Press Release

IACHR Satisfied with Friendly Settlement Agreement in Arbenz Case Involving Guatemala

May 20, 2011

Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its satisfaction with the signing of a friendly settlement agreement between the petitioners and the State in Case 12.456, Juan Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán, Guatemala.

Arbenz Guzmán was elected as Guatemala's constitutional president in 1951. On June 27, 1954, he was overthrown in a military coup d'état, and the de facto government confiscated his property and awarded it the State. Arbenz Guzmán died in exile on January 27, 1971. On December 27, 1999, his next of kin lodged a complaint with the IACHR, which was declared admissible on March 14, 2006. In a working meeting at the IACHR on October 20, 2006, the parties agreed to begin efforts to reach a possible friendly settlement of the case.

The friendly settlement agreement was signed on May 19, 2011, in a meeting that took place at the Inter-American Commission's headquarters in Washington. The document was signed by the President of the Presidential Commission on Human Rights (COPREDEH), Ruth del Valle, on behalf of the State, and Erick Arbenz, grandson of the late President, as the petitioners' representative.

In the written agreement, the State recognizes its international responsibility for "failing to comply with its obligation to guarantee, respect, and protect the human rights of the victims to a fair trial, to property, to equal protection before the law, and to judicial protection, which are protected in the American Convention on Human Rights and which were violated against former President Juan Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán, his wife, María Cristina Vilanova, and his children, Juan Jacobo, María Leonora, and Arabella, all surnamed Arbenz Villanova."

The agreement establishes several forms of reparation for the next of kin of Arbenz Guzmán. Among other measures, the State will hold a public ceremony recognizing its responsibility; send a letter of apology to the next of kin; name a hall of the National Museum of History and the highway to the Atlantic after the former president; revise the basic national school curriculum (Currículo Nacional Base); establish a degree program in Human Rights, Pluriculturalism, and Reconciliation of Indigenous Peoples; hold a photographic exhibition on Arbenz Guzmán and his legacy at the National Museum of History; recover the wealth of photographs of the Arbenz Guzmán family; publish a book of photos; reissue the book Mi Esposo el President Arbenz ("My Husband President Arbenz"); prepare and publish a biography of the former President; and issue a series of postage stamps in his honor.

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 matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in a personal capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.


No. 46/11