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Guatemala

    August 25, 2015

    A Guatemalan court’s decision to try former Guatemalan President Efraín Ríos Montt on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity through a lawyer and behind closed doors opens a new avenue for justice but highlights the deep flaws of the country’s justice system, which has so far failed to bring justice to his victims, said Amnesty International.

    The conditions of his trial were decided due to the 89-year-old former president’s fragile health, according to news reports. The trial is due to start in January 2016.

    “Today’s ruling clearly shows that when justice is delayed for so long, there is a very high risk that those responsible for crimes such as mass killings and disappearances will be able to get away with it,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    “If authorities in Guatemala would have dealt with the shocking catalogue of crimes committed under Ríos Montt’s rule as they should have, instead of repeatedly delaying the process, the country would not find itself in this situation.”

    March 05, 2015

    DOWNLOAD PDF HERE

    It’s hard to believe, but people in Guatemala’s Quiché province would go to jail for Lolita Chávez.

    Lolita is a K’iche Indigenous woman and human rights defender from the highlands of Guatemala. (Indigenous Peoples are groups who have lived in a place for longer than recorded history.)

    When Lolita was threatened with arrest because of her human rights work, the K’iche Peoples Council passed a motion. They said that all 15,000 of their members would ask to be arrested and go to jail. They said, “You can’t jail one of us without jailing all of us”. That’s because they believe the work Lolita does to protect the human rights of Indigenous peoples is so important.

    January 20, 2015

    A Guatemala City court found Pedro García Arredondo guilty of orchestrating a fire that killed 37 people in the city’s Spanish embassy.© JOHAN ORDONEZ/AFP/Getty Images

    The families of 37 people burned to death in an attack on the Spanish embassy in Guatemala City in 1980 finally have some relief as justice has caught up to a former high-ranking police officer for his role in the crimes, Amnesty International said today.

    On Monday evening a civilian court in Guatemala City found Pedro García Arredondo, former chief detective of the now-defunct National Police (Policía Nacional), guilty of orchestrating a fire in the city’s Spanish embassy that left only two survivors. After a four-month trial, he has been sentenced to 90 years in prison for murder, attempted murder and crimes against humanity.

    September 29, 2014
    Local women from the La Puya resistance in Guatemala attempt to persuade the Police officers to retreat.

    by Tara Scurr, Business & Human Rights Campaigner, Amnesty International Canada
    - from Guatemala City

    “It’s been hard, because it’s not easy to bear being spat at in the face, being pushed and shoved, the tear gas, the tussles with the police, and we women having to throw ourselves on the ground. That is tough. It’s tough and it’s not easy to bear it, but we do it because we believe in our struggle and in asserting our rights.” - Yolanda Oquelí

    Yolanda Oquelí, a leader from San Jose del Golfo in Guatemala, shared those words with me last year, describing her community’s ongoing struggle to compel the Guatemalan government to respect their rights in the context of a Canadian-initiated mining project.

    September 19, 2014
    Photo: Local leader Yolanda Oquelí, who suffered an assassination attempt on June 2012 due to her involvement, warns the Guatemalan government will be held responsible for any blood spilled.

    Released 08:30 (CST) 19 September 2014

    The Guatemalan government is fuelling the fires of conflict by failing to consult local communities before awarding mining licences to companies, effectively raising the risk of bloodshed and bulldozing over the rights of its people, said Amnesty International today.

    Download 'Mining in Guatemala: Rights at risk' here

    September 19, 2014

     

    by Alex Neve, Secretary General, and Tara Scurr, Business and Human Rights Campaigner
    Amnesty International Canada

     - Guatemala City, Guatemala, 18 September, 2014

    What better way to spend the evening before launching our important new report, Mining in Guatemala: Rights at Risk?  Over dinner, we were able to catch up with the courageous community leader and human rights defender Yolanda Oquelí.  Yolanda has for several years been at the forefront of the campaign to ensure that mining does not go ahead in her community without consultation and consent. She has been a leader of the La Puya protest camp, which blockaded the road leading in to the mining site for over two years.

    July 30, 2014

    The Inter-American Court of Human Rights’ ruling that Guatemalan authorities failed to investigate the tragic murder of a teenage girl sends a strong message to governments around the world that failure to address violence against women will not be tolerated, said Amnesty International ahead of a press conference on the ruling in Guatemala City today.

    The case was brought by the mother of María Isabel Veliz Franco, a 15-year-old girl who had been sexually assaulted, tortured and brutally murdered in Guatemala in 2001. On Monday 28 July, the court found that not only had Guatemalan authorities failed to properly investigate the murder, but that they had failed to address and resolve the ingrained culture of violence and discrimination against women that permeates Guatemalan society, which led to a flawed investigation. 

    June 06, 2014

    The conviction of Guatemala’s former National Director of Police for a number of murders is a very significant step forward in the fight against impunity that has plagued Guatemala in the past, said Amnesty International today.

    Erwin Sperisen was found guilty of the murders of seven men by a Swiss court today, and sentenced to life imprisonment. The decision can be appealed.

    The court found that he had been involved in the murder of seven inmates who were killed during a police raid on the El Pavón prison in 2006. In six cases he was indirectly involved, and in one he was found to have directly committed the murder, according to the court.

    “Today’s result is a positive step in the fight against a culture of impunity in Guatemala. This verdict strengthens the rule of law and is a wake-up call for all those attempting to hide their crimes behind positions of authority,” said Sebastian Elgueta, Researcher for Guatemala, Amnesty International.

    May 19, 2014

    The fight for justice for victims of crimes against humanity and genocide, from Guatemala’s past conflict is being seriously undermined, Amnesty International said today.

    A year ago today Guatemala’s Constitutional Court annulled the conviction of former President General Efraín Ríos Montt for crimes against humanity and genocide committed in the 1980s. Since then key judicial figures have been replaced or sanctioned, and resolutions passed that further erode the chances of victims of the past conflict seeing justice.

    “Victims of Ríos Montt’s crimes have been fighting for justice for more than three decades and now are again facing numerous obstacles created to deny them that justice,” said Sebastian Elgueta, Guatemala researcher at Amnesty International.

    “Guatemala owes a debt of justice to those victims, as well as to the rest of the estimated 200,000 victims of the conflict.”

    November 06, 2013

    Reports that the retrial of former Guatemalan President General Efraín Ríos Montt will not begin until January 2015 amount to a disappointing deferral of justice for genocide victims and their relatives, Amnesty International said today.

    “This decision to further delay is a letdown for genocide victims and their families who have already waited over three decades, and fought hard to ensure Ríos Montt was held to account in the courts,” said Sebastian Elgueta, Guatemala researcher at Amnesty International.

    Ríos Montt was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity on 10 May this year by a criminal court in Guatemala City. The conviction was effectively annulled 10 days later by the Constitutional Court, Guatemala’s highest court, on a technicality.

    “It was hoped that the retrial, made necessary by the Constitutional Court’s decision, would take place much earlier given the huge delay victims have already suffered and the importance of this landmark case,” said Elgueta.

    October 24, 2013

    Reports that Guatemala may open the door to an amnesty for former President Effrain Ríos Montt would be a travesty of justice and send the country back more than a decade, said Amnesty International.

    Ríos Montt is facing a re-trial for genocide and crimes against humanity.

    “This is an alarming new development that, if confirmed, would set the country back decades. Amnesties can never be applied to genocide and crimes against humanity,” said Sebastian Elgueta, Guatemala researcher at Amnesty International.

    “With such a decision, Guatemala’s authorities would destroy, with one signature, decades of progress when it comes to justice for the tens of thousands of people who died and were disappeared during the dark years of the conflict.”

    According to media reports, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court has ordered that more details be provided as to why Ríos Montt’s request for amnesty was refused. This raises the possibility that amnesty is being seriously considered, closing the case against him and others facing similar charges.

    May 21, 2013

    Guatemala's Constitutional Court on Monday overturned the recent conviction and sentencing of former military ruler Efrain Rios Montt for genocide and crimes against humanity.

    "Monday's ruling is a devastating blow for the victims of the serious human rights violations committed during the conflict," said Sebastian Elgueta, Amnesty International's researcher on Guatemala.

    "The legal basis for the ruling is unclear, and it is uncertain how the trial court can hit the reset button to get back to a point in mid-April.  What is clear is that the Constitutional Court has just thrown up formidable obstacles to justice and accountability for a harrowing period in Guatemala's recent history.  

    "With the sentence on 10 May, the trial court had sent a strong signal that crimes against thousands of Mayan victims would not be tolerated. The Constitutional Court has now questioned that message, putting the right to truth, justice and reparation at risk in Guatemala."

     

    May 14, 2013

    By Val Croft, an Amnesty activist from Toronto with a passionate commitment to human rights in Guatemala.

     

    Photo: An Ixil woman is sworn in before giving her testimony in the genocide case against former de facto president Efrain Rios Montt, who listens via headphones in the background. On May 10, Rios Montt was sentenced to 80 years for genocide and crimes against humanity. By Roderico Y Díaz  

    I’m still reeling from being in the courtroom last Friday when supporters of justice burst into applause as Guatemalan ex de facto president Efrain Rios Montt became the first former head of state in Latin America to be convicted on charges of genocide.  

    May 10, 2013

    The conviction of Guatemala’sex-president General Efraín Ríos Montt for genocide and crimes against humanity during his time in office is a historic step in the nation’s long struggle for justice, Amnesty International said today.

    Gen.Efraín Ríos Montt was convicted and sentenced to 80 years for his role as the intellectual author of the killings of 1,771 individuals and the forced displacement of tens of thousands more from the Ixil triangle region of southern Quiché department in 1982 and 1983 in the midst of Guatemala’s internal armed conflict.

    Gen.José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, General Ríos Montt’s head of intelligence during his time in power, was found not guilty on the same charges.

    “With this conviction,Guatemala leads by example in a region where entrenched impunity for past crimes sadly remains the norm,” said Sebastian Elgueta, Guatemala Researcher at Amnesty International.

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