Press Release

Guatemala Must Investigate Serious Violations of Human Rights Occurred during the Armed Conflict

October 25, 2013

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) reiterates that the State of Guatemala must ensure that the Amnesty Law (Law Decree 8-86) does not represent an obstacle for the investigation of the serious violations of human rights that took place during the armed conflict, nor for the identification, prosecution and punishment of those responsible.

The Commission and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have repeatedly ruled that provisions of any kind -legislative, administrative or others- that impede the investigation and punishment of those responsible for serious human rights violations are incompatible with human rights obligations. In light of this, they have indicated that in case a person accused of a crime in this context were to request the application of an amnesty law, the court has the duty to investigate and clarify the situation, since pursuant to State obligations, laws or amnesty provisions may not be applied to serious human rights violations.

In this vein, the Inter-American Court has repeatedly stated that amnesties, statutes of limitation or the establishment of other conditions excluding liability to prevent the investigation and punishment of those responsible for serious human rights violations such as torture; extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; and forced disappearances are prohibited because they violate non-derogable rights recognized by international human rights law. In particular, the Commission has emphasized the duty of States to investigate, prosecute and punish any violation of human rights committed in the context of a widespread or systematic attack against the civilian population.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 80/13