Guatemala: Death penalty won’t solve public security crisis

In an open letter sent today, Amnesty International urged Guatemalan president Álvaro Colom not to reinstate the death penalty and instead to look for more effective and lasting solutions to the public security crisis affecting the country.

Just two months ago, Guatemala voted for a global moratorium on executions at the United Nations. “President Álvaro Colom must now respect this commitment,” said Sebastian Elgueta, researcher for Guatemala at Amnesty International. “Guatemala must turn its back to this archaic practice and join the overwhelming majority of countries that have already done so.”

“The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. It is arbitrary, it has proven ineffective in reducing crime, and it perpetuates a climate of violence in which justice can never be truly achieved,” said Sebastian Elgueta.   In its letter, Amnesty International also called on President Colom to take concrete action on some of Guatemala’s most pressing human rights issues — including the lack of effective investigations into human rights violations committed during the armed conflict, the increasing number of cases of violence against women — particularly the number of killings reported every year, the high number of attacks against human rights defenders and the forced evictions of rural communities. 

“The human rights challenges in Guatemala remain huge. During forty years of monitoring the situation in the country, Amnesty International has witnessed successive governments fail to make real improvements in the administration of justice or in combating impunity,” said Sebastian Elgueta.  

“Just last December, the decision by the Constitutional Court to rule against the detention of those accused of genocide during the internal armed conflict was yet a further setback in tackling impunity.”

Amnesty International also urged the new President to authorise the release of archive material held by the Ministry of Defence that could assist in the investigation of the killings and enforced disappearance of more than 200,000 people during the internal armed conflict in Guatemala.

“The new administration in Guatemala owes it to the people of the country to take concrete steps to investigate and bring to justice past violators of human rights and ensure the future rights of the population are fully guaranteed,” said Sebastian Elgueta.

Amnesty International’s letter to Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom