Guatemala: the ICJ condemns proposal to introduce amnesty measures in cases of gross human rights violations

The ICJ strongly condemns the draft bill of the Congressional Commission on Legislation and Constitutional Affairs to propose reforms to the Law of National Reconciliation (Congressional Decree 145-96) and grant amnesty in cases of gross human rights violations.

“The amnesty included in this draft bill is unconstitutional and flagrantly violates Guatemala’s international obligations. It seeks to place more obstacles in the way of victims of serious human rights violations in their search for justice and truth,” said Ramón Cadena, Director of the Central American Office of the ICJ.

“Justice must be delivered in these important cases because it is the basis for political stability, the rule of law and democracy. Guatemalan authorities should demonstrate that they have an unquestionable commitment to the struggle against impunity.  Unfortunately, this draft bill demonstrates the exact opposite,” he added.

This decision flagrantly contravenes Guatemala’s international obligations to prosecute and punish those responsible for gross violations of human rights and guarantee the rights to justice, truth and reparation for victims of these crimes.

International bodies, including the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in numerous judgments, have condemned Guatemala for gross human rights violations; and on repeated occasions have stated that it is prohibited to grant amnesties in cases of gross violations of human rights and international crimes, such as crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes.

This draft bill could open the doors to allow impunity to continue, at a time when the judicial system is fighting against impunity in historic cases of gross human rights violations and international crimes and in so doing provide guarantees for the victims’ rights to justice.

The ICJ considers that the administration of justice in cases of gross violations of human rights and international crimes by independent judges in cases of “transitional justice” should be supported, not only by the Legislature but also by the Executive Branch, as well as, self-evidently, by the Judicial Branch itself.

The Supreme Court of Justice has the obligation to support independent judges that through their rulings are proving to be impartial, objective and independent and should take the necessary measures to protect judges from any interference or attack that affects the smooth exercise of their duties.

The ICJ recalls that it is a State’s inalienable obligation under international law to investigate gross violations of human rights and international crimes and to prosecute and punish those responsible.

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