GENERAL CONCLUSIONS ON THE RULE OF LAW IN GUATEMALA
429. The Commission reiterates its support for the peace process, which put an end to 36 years of internal armed conflict in Guatemala. The Commission is aware of the difficulties of this task and of all that remains to be accomplished. The development of a culture of tolerance, abiding by the law, and rejection of impunity requires an effort on the part of each and every one; this undertaking has enjoyed and will enjoy the solidarity of the international community.
430. This thematic report identifies the weaknesses of the rule of law in Guatemala and focuses on how it can be strengthened, because the Commission views this as a prerequisite for the restoration of peace and of a democratic culture, state, and society. A strong rule of law also makes it possible to more effectively protect individual rights in Guatemala.
431. After the analysis in the previous chapters of the information received, the IACHR cannot conceal its serious concerns about the failure to make progress in areas crucial to the preservation and strengthening of the rule of law in Guatemala. Furthermore, the Commission finds that there has been significant deterioration in a number of the areas previously examined. It is noteworthy that civil society and the international organizations agree that the human rights situation in Guatemala has deteriorated. In the Commission’s opinion, the impunity, corruption, organized crime, intolerance, and political violence, as well as the social exclusion of a number of groups represent a serious threat of regression of the effective rule of law and impair the full exercise of the human rights that the American Convention grants universally.
432. The rule of law and democracy in Guatemala cannot be consolidated as long as there continues to be an inefficient judiciary that does not properly investigate the very serious human rights violations of the past, as well as those of the present, and allows these crimes to go unpunished. The Guatemalan system of administration of justice must guarantee effective access to justice for all individuals, prevent illegal entities from acting unlawfully with impunity, and prevent human rights ombudsmen, administrators of justice, journalists, trade unionists, and other leaders from being subjected to assassinations, threats, and intimidation. The judiciary must be independent and impartial, and must continue the reform and modernization initiatives that will improve the functioning of the justice system.
433. It is imperative that the safety of citizens be enhanced by endowing the national civilian police—the democratic institution established for that purpose—with the resources and capacity necessary to perform this task. The armed forces and military intelligence apparatus must not participate in public safety activities and, if they do so in exceptional situations, they must be subordinated to the civilian authorities. It is essential that the State demonstrate the political will to achieve these objectives.
434. The State must also ensure that indigenous people, women, and children do not suffer any kind of discrimination or social marginalization. The social exclusion that the Commission finds in Guatemala includes the lack of access to justice and the effective exercise of human, civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights by these segments of society. The elimination of all forms of discrimination, in particular gender, ethnic, and racial discrimination, and various forms of intolerance, as well as promotion and protection of the human rights of indigenous people, and respect for ethnic, cultural, and religious diversity help strengthen democracy and citizen participation. Therefore, the implementation of strategies of social inclusion, which is indivisibly linked to the promotion, protection, and observance of the human rights of these groups, must be a priority for the State and the society of Guatemala. The rule of law in Guatemala will only be consolidated when these historically marginalized groups are able to participate on a more equal footing in society and in the decisions that affect their lives.
435. In addition, the State of Guatemala must adopt the necessary measures to allow the liberal exercise of freedom of expression and access to information for Guatemalan society, as this is key to the consolidation of democracy. To that end, the State must overcome the marginalization of some groups in the society and guarantee their freedom of expression and access to the media; it must permit and encourage criticism of public administration; and it must ensure that the publication of information on cases of human rights violations and sensitive issues does not lead to assassinations and intimidation of media personnel.
436. The IACHR once again stresses the importance of the Peace Accords as instruments for advancing in the task of building a peace that is more democratic, just, tolerant, and respectful of human rights. The Commission calls on the Government and civil society to redouble their efforts to ensure full implementation of these Accords. The IACHR understands the frustration of various groups in Guatemalan society with the slow movement of the process in some areas, many of which were reviewed in this report. That notwithstanding, the IACHR stresses that these problems should not lead to disillusionment. On the contrary, the existing spaces for cooperation and participation should be preserved and strengthened. To that end, the Commission received reports of the transfer of the functions of MINUGUA to the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman (PDH). The Commission recognizes the importance of verification activities and trusts that the Government will provide the PDH with the necessary resources to continue the work done by MINUGUA since the signing of the Peace Accords.
437. Throughout this report, the IACHR has acknowledged the government initiatives designed to improve the human rights situation in Guatemala. The Commission voices its deep concern because these incipient results are inadequate, most have not been properly implemented, and the pending challenges are many. The Commission will therefore continue to closely observe the human rights situation in Guatemala. The IACHR also reiterates its offer of assistance to the Government of Guatemala and Guatemalan society as a whole in contributing to the strengthening of human rights protection and defense in a democratic context.