Despite some positive initiatives, human rights in Guatemala deteriorating – UN expert

23 January 2003 –

Despite some positive Government initiatives, the human rights situation in Guatemala is deteriorating, according to a United Nations expert.

In a report to the upcoming session of the UN Commission on Human Rights, Hina Jilani, Special Representative of the Secretary General on the situation of human rights defenders, expresses concern at the increase in cases of violations against rights activists in the past two years.

“The number of confirmed or alleged violations against people involved in defending human rights have increased over the past two years, including a rise in killings, death threats and acts of intimidation” Ms. Jilani says, adding “these violations are rarely investigated properly.”

Ms. Jilani notes that the principal targets of violations are human rights defenders investigating past abuses and those striving for the promotion of economic, social and cultural rights and the rights of indigenous peoples. “Journalists and religious leaders have also been targeted,” she adds.

She warns, “The involvement of clandestine structures and groups and attacks against defenders and allegations of their links with state security forces is a matter of serious concern that must be addressed by the Government on an urgent basis.”

The Special Representative says she is deeply disturbed by allegations concerning involvement of the National Civil Police and the military in attacks against human rights defenders. "The lack of control over military intelligence and the absence of a national civilian intelligence service make the task of investigating the alleged involvement of State agents in the violations against human rights defenders even more difficult," she writes.

Ms. Jilani says she hopes steps will be taken to prevent any resurgence of violence that could create a threatening environment for human rights defenders before elections later this year. She recommends the implementation of the peace agreements that ended 36 years of internal war as a necessary condition for a safe environment for human rights defenders and, in general, for the promotion and protection of human rights in Guatemala.

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