CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
In light of the foregoing information and considering the legislation
enacted and the measures taken by the Government of Guatemala as of March 23,
1982, the Commission concludes that the human rights situation in that country
can be described as follows:
With regard to the right to life:
The Commission has no knowledge that the Government of Guatemala has
conducted investigations on, and punished those responsible for, the illegal
executions and disappearances that occurred before March 23, 1982;
The announced disbanding of paramilitary groups by the government of
General Ríos Montt has meant that the widespread and decentralized violence
that prevailed previously in the urban centers has been reduced to a smaller
number of violations of the right to life for the inhabitants of Guatemala City
and the main cities in the country;
The Special Courts that operated in secret and did not observe the basic
guarantees of due process decreed, to the time of approval of this report the
death of 15 persons, for crimes that, under the terms of the American Convention
on Human Rights, could not juridically be punished by the death penalty;
In rural areas, although the Commission has received information that
guerrillas and insurgent forces have committed serious acts of violence, the
Guatemalan army has been principally responsible for the most grievous
violations of human rights, including destruction, burning and sacking of entire
towns and the death of both combatant and noncombatant populations in those
With regard to the rights to liberty and personal security, the
That under the state of siege both habeas corpus (the writ
ordering that a party be brought before a court) and the writ of amparo
were suspended. This allowed Government security agencies to act with total
impunity in illegally detaining persons;
That kidnapping by security agents continues to occur, and in some cases,
these have resulted in prolonged illegal detentions, which were initially denied
by the authorities. In other cases, these kidnappings have resulted in
disappearances, mainly of high school and university students and the academic
and administrative staff of the University of San Carlos;
The practice of torture continued until the military pronouncement of
August 8, and was applied both to persons detained and held incommunicado
in the detention centers, and to peasants and Indians in the rural conflict
areas who were accused of having connections with subversive forces.
As to the right to a fair trial and due process, the Commission believes:
That the judicial branch has been stripped of its independence, autonomy
and impartiality and safeguards for ensuring stability for its members, which
has resulted in serious limitations on the exercise of its sensitive and
The Special Courts—whose secret status the government continued to
maintain, even after the state of siege had been lifted, and whose procedures
violated the most elementary guarantees of due process—were antijuridical
agencies whose composition, actions and rulings violated basic provisions of the
American Convention on Human Rights, to which Guatemala is a state party.
With regard to freedom of thought and expression, the Commission notes
that during the periods in which the state of siege was in force, these
liberties were seriously affected, both by the terms of the law that established
it and by the climate of insecurity that the law produced in the country. This
prompted those responsible for the communications media to impose
With regard to the freedom of conscience and religion, the Commission
finds that although these liberties formally exist in the country, they were
being exercised during the Government of General Ríos Montt amid a disquieting
religious polarization between the Catholic Church and Protestant fundamentalist
groups; and that Catholic priests were unjustifiably hampered in the exercise of
their ministry, all of which affects the full observance of the freedoms of
conscience and religion.
As to political rights, the Commission feels that despite the enactment
of the laws of March 23, 1983, which call for the early opening up of Guatemala
to democracy, such rights were found to be suspended and the political parties
faced unwarranted obstacles in their normal operations throughout the term of
General Efrain Ríos Montt’s government.
Regarding freedom of movement and residence, the Commission finds that:
While Guatemalans have the right to move freely throughout most of the
territory of the Republic, the climate of insecurity prevailing in the country
has, in practice, substantially reduced the possibility of exercising this
Thousands of Guatemalans have had to leave their country because of the
insecurity and persecution they have suffered. The Commission is especially
concerned about the thousands of peasants and Indians who have sought refuge in
border areas, fleeing the violence unleashed by the army in the rural areas of
Hundreds of thousands of Indian peasants have been uprooted from their
traditional homes and relocated in camps organized by the government as a means
of exercising control over them.
In light of the conclusions indicated, the Commission recommends that the
Government of Guatemala take the following steps:
Investigate and punish with the full force of the law those responsible
for the serious violations of the right to life and personal security that
occurred before and after March 23, 1982.
Order a complete review of the trials of the Special Courts.
Take whatever steps are needed to end repression immediately in the rural
areas of conflict and to investigate and punish, with the full force of the law,
those responsible for the massacres of peasants and Indians that have taken
place in those areas.
Take the necessary steps to end the kidnappings and disappearances of
persons, and to investigate and punish those responsible.
Appoint a special committee of Guatemalan jurists with sufficient
authority and power to conduct investigations to clarify the cases of missing
persons and to recommend prosecution of those responsible.
Ensure the unrestricted exercise of the writ of habeas corpus, or
the writ ordering that the accused be brought before a judge.
Ensure that the judicial branch has the independence, autonomy and
stability essential for performing its duties.
Take the necessary measures to assure effective observance of freedom of
Establish whatever measures are needed to bring an end to the
difficulties between the Government and the Catholic Church raised by the
Government of General Ríos Montt and to avoid religious polarization in
Guatemala. To that end, immediate measures should include returning properly
restored properties of the Catholic Church in El Quiché; amending the
immigration laws to prevent them from becoming a means of exerting improper
pressure on foreign priests; and avoiding favoritism by the government toward
those professing a particular religious faith.
Take all necessary measures to ensure in practice the fullest freedom of
organization and operation of political parties, and their adequate
representation in Guatemalan institutions, and to hold general elections in the
briefest period of time reasonable.
Allow Guatemalan exiles and refugees to return to their country.
Regarding the peasants and Indians who are now in the Mexican State of Chiapas,
the Commission considers it desirable to have the assistance of the United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the cooperation of the Mexican
Government to facilitate their return, when that becomes possible.
Recommend that families of persons executed, in accordance with death
penalties handed down by Courts of Special Jurisdiction, be informed as to
exactly where the bodies of their relatives are buried.