No. 18/03




The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights condemns the acts of violence perpetrated in Guatemala on Thursday, July 24, 2003, by masked demonstrators wielding firearms, clubs, and machetes. With the aim of intimidating the occupants, the demonstrators surrounded the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of Justice, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, the headquarters of the Attorney for Human Rights, and the offices of other government agencies, private companies, media outlets, and human rights organizations.


The Commission mourns the death of Héctor Ramírez, a journalist with Radio Sonora and Noti 7. It also condemns the serious acts of violence committed against other journalists, some of whom were sprayed with gasoline, beaten, or saw their photographic equipment smashed. The Commission believes that attacks on journalists and the media in general endanger freedom of expression and that they have a negative impact on the other human rights enjoyed by the population as whole.


These incidents heighten the concern about the rule of law that the IACHR expressed during its visit to Guatemala last March and in yesterday’s press release. In the current context of electoral campaigning for the general election slated to take place in November 2003, this persistent deterioration in the rule of law is becoming increasingly intense.


The Inter-American Commission calls on Guatemala’s government authorities to take urgent steps to protect the lives and physical integrity of all Guatemalans and to uphold law and order with full respect for human rights. The Commission urges the State of Guatemala to adopt all the measures necessary to ensure full currency of the rule of law in compliance with the terms of the American Convention on Human Rights and the Inter-American Democratic Charter, particularly as regards conducting its election in an atmosphere free of intimidation and coercion and with transparency in all the administrative and judicial decisions that could affect it.





Washington, D.C., July 25, 2003