruling on a
draft of the Law on Information Access and Habeas Data submitted by
the Secretariat for Strategic Analysis (SAE). The bill was given the
number 2594 and forwarded to the plenary for discussion. In October
2002, the plenary of Congress adopted the text of the law on its
second reading. To come into force, the law must pass its third
reading, then have its articles and final language approved, and then
sent to the executive for signing. Once signed, it must be published
in the Official Journal.
The Rapporteur’s office points out once again that access to
information is of vital importance to the proper functioning of our
hemisphere’s democracies. The Rapporteur’s office recommends that
the member states adopt the steps necessary to uphold this right, in
accordance with international guidelines, by promulgating laws that
allow access to information held by the State and enacting
complementary rules to regulate that access, and also by promulgating
laws that provide people with access to their personal information
through habeas data action, with due consideration to the applicable
international standards. With reference to these rights, the Special
Rapporteur would like to point out that exceptional limitations are
only admissible on grounds of official secrecy in cases in which there
is a real and imminent threat to national security within the
democratic system. Furthermore, the international rules require the
existence of independent review bodies to determine whether the
constraints imposed on national defense grounds are balanced in
accordance with the protection of other rights under international
human rights standards, such as society’s right to be informed about
matters of public interest.
with Antitrust Laws and Access to the Media by Minority Groups
respect to the existence of a de
facto media monopoly, to date no information is available about
State efforts to investigate and put an end to this situation.
Monopolies are prohibited by Article 130 of the Constitution of the
Republic of Guatemala. However, the information received indicates
that private monopolies have followed policies aimed at shaping public
opinion on behalf of government sectors, thus hindering the work of
to Promote Greater Plurality in Broadcast Television Channel
The Commission has received no information about any measures
aimed at promoting greater plurality in broadcast television channel
to Avoid Conflicts of Interest among Government Officials and the
The Commission has received no information about any measures
aimed at preventing conflicts of interest among government officials
and the media.
the Regulations for Radio and Television Licenses to Incorporate
The Rapporteur’s office is aware that on March 23, 2001, the
President of Guatemala ordered the Secretariat for Strategic Analysis
(SAE) to embark on a study of a series of amendments to the
legislation governing radio and television concessions, with a view
toward incorporating democratic guidelines and guaranteeing equal
opportunity of access thereto within the context of the Peace Accords.
the Rapporteur’s office was informed that on March 7, 2001, a
Ministerial Agreement (No. 395-2001) was issued, authorizing the
grant, in trust, of a broadcast frequency to the National Association
for Communication, Culture, Art, and Development, to share on a
free-of-charge basis the authorized broadcast time with
municipalities, foundations, legitimate nonprofit associations, and
popular community organizations.
In February 2002, the draft Community Broadcasting Law was
presented to Congress. This draft recognizes the importance of
community radio stations in “promoting national culture,
development, and education” in thousands of communities around the
Given the fundamental role of community radio stations in keeping
society informed, one of the goals of the draft legislation is “guaranteeing
their exercise, under conditions of equality, of the right of free
expression of ideas through the use of radio frequencies for
The draft is still being studied by Congress.
Governmental Agreement 316-2002 was issued in September 2002.
In this agreement, the government announced that is was going to
award, free of charge, nine regional and national radio frequencies to
institutions and associations representing civil society.
The Guatemalan Community Communication Council rejected the agreement,
believing that it would hinder indigenous peoples’ access to the
available radio frequencies and thereby undermining the democratic
spirit that should hold sway in the awarding of broadcast channels.
213. The current government is continuing with the policy of awarding frequencies through auctions. Several civil society groups have claimed that this policy could hinder access to the auctions by popular sectors of society.  The auctions had been suspended on a temporary basis from April until August, before being reinstated on August 27, 2002, by the Superintendency of Telecommunications (SIT) with an auction for 13 radio frequencies. 
and Training about the Right of Free Expression
The Commission has received no information about activities
intended to raise awareness and provide training about the right of
With respect to the adoption of measures aimed at removing
obstacles to the right of free expression, the Rapporteur’s office
notes with satisfaction that on January 23, 2002, the Constitutional
Court handed down a provisional ruling of unconstitutionality on the
Law on Obligatory Professional Association. In its Decree 72-2001, the
Court ruled that obligatory membership applied to all professions with
the exception of journalists. It should be recalled that, contrary to
the rulings of the Inter-American Court vis-à-vis freedom of
expression, on November 30, 2001, the Guatemalan Congress approved the
Law on Obligatory Professional Association, which required that in
order to exercise the profession, all journalists had to have a
university degree and belong to the college of journalists.
In addition, the Special Rapporteur notes his concern regarding
the enactment of Law 27-2002 in June 2002. This law amended Article
196 of the Criminal Code, dealing with obscene spectacles and
publications. The amendments require that public exhibitions receive
prior authorization from the Ministry of Culture and Sport. On July
12, 2002, a group of Guatemalan citizens filed suit with the
Constitutional Court of Guatemala, claiming that these provisions were
unconstitutional in that they constituted a form of prior censorship.
The deadline for deciding this case expired on September 12, 2002, but
the suit remains pending. The Special Rapporteur points out that prior
censorship is forbidden under Article 13 of the American Convention on
Human Rights, except for regulating access to public spectacles by
the Special Rapporteur is still concerned about the existence of
desacato contempt laws and criminal legislation applicable to
defamation and libel, which impose criminal sanctions on criticisms
leveled at public officials.
Based on the information presented above, the Rapporteur’s
office repeats its recommendation that the State of Guatemala conduct
a serious, impartial, and effective investigation into the murder of the journalist Jorge Mynor Alegría
Armendáriz and punish those responsible, and that it investigate the
threats and attacks made against investigative journalists and other
media workers, with a view to ensuring the right of free expression
and information. Likewise, the
Rapporteur’s office calls on the State of Guatemala to adopt
vigorous measures against media monopolies, guaranteeing a plurality
of information sources and taking steps to guarantee the awarding or
renewal of broadcasting licenses in accordance with a clear, fair, and
objective procedure that pays due attention to the importance of the
media in allowing citizens to participate in the democratic process
and in implementing the Peace Accords. In addition, it recommends the enactment of a
law on information access and transparency in accordance with
applicable international standards and in compliance with the
recommendations of Guatemalan civil society. Finally, the Rapporteur’s
office urges the State to repeal its desacato laws and to review the
criminal legislation applicable to defamation and libel in order to
ensure that they are not used to stifle debate on matters of public
RIGHT TO POLITICAL PARTICIPATION
In Chapter X of the Report on Guatemala, the Commission noted
that the important goal of holding technically free and fair elections
was being met, while the substantive goal of inclusive participation
in national political life still required the adoption of further
measures. The Commission called the State’s attention most
particularly to the urgent need to enhance access to voter
registration, voter information, and polling stations, especially in
the country’s rural areas and among those sectors of the population
that remain underrepresented as voters, in accordance with Article 23
of the American Convention.
In connection with the right of all inhabitants to political
participation, the Commission recommended that the State:
Adopt the measures necessary to streamline the voter
registration process; a necessary step in the process of amplifying
voter registration is improving and streamlining the process to obtain
2. Devote particular attention to facilitating the registration of
citizens in rural areas and those who have otherwise been marginalized
from full participation in the political life of the country,
particularly women, the indigenous sector, and illiterate citizens,
including through the use of mobile voter registration initiatives.
3. Facilitate the process by which citizens can update their voter
registration information to reflect a change of address, so as to be
able to vote in the area where they live.
4. Promote initiatives designed to ensure that all voters obtain
the information they need to make informed political choices, and that
attention be given to implementing civic education programs during
non-electoral periods with a view to enhancing popular participation
in national political life, including through the dissemination of
written and oral information prepared in indigenous languages in the
corresponding zones of the country.
5. Take steps to recruit additional electoral personnel with
knowledge of indigenous languages, to ensure that indigenous citizens
are able to freely and fully exercise their political rights.
6. Take measures to improve the access of rural voters to polling
stations, including through establishing additional polling locations
in those areas, and increasing access to transportation on voting day.
7. Adopt the legislative and other measures necessary to define
electoral crimes so that acts which impede the exercise of political
rights by the citizenry through free and fair elections are subject to
the investigation, prosecution, and punishment required to safeguard
Adopt the fiscal and other measures necessary to provide the
TSE with the resources and support it requires to effectively exercise
its vital role in the consolidation of participatory democracy.
on Elections and Political Parties
With respect to the Commission’s recommendations regarding
voter registration, updating the electoral roll, civic education
programs, and access for rural voters, MINUGUA’s Thirteenth Report
on Human Rights in Guatemala describes a series of amendments to the
Law on Elections and Political Parties that have been passed by
Congress and that will introduce appropriate measures for attaining
the Peace Accords’ goal of increasing voter turnout rates and
citizen participation in elections.
Since the Constitutional Court returned the amended legislation to
Congress with objections, the Commission urges Congress to speed up
passage of the new electoral regime so it can be applied to the
Bilingual Electoral Officers
The Commission has no information about the hiring of electoral
officers with knowledge of indigenous languages.
Strengthening the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE)
The Commission has received no information from the State about
measures intended to provide the TSE with the support and resources it
requires. In connection with this, MINUGUA reported that new
magistrates, responsible for overseeing the 2003 general election, had
The Commission once again emphasizes the need to strengthen the
electoral system in order to guarantee voter access to the means of
political participation, which is a fundamental component in the quest
to consolidate a participatory and democratic system of government in
In the comments it offered on this follow-up report, the
Guatemalan State submitted the following information about its
compliance with the IACHR’s recommendations regarding the right of
Understanding the difficulties posed by the amendment of the
Law on Elections and Political Parties, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal
(hereinafter “TSE”) has twice (once in each tribunal) undertaken a
reform of the Law’s regulations in order to better structure the
electoral roll and, consequently, be technically able to provide
citizens with access to polling stations. In doing this, the TSE has
been receiving technical assistance from the OAS ever since the
discussions on amending the Electoral Law began.
The TSE has on several occasions stated that the bill currently
being debated by Congress is very different from the original proposal
submitted following the discussions held under the Peace Accords’
With support from the international community, prior to the
finalization of the electoral roll, the TSE will hold voter
registration days and organize voter record update efforts throughout
the entire country.
The State also reported that the installation of Vote Reception
Committees in rural areas was not going to be possible on account of a
legal ban, but that there was to be a rationalized distribution of
Voting Centers across the country.
In connection with the IACHR’s third recommendation–updating
the information on the electoral roll–the State reported on the
measures the TSE is to adopt to enable citizens to update their voter
records, including decentralizing the information and setting up a
geographically based electoral code, which will allow the following:
locating citizens geographically; subdividing municipal rolls in
accordance with CRE guidelines and the final electoral reform
proposal; and assignations.
As regards the IACHR’s sixth recommendation, the State
reported that under draft legislation sent to Congress, the TSE has
agreed to issue a proposal for decentralizing the Department of
Electoral Cartography’s Vote Reception Committees. To achieve this,
the Department of Electoral Cartography began designing, with OAS
cooperation, the National Plan for Decentralizing Vote Reception
Committees, covering all 22 of the country’s departments. It also
stated that work had begun on creating mechanisms to facilitate access
to voting stations by residents of the country’s most heavily
populated municipal headtowns, presenting a proposal to relocate the
polling stations in the urban areas.
As another way to combat low voter turnout, in Agreements
390-2001 and 280-2002 the TSE decided to enable citizens to vote in
the districts where they actually reside and not where their residency
cards had been issued.
With respect to training programs, the State reported that the
TSE has a program of permanent training and civic education during
nonelectoral periods, placing particular emphasis on women and young
people who are not necessarily of voting age. It also
institutionalized specific support efforts with a number of
Additionally, the State noted that the TSE had begun to
establish rules for electoral propaganda, specifying the actions that
can be carried out by political organizations, in order to guarantee
more orderly elections.
The Commission commends the detail, seriousness, and
illustrative value of the information provided by the State on the
question of political rights. It also notes with great satisfaction
that through Agreements 390-2001 and 280-2002 and the other measures
implemented by the TSE, the State of Guatemala is complying with the
IACHR’s recommendations aimed at ensuring that the Guatemalan people
can exercise their right to vote.
MINUGUA, The National Civil Police: A New Police Model Under
Construction, paragraph 21, April 2001.
Prensa Libre, “Funcionario
de Minugua: PNC no logra consolidarse” [Minugua Official:
Police Cannot Consolidate], November 10, 2002.
According to information furnished by the IICPG, of the 221 cases
reported to the Professional Responsibility Office, 29 involved
illegal arrests and, of these, five were allegedly carried out by
agents attached to Precinct 12, which covers Zones 2, 6, 17, and 18
of Guatemala City, where the population is mostly poor; four cases
dealt with Precinct 13, which has jurisdiction over the middle-class
and wealthy districts of the capital’s Zones 5, 10, 13, 14, 15,
and 16; three cases came from Precinct 14, which covers Zones 7, 11,
12, and 21 of Guatemala City; two from Precinct 24 in Zacapa; and
two from Precinct 21 in Jutiapa.
Data revealed by field research conducted by the ICCPG into the
duration of proceedings at Justice Centers.
Government of Guatemala, Follow-up Matrix of Issues Identified by
the Consultative Group, February 2002, Progress Report June-July
2002, August 2002, p. 16.
Report by the Guatemalan Institute of Comparative Criminal Science
Studies to the IACHR about the human rights situation in Guatemala,
ICCPG, Report on the penitentiary system, 2002.
ICCPG, Report on the human rights situation, 2002.
ICCPG, Research into education policy in the penitentiary system,
Inter-Am.Ct.H.R., Velásquez Rodríguez Case, Judgment of July 29,
1988, Series C No. 4, paragraph 166.
Human Rights Legal Action Center (CALDH),
Reporters Without Borders, and the Committee to Protect Journalists,
September 6, 2001.
United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA),
Thirteenth Report on Human Rights of the United Nations Verification
Mission in Guatemala, August 22, 2002, paragraph 29.
Association of Journalists of Guatemala (APG), June 28, 2001.
American human rights section of the International Federation of
Journalists and Amnesty International, August 2001.
to Protect Journalists, August 2001.
MINUGUA, supra, paragraph
Reporters Without Borders, June 10, 2002.
Press Freedom Committee of the Association of Journalists of
Guatemala, July 11, 2002.
Press Freedom Committee of the Association of Journalists of
Guatemala, August 23, 2002.
IACHR, 113th Session; Hearing with: La
Hora newspaper; the World Association of Community Radio
Broadcasters; the Guatemalan Federation of Radio Schools; the Social
Commission of the Episcopal Conference; the Association of
Journalists of Guatemala; the Latin American Federation of
Journalists; the Executive Committee for Communication; the CERIGUA
agency; and AMARC, Guatemala. During the presentation the IACHR was
told about the particular situation of the journalist María de los
Angeles Monzón, who was removed as the host of the Punto
de Encuentro program on Radio Sonora on September 7, 2000. The
journalist claims she was fired because she refused to obey orders
from the company’s owners prohibiting her from interviewing
certain “leftwing” members of the Portillo administration and
representatives of the opposition. Monzón said she had suffered
pressure of this type for several months prior to her dismissal,
with the result that several issues of public interest were censored
and she was prevented from interviewing a number of leading figures
from the nation’s political circles for the program. Monzón also
claimed that her dismissal was part of a policy of harassing
independent journalism by a de facto monopoly that controls the media and is indirectly backed
by the State. As evidence of the existence of this monopoly, the
petitioner provided information documenting the connections and
interdependence between the Minister for Communications,
Infrastructure, and Housing and the former director of Radio Sonora,
Luis Rabbé Tejada, and his brother-in-law Angel Remigio González,
the owner of Guatemala’s four broadcast television channels and a
dozen radio stations, including Radio Sonora. Monzón lodged her
complaint with the Guatemalan ombudsman on September 18. On that
occasion, the ombudsman concluded that there was insufficient
evidence to indicate a violation of the petitioner’s human rights,
defining the case as a labor dispute.
Draft Community Broadcasting Law, January 2002, Introduction, p. 2.
Governmental Agreement No. 316-2002, September 10, 2002, Article 2.
This information was given to the Commission by the Association of
Journalists of Guatemala at the IACHR’s 116th Session, October
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC), January
Prensa Libre, Thursday,
January 24, 2002.
American Convention, Article 13(4).
MINUGUA, Thirteenth Report on Human Rights, October 2002.