Nš 23/06






The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights wishes to make the following clarifications in response to the recent decision by the Guatemalan Constitutional Court allegedly barring the Audiencia Nacional de Espaņa (National Court of Spain) from investigating, in the context of a criminal complaint before the Constitutional Court, eight former high-ranking Guatemalan army officers for the crimes of genocide, state terrorism, murder, and torture.  


The Commission considers it necessary to recall that crimes against international law, such as genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, represent very serious offenses to human dignity and a flagrant denial of the fundamental principles enshrined in the Charters of the Organization of American States and the United Nations, and thus must not remain unpunished.


In its resolution Nš 1/03, of October 24, 2003, the Commission said that, in view of the gravity of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, and the obligation to investigate, prosecute, punish, and make reparations, states should cooperate to avoid impunity for the perpetrators of these crimes.  In doing so, states should consider that, even when international crimes are so serious that they affect the entire international community, they primarily have an impact on the state in whose jurisdiction they occurred, and especially on the people living in that state. Consequently, the principle of territoriality must prevail in the case of a jurisdictional conflict, provided that there is an effective will to prosecute the crimes in the state where they occurred, as well as adequate and effective remedies to do so, and provided that the rules of due process for the alleged perpetrators are guaranteed.


The Commission is hopeful that the Guatemalan Constitutional Court and the other Guatemalan government forums will adopt the necessary measures, within their respective spheres, to ensure that the tragic events that occurred during the internal armed conflict, which were characterized by the Historical Clarification Commission as acts of genocide, will be duly and promptly investigated, prosecuted, and punished by the Guatemalan system of justice or that, as appropriate, the work of the judicial organs of third countries operating under the principle of universal jurisdiction will be facilitated.


Washington D.C., July 3, 2006