Washington, D.C. – Given the recent adoption by the Congress of the Republic of Guatemala of Resolution 3-2014, containing recommendations regarding the scope of the National Reconciliation Act and the Peace Accords, the Inter-American Commission (IACHR) reiterates the binding nature of the international human rights obligations undertaken by the State of Guatemala, and the importance of combating impunity in cases of grave human rights violations.
The Inter-American Commission recognizes the importance of various acknowledgments of responsibility made by the State in recent years, during several cases decided by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. These include, in particular, the cases of the Río Negro Massacres, the “Las Dos Erres” Massacre, and the Plan de Sánchez Massacre, perpetrated against indigenous communities in the context of armed conflict. Moreover, the Commission recognizes the efforts made and the progress achieved in the last four years in the investigation and truth-seeking by the current Attorney General.
Nonetheless, the IACHR observes with concern the fact that the declaration adopted by Congress on May 13th, in referring to the prosecution of Efraín Rios Montt, states that “it is legally not viable that the elements that constitute the crimes mentioned could have happened in Guatemala, principally with regard to the existence in our homeland of a genocide during the internal armed conflict.” he declaration further observes that the investigation and punishment for the grave human rights violations committed in this context create “conditions contrary to peace” and “prevent definitive national reconciliation”. Moreover, the first line of its text explicitly refers to the trial which started one year ago against retired military officers Efrain Rios Montt and Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, and directly urges the judiciary to render justice “in a way that this justice would produce peace”. This Resolution was approved during the same week as the new head of the Public Ministry is to be appointed.
The Inter-American Commission considers that a declaration of this nature, in the current context does not constitute a constructive step, in contrast with the efforts made by various State institutions to investigate and punish grave human rights violations and to fight against impunity.
The Inter-American Commission also notes with concern that this Resolution makes specific reference to the Rios Montt genocide trial, and indicates that the required elements of that crime have not been met in Guatemala. Further, it provides indications as to how the judiciary should rule in such cases. In this regard, the Commission urges the State to respect the principle of separation of powers, an essential condition of judicial independence. It recalls that the Constitution of Guatemala itself establishes, in Article 46, the general principle according to which human rights treaties and conventions that have been accepted and ratified by Guatemala take precedence over domestic law.
The IACHR recalls that Article 68 of the American Convention establishes the obligation to comply with the judgments of the Inter-American Court. In this regard, the Inter-American Court holds today, May 16th, during its 103rd Regular Session, a hearing to monitor compliance by Guatemala with eleven judgments (Blake, “Street Children” (Villagran Morales), Bámaca Velásquez, Mack Chang, Maritza Urrutia, Plan de Sánchez Massacre, Molina Thiessen, Carpio Nicolle et al., Tiu Tojín, “Las Dos Erres” Massacre and Chitay cases). The purpose of this hearing, as the Court has announced, is to receive updated and detailed information on reparations and the obligation to investigate, establish the facts, prosecute, and, if necessary, punish those responsible. Despite the emblematic nature of these cases and the time passed since the various judgments, the obligation to investigate, prosecute, and punish those responsible has not been fulfilled. It is imperative that the State take the concrete and critical measures necessary to comply with its fundamental obligations under international law.
A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.