United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - Guatemala, 30 January 1995, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa3f4.html [accessed 22 February 2017]
This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Guatemala's 1985 Constitution calls for election by universal suffrage of a one-term President and a unicameral Congress. It also mandates an independent judiciary and a Human Rights Ombudsman, who is elected by and reports to the Congress. On June 5, 1993, Congress elected then Human Rights Ombudsman Ramiro De Leon Carpio to finish the presidential term of Jorge Serrano, who had been constitutionally deposed from office following his attempt to seize full power. President De Leon launched an anticorruption campaign that led to a political confrontation with the legislature and Supreme Court, both widely seen as corrupt. This confrontation was finally resolved with a January 30 referendum on constitutional changes, which led to new congressional elections in August and the October replacement of the Supreme Court. The armed forces operate with considerable institutional and legal autonomy, particularly in security and military matters. With the entry into force of the new Criminal Procedures Code, military personnel accused of committing common crimes are subject to trial in civilian courts. The 43,000-man army, which has responsibility for national security, has fought a leftist insurgency for more than three decades. The Minister of Government oversees the National Police and the Treasury Police, which share responsibility for internal security with the army. In March President De Leon appointed the then head of army intelligence as Vice Minister of Government, reversing a trend he began upon taking office of removing military personnel from civilian law enforcement positions, but he removed him at the end of the year. The Government announced the establishment of a civilian intelligence service, intended to diminish presidential reliance on military intelligence. An estimated 430,000 men serve in civil self-defense committees called Civil Defense Patrols (PAC's), some of which conduct counterinsurgency patrols in rural areas. Although these are ostensibly voluntary, the Human Rights Ombudsman and the Catholic Archbishop's human rights office reported that in some regions PAC members were compelled to join the patrols, in violation of the Constitution. Security forces and especially PAC's and civilian military commissioners--who are the intermediaries between the PAC's and the armed forces--committed numerous serious human rights violations. The Government and the leftist Guatemala National Revolutionary Unity (URNG) insurgents resumed peace talks in January and reached a human rights accord in March. Many human rights monitors criticized the Government for being lax in fulfilling its commitments under the March accord. The agreement, which took force immediately, led to the November introduction of a U.N. human rights verification mission into Guatemala. At year's end, peace negotiations were continuing. The agriculture-based, private sector-oriented economy was projected to grow by approximately 4 percent in real terms in 1994, which would produce an increase in per capita income of about 1 percent. Inflation was expected to exceed 10 percent. There is a marked disparity in income distribution, and poverty is pervasive, particularly in the large indigenous community. Both government authorities and guerrilla groups committed serious human rights abuses during the year. While human rights activists now have greater freedom to report, comment, and denounce abuses, statistics prepared by the Archbishop's human rights office, utilizing media reports and interviews with victims, show a substantial increase in human rights violations, especially extrajudicial killings. The Ombudsman's office, which compiles data based on personal interviews with victims and their families, noted that reports of human rights complaints increased from 1993. PAC's, military commissioners, members of the army, police, and guerrillas, as well as leftwing and rightwing extremist groups, all committed major violations, including extrajudicial killings, political kidnapings, death threats, and forced recruitment. Political killings, for example, continued at an alarming rate, and the Government failed to investigate them adequately or to bring perpetrators to justice. Government forces and unknownperpetrators increased attacks on labor union leaders and members, involving killings, death threats, physical abuse, and other forms of mistreatment and harassment. Guerrilla abuses included kidnapings, the widespread use of mines and explosives in civilian areas, forced recruitment of children, and reprisal attacks against persons who refused to pay extortion. Both legal and societal discrimination against women continued, as did societal abuse of children and discrimination against indigenous peoples.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
Politically motivated killings continued and, due to the lack of political will and law enforcement resources, with few exceptions the Government failed to investigate them fully or to detain or prosecute the perpetrators. Individual members of the security forces (military, PAC's, military commissioners, and the police), leftist guerrilla and rightwing extremist groups were responsible for political and extrajudicial killings. The Human Rights Ombudsman's office listed 287 cases of possible extrajudicial killings. The Archbishop's human rights office reported 355 extrajudicial killings in 1994, compared with 248 in 1993 and 204 in 1992. The Church office labeled 42 of the extrajudicial killings as definitely political and 237 as presumed political. Neither human rights office broke down the figures according to the organization believed to be responsible, but both government security forces and leftist guerrilla forces committed such offenses. PAC leaders and military commissioners are feared in many rural communities. They enjoy army backing and, often, de facto immunity from prosecution. The Archbishop's human rights office reported that the executive branch failed to carry out arrest warrants against 24 military commissioners and PAC members for their involvement in human rights crimes. With the exception of the arrest of a few PAC members accused of involvement in the 1993 Jorge Carpio murder, the authorities rarely held PAC members accountable for their crimes. Despite being aware of the locations of various PAC members wanted for involvement in the 1993 Colotenango killing of Juan Chonay Pablo and the 1993 Quiche killing of Tomas Lares Cipriano, the Government failed to carry out the majority of the arrest warrants. In the Juan Chonay Pablo killing, which occurred during an anti-PAC demonstration, the authorities issued 15 arrest warrants for PAC members but arrested only 2 persons. They released one for insufficient evidence linking him to the crime; the Public Ministry requested the release of the other under personal bond. Three more persons turned themselves in, but the authorities released two of them for lack of evidence. At the end of the year, no one was in jail awaiting trial. In March the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) requested that the Government take precautionary measures to protect witnesses and victims' family members. In July based on new evidence of continuing harassment of these individuals, the IACHR requested the Inter-merican Court of Human Rights to order the Government to take additional precautionary measures and to dissolve the local PAC. The Court accepted the request in November and ordered the Government to take these additional measures, which the Government agreed to do. However, the Court did not agree to order the Government to dissolve the PAC's. In the Lares Cipriano killing, the authorities charged six PAC members with murdering him after he resigned from their patrol. The authorities arrested two persons, later released under personal bonds, dismissed all charges against another person who turned himself in, and did not carry out arrest warrants against the remaining three persons. On May 31, a joint military-police operation arrested four San Pedro Jocopilas PAC members and military commissioners wanted for alleged involvement in the July 1993 murder of newspaper publisher and former presidential candidate Jorge Carpio. However, judicial authorities later released all four, citing insufficient evidence tying them to the crime. The Carpio family appealed the release and criticized the Government for failure to carry out the arrest warrants for six other PAC members wanted in this case. On June 26, unknown perpetrators killed a PAC member accused of having participated in this matter. On September 7, three other PAC members and military commissioners wanted by the authorities turned themselves in. On October 12, the Quiche Department Police Chief, who had ordered the capture of four PAC members, was murdered. On December 5, attorneys presented their closing arguments in the Jorge Carpio murder trial. Only one jailed defendant and two other defendants currently on bond were present for the hearing. Both sides will have an opportunity to present new evidence prior to the trial court's decision. Members of Carpio's family have been threatened since his death. On June 25, unknown armed persons rammed Karen Fischer de Carpio's car; when they determined she was not in the car, they left death threats against Fischer with her driver. Fischer subsequently left Guatemala with her children for the United States where she remained for several weeks. After returning to Guatemala, Fischer met with the then Vice Minister of Government, a military officer and formerly the director of military intelligence, whom she later claimed had threatened her if her family did not desist from assertions that senior military officers were behind the Carpio murder. The Archbishop's human rights office reported that army personnel or former PAC members killed retired army officer Lieutenant Diaz on June 20. The killers, who apparently had participated with Diaz in the 1981-82 Rabinal massacres, allegedly murdered Diaz to prevent him from publicly commenting or testifying on the massacres. The Church office asserted that the deaths of two other Rabinal residents, a military commissioner and the son of the landowner where exhumations were taking place, were orchestrated to send a message to the Rabinal community to remain silent. There are credible reports by the media and the Archbishop's human right's office that in July the army conducted house-to-house inspections and interrogations in the community and told male residents in a community meeting not to participate in the exhumations. While not admitting these events took place, the authorities transferred the senior officer who allegedly called the meeting. On April 1, Constitutional Court president Epaminondas Gonzalez Dubon was killed while returning from Holy Week religious processions; the motive behind the crime remains undetermined. Initially, many believed that the murder was an intimidation attempt by those wishing to destabilize the De Leon administration or a reprisal directed at the judge for his anti-Serrano role in May 1993. On April 26, the Government announced the arrest of 12 persons, members of an alleged car theft ring, 4 of whom were said to have participated in the shooting. Only two remain in jail awaiting trial; the authorities released the others due to insufficient evidence. On November 11, during a University of San Carlos student demonstration against an increase in national bus fares, student activist Mario Sanchez Lopez was killed after police pursued demonstrators onto the barricaded university grounds in response to student-made Molotov cocktails and shots fired from the interior of the university. According to the government autopsy, Lopez died of gunshot wounds from unknown assailants. However, credible eyewitnesses' reports and photographs also detail the police beating Lopez. These eyewitnesses also reported that nonstudents had provoked the confrontation with the police. Soon afterward, the Prosecutor General called for the courts to carry out arrest warrants for the police officers who participated in the disturbance. However, the trial judge sent the case back to the prosecutor's office requesting more information. Unknown persons have also targeted journalists for killing and acts of violence (see Section 2.a.). On August 24, police killed 2 persons and wounded 11 when they used excessive force to dislodge striking workers from a ranch known as "La Exacta" in Coatepeque. A third person allegedly disappeared; his body was found some distance from the ranch the following day. The workers had taken over the ranch in an attempt to pressure their supervisors to comply with a labor court order that the employers obey labor laws, pay workers the minimum wage and overtime, as well as grant vacation, sick leave, and other mandatory bonuses. Rather than comply, the owners reportedly fired approximately 79 employees. After initially saying the police had acted in accordance with the law, President De Leon later expressed his regret for the tragedy, saying he had misspoken earlier based on preliminary police reports and that a full investigation would be made. On September 15, residents found the body of another peasant who had participated in the strike. The Archbishop's human rights office reported that this person was kdnaped and then killed in reprisal for his participation in the strike. Initially, 23 police officers were brought before the court but were later released pending investigation. To prevent possible retaliation against the workers, the judge also ordered that the police stay away from the ranch. The Archbishop's human rights office said the URNG's "united front" was responsible for the early September murder of army reserve junior officer Amarildo Sanan Hernandez in Chimaltenango. Guerrillas stopped Sanan, who was dressed in civilian clothes, at a roadblock, where he drew a revolver to defend himself. A guerrilla shot Sanan in the leg; he then attempted to crawl away, but the guerrillas fired at him again, immobilizing him. As Sanan lay unable to move, the guerrillas searched him and discovered a military leave document, whereupon they struck him with fatal machete blows across the face and neck. There was some progress in certain past high-profile cases. On February 8, the Supreme Court confirmed the 25-year sentence given to former government security agent Noel De Jesus Beteta for the 1990 killing of Myrna Mack. The Court left legal proceedings open against the alleged intellectual authors of the crime, former senior military officers who appealed the decision to the Constitutional Court. In December the Constitutional Court ruled in favor of Helen Mack, Myrna's sister, that the case against the intellectual authors may proceed. However, it failed to overrule a Supreme Court decision denying her request that it order the release of executive branch documents concerning her sister's murder. The executive branch maintained it did not have any files not already in the hands of the court. On May 18, the court of appeals confirmed the 2-year suspended sentence and $40 fine against the corporal whose absence from post facilitated the May 1993 escape of Captain Hugo Contreras, who had just been convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison for killing U.S. citizen Michael Devine in 1990. Captain Contreras remains a fugitive. On September 6, the Supreme Court confirmed the 30-year sentence given the five enlisted men convicted in the Devine murder. However, the Government never brought to trial the senior officers believed to be involved in covering up the crime. Two relatives of witnesses who testified at the Devine trial (one civilian and one soldier) were killed; another (a soldier) was shot in the leg under suspicious circumstances. The dead soldier was found with his tongue cut out, hands mutilated, and a bullet wound in his skull. Additionally, two other relatives have been targets of intimidation. The Blake family, who in 1993 filed a petition with the IACHR accusing the Government of institutional responsibility for and coverup of the 1985 abduction and murder of U.S. citizens Nicholas Blake and Griffith Davis by PAC members, continued to pursue their case. In December 1993, a Blake relative met with President De Leon and sought unsuccessfully a settlement in lieu of petitioning the IACHR. On March 18 and August 22, the Constitutional Court dismissed appeals filed by 21 former "Hunapu" anticrime task force police officers over their lengthy (more than 20 years) prison sentences, which had been previously confirmed by the Supreme Court. The officers had been found guilty in the 1992 death of university student Julio Rigoberto Cu Quim and injury to six other students. The case remains under Supreme Court review. The IACHR reported that, on September 11, a leading witness and survivor of the 1988 "white van" case, Oscar Vasquez, was killed along with his son. In this case, which remains before the Commission, Treasury Police personnel are accused of having kidnaped, tortured, and assassinated civilians in 1988. During a subsequent investigation, a judge involved in the case was abducted and his assistant killed. There was no progress in resolving numerous other outstanding extrajudicial killings, including the 1989 disappearances and murders of university students, the 1990 Hector Oqueli Colindres and Gilda Flores killings, the 1990 disappearance of Maria Tiu Tojin and her daughter, the 1991 murder of police detective Jose Luis Merida Escobar, the 1991 disappearance of Diego Domingo Martin, the 1992 kidnaping, torture, and murder of Huehuetenango peasant Lucas Perez Tadeo, the 1993 shooting of street children Henry Yubani Alvarez and Francisco Tziac, the 1993 shooting of student protester Abner Abdiel Hernandez Orellana, or past kidnapings and murders of various members of the Runujel Junam Council of Ethnic Communities (CERJ), a rural-based human rights organization. The Government's frequent inability to deter, prosecute, or punish those responsible for such offenses is a major impediment to human rights progress.
The Archbishop's human rights office reported 41 forced disappearances, as compared with 45 in 1993. It labeled 1 disappearance definitely political and classified 32 as presumed political. Victims included a human rights activist, union employees, private sector employees, entrepreneurs, farmers, a soldier, a policeman, and others. The Ombudsman's office received 60 complaints of forced disappearance. The Government did not identify or prosecute the perpetrators of any of these disappearances. Sister Dianna Ortiz returned to Guatemala in January and again in November to press authorities to take action on her 1989 kidnaping and torture case. In January she accompanied Guatemalan officials on judicial inspections of the Guardia De Honor barracks and the old military academy. Ortiz identified the latter as the place where she was sexually abused and tortured. Shortly after entering the facility, Ortiz was overcome by emotion and unable to identify the specific site of the violations, which she says occurred in the basement of the facility. However, the inspection team failed to discover any subterranean levels. The army maintains none ever existed. A previously filed petition on this case remained pending before the IACHR at year's end. On January 12, Lorenzo Quiej Pu, a member of CONDEG, an organization dedicated to helping Guatemalans who have been internally displaced due to the armed conflict, disappeared after leaving his home. Members of CONDEG and Quiej family members reported that prior to the disappearance, they had received threats stemming from the organization's occupation of privately owned land. The authorities charged no one with this disappearance. The whereabouts remain unknown of San Marcos PAC members Margarito Lopez and Obdulio Zapeta, army enlisted man Diego Chel Matom, and farmers Ramona Munoz and Maritza Gil who were allegedly kidnaped in 1993 by guerrillas. Reliable reports link the guerrillas to various kidnapings for profit, including that of wealthy industrialist Fraterno Vila.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The Constitution provides for the integrity and security of the person. However, as in past years, many bodies were found throughout the country bearing signs of severe disfigurement or post mortem mutilation. The Human Rights Ombudsman's office listed 18 potential cases of torture in 1994. The Archbishop's human rights office listed 17 cases of torture, compared with 18 cases in 1993. In a typical case, unknown armed men kidnaped a law student in January after he left work, then beat him, burned him with cigarettes, and left him unconscious. There were credible reports of mistreatment by security forces, including sexual abuse of minors and adults, and use of excessive force by police at the time of arrest. Additional reports indicated that, especially in rural areas, the URNG guerrillas, the army, civil defense patrols, military commissioners, and the police at times used excessive force against the civilian population. CERJ reported that Juan Osorio Vasquez filed a legal complaint alleging that on July 21, PAC members had accused him of being a guerrilla, kidnaped him, tied a rope to his neck, hung him from a beam, and left him for dead. Family members later arrived and rescued Osorio. Some peasants in areas of conflict around Huehuetenango have alleged to the army that members of "Comite De Unidad Campesino," a farm workers' organization composed of indigenous people, have threatened them with death due to their allegiance to the army. Casa Alianza, an organization dedicated to assisting street children, reported five instances in which National Police abused street children between January and late December. On March 3, Casa Alianza filed charges against four police officers accused of inducing street children to steal for them. The police never formally charged the accused and instead transferred them to another part of Guatemala City. On July 14, the National Police referred a case of police abuse against a minor to the courts after concluding that five policemen had abused their authority in the March 4 beating of Luis Antonio Roldan Izeppi. Casa Alianza also filed charges against the National Police for an August 15 incident in which three policemen sprayed paint thinner at the face of sleeping street child Luis Alfredo Bonilla Juarez. On December 11, three National Police officers chased six street children, who were attempting to steal another street child's shoes, to Casa Alianza offices. The police caught up with four childre at the door step, beat them, and arrested one child. There were numerous other reports of policemen illegally detaining street children; the authorities rarely took action in any of these incidents. Casa Alianza also reported that private security guards routinely abuse street children and that this abuse has led to the death of seven children. While a number of cases of national and private police abuse remain pending, there have been no successful convictions.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Despite legal safeguards, there were frequent credible reports of arbitrary arrest by the security forces, incommunicado detention, and failure to adhere to the prescribed time limits for legal procedures. The law requires a court-issued arrest warrant unless a person is caught in the act of committing a crime. Police may not detain a suspect for over 6 hours without bringing the case before a judge. The law provides for bail and access to lawyers. The authorities arrested 17,823 persons in 1994; of those, 3,872 persons remain in jail awaiting trial, which represented 71 percent of the total prison population. The security forces routinely ignore writs of habeas corpus in cases of illegal detention. There are no reliable data on the number of arbitrary detentions. The Archbishop's human rights office charged that prisoners are sometimes not released in a timely fashion after completing their sentences due to the failure of judges to issue the necessary court order. The Constitution prohibits exile and it is not practiced.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The judicial system is ineffective and often unable to ensure a fair trial. However, defendants have the right to be present at trials and to legal representation. An appeals court automatically reviews convictions. The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary composed of a Constitutional Court, a Supreme Court, appeals courts, and several courts of special jurisdiction, such as labor courts. The Supreme Court appoints judges; the Congress appoints magistrates, or appellate court judges, from a list prepared by a selection committee composed of judges, lawyers, and university deans. The new Criminal Procedures Code, which took effect on July 1, effects significant changes in the way criminal trials are conducted. These include new provisions for a public defender to provide legal counsel to the accused, especially important in the new oral trial setting. The new Code also modified the Military Code of Justice to extend jurisdiction by civilian courts over military personnel for offenses "not essentially military in nature." These reforms will be phased in once the Government drafts specific implementing rules or regulations. Prior to the Code's enactment, military courts retained jurisdiction over military personnel, including military commissioners who commit crimes while on official business, thus limiting the ability of civil courts to prosecute persons under military control in human rights abuse cases. PAC members are civilians and are not under military jurisdiction. The following factors hampered the Code's implementation: A lack of funding for education, political differences between the executive and judicial branches, intransigence by many members of the criminal bar, constitutional challenges, and inadequate preparation by law enforcement agencies. As of early December, only three oral trials had been conducted, as required under the new procedures. Meanwhile, the backlog of criminal cases continued to mount. Most human rights violations are not investigated; security force personnel are reluctant to investigate cases potentially involving colleagues. Police are very poorly paid, relatively few in number, and lack adequate resources and training. Judges are susceptible to intimidation and corruption and suffer from low pay, bad working conditions, and low morale. Officials from the Archbishop's human rights office and the Human Rights Ombudsman's offices, including the Ombudsman himself, have received threats. There were public accusations that the Supreme Court pressures lower court judges to decide cases in line with its wishes. In 1993 the Constitutional Court ruled that the Supreme Court practice of arbitrarily transferring justices was unconstitutional, thereby limiting one means of Supreme Court interference in lower court cases. Members of the judiciary also continued to receive threats in an attempt to influence decisions or as reprisals for past decisions. In February Judge Yolanda Perez received death threats after she appeared at a local army base with the local auxiliary ombudsman for human rights requesting to see a serviceman reported to be missing. Cotzumalguapa justice of the peace Carlos Humberto Dardon Reyes reported receiving death threats after he sent U.S. citizen Melissa Larson to the Escuintla department court house for her protection in March, after a mob wrongly accused her of transporting baby organs in her backpack. In July third district appellate court judge and judicial reform activist Maria Eugenia Villasenor reported she and other appellate magistrates had been harassed in attempts to influence decisions in high profile cases. (The third district court had issued rulings in a variety of cases involving the security forces.) On August 29, a policeman assigned to protect Villasenor was kidnaped, interrogatd, and assaulted. Following this incident, Villasenor left the country for a number of weeks. On January 19, unknown persons purposely set fire to the judicial records building in Santa Cruz De Quiche, which held numerous files regarding PAC abuses. Quiche Judge Francisco Perez stated that just before the fire he received threats from Joyabaj PAC members attempting to persuade him to release two of its members charged with committing multiple crimes, including the deaths of numerous persons. Corruption continues to plague the proper functioning of the police force. On June 25, a live grenade was tossed at the residence of anticorruption transit police chief Ernesto Ruiz Saenz De Tejada. Ruiz was not injured in this attack, but he resigned from the police force shortly afterward. There are no known political prisoners.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The Constitution provides for the inviolability of home, correspondence, and private documents, but the authorities do not always respect these provisions. Elements of the security forces continue to monitor private communications. Many human rights monitors reported receiving threats in the form of surveillance, telephone calls, and anonymous letters. On March 11, a year after an arrest warrant had been issued, Juan Jose Garcia Orellana, a postal control officer charged with operating a mail espionage ring in the post office for the presidential security staff under the Serrano administration, turned himself in to judicial authorities. The authorities are still gathering evidence in this case. Through July, officials enforcing the military draft continued to stop vehicles and enter homes and places of business without legally required court orders. Prior to August, under recruitment practices adopted in some departments, potential draftees receive three induction notices, after which they are arrested if they do not report for enlistment. Under the law, such arrests must be effected pursuant to a court order. On June 14, Amilcar Mendez, the founder of CERJ, filed a lawsuit against Defense Minister Enriquez charging that the armed forces' forced recruitment practices violated constitutional provisions regarding obligatory military service. However, a court ruled the judicial branch did not have jurisdiction over this matter because the Minister of Defense had immunity from prosecution, which only Congress could remove. It referred the immunity question to the Congress, which ruled that the case lacked legal merit, thus effectively dismissing the entire lawsuit. Through July 30, the Archbishop's human rights office handled 89 individual cases of forced recruitment. In the same period, the Human Rights Ombudsman's office reported receiving 663 complaints of forced recruitment. The office obtained the release of 268 persons from military service, of whom 79 were minors. On June 29, Defense Minister General Enriquez announced a 6-month moratorium on forced recruitment, which was confirmed by President De Leon during the June 30 Army Day celebrations. However, the Ombudsman reported three separate instances of forced conscription in July. On August 28, the Defense Ministry once again ordered a suspension of forced recruitment; since then, there were no further reports of forced recruitment. The army has continued the practice of setting up draft boards consisting of the zone military commander, the local representative of the Human Rights Ombudsman's office, and other civilian leaders. The Constitution requires that PAC service be voluntary. However, army officers, military commissioners, and PAC leaders often pressure men in areas of conflict to become members. Nevertheless, PAC's do appear to enjoy some popular support; a majority of respondents in a recent academic survey conducted for the Human Rights Ombudsman in seven departments claimed to be pleased with the PAC membership and with the PAC presence in their communities. However, some human rights monitors have charged that PAC members may have felt intimidated by fellow PAC members and did not give completely candid answers. In June and July, CERJ filed a legal complaint on behalf of former PAC member Juan Antonio Chumel with local judicial authorities and the IACHR stating that since 1988, when Chumel left the PAC's, PAC members threatened and intimidated Chumel to the extent that he was forced to leave his community for fear of his life. There are other credible reports that others who refused to serve in the PAC's suffered threats and other abuses.
g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts
Guatemala's armed internal conflict entered its 34th year and continued to be a major cause of human rights violations by both government and guerrilla forces. Communities of People in Resistance (CPR), groups of displaced persons who have lived in remote areas to avoid army control since the 1980's, claimed army harassment throughout the year, including late evening helicopter overflights and restriction of commerce. Reflecting increased security in the valleys, in February, a number of CPR's came down from the mountains and established permanent villages. According to statistics reported by the Archbishop's human rights office, repeated URNG attacks against civilian infrastructure targets damaged electrical and communication facilities and petroleum storage areas. The Church office reported two persons injured by exploding mines planted by guerrillas. On August 22, guerrillas fired indiscriminately at a civilian bus injuring 11 persons and killing 1 during an attack against army units in Chupol, Chichicastenango. On various occasions guerrillas have also burned farms and destroyed property of farm owners who refused to pay extortion. Terrorist bombings conducted by unknown perpetrators continued throughout the year. Before the January 30 national referendum, 25 explosive devices detonated or were deactivated in Guatemala City alone. Several of these devices were accompanied by URNG leaflets. Other bomb attacks were believed to be orchestrated by free-lancing rightist groups opposed to the referendum. On March 6 and 7, bombs exploded at two key bridges leading from the capital. The army and the URNG accused each other of planting the bombs. On September 1, two more pamphlet bombs exploded in the capital, releasing URNG literature. The home of a businessman and partial owner of the newsweekly Cronica was bombed in June. (He is the brother of former peace talks conciliator and current president of the Civil Society Assembly, Bishop Rodolfo Quezada.) On September 22, three bombs went off in residential zones, killing one child who was watching cars in exchange for tips. On several occasions death threat lists, including the names ofhuman rights and labor leaders and newspaper journalists, circulated, but no one listed was injured or killed. On August 12, a lower court judge dismissed the amnesty granted four recently captured URNG guerrillas. However, these guerrillas were freed under a Penal Code provision, a move considered legally controversial. It had been common government practice to excuse post-1988 crimes committed by guerrillas even though the Amnesty Law only applies to political and related crimes committed before 1988. The Government appealed this decision and is considering new amnesty legislation to cover crimes committed after 1988. The URNG claims it holds no prisoners. The army continued to deny it has ever held guerrilla leader Efrain "Everardo" Bamaca or 35 other URNG prisoners of war as claimed by the American citizen wife of Bamaca. According to army spokespersons, Bamaca was killed in battle. The Government denies holding prisoners clandestinely. The Government also denies reports the U.S. Government received that the army took Efrain Bamaca captive in March 1992. Those reports indicated he had been wounded but that his injuries were not life-threatening. The reports included no information to indicate that he was alive much beyond the first few weeks after his capture. The Guatemalan Government filed a writ of habeas corpus on Bamaca's behalf, and the Supreme Court assigned the Human Rights Ombudsman to conduct a special 30-day investigation into the disappearance. The Ombudsman developed no new leads and turned responsibility for the investigation back to the Attorney General. The United Nations Verification Mission, MINUGUA, is assisting in the investigationIn January the URNG and the Government resumed peace talks with the United Nations serving as moderator. In late March, the Government and the guerrillas signed a human rights accord that called for the immediate establishment of a U.N. human rights verification mission. Although the start-up of this international mission was delayed until September, the accord was a major step forward. As part of its mandate, the U.N. team will seek to strengthen local institutions dealing with human rights. In November and December, MINUGUA accompanied Human Rights Ombudsman officials inspecting army bases, witnessing the turning in of rifles by PAC members and other human rights-related activity. Also in March, the Government and the URNG agreed upon a calendar to address the major outstanding negotiating issues. In June the two sides signed accords on "uprooted" peoples and the establishment of a Historical Clarification Commission to catalog and analyze human rights abuses related to the guerrilla war. However, th Commission will not name past violators, and its findings will not have judicial force. Following signing of this accord, talks fell into a temporary hiatus. They resumed in late October to discuss indigenous rights. No agreement was reached on this issue by the end of the year. MINUGUA reported that, on December 20, men identified by local residents as military commissioners and their assistants threatened MINUGUA officers and human rights activists during a meeting in Tecpan, Chimaltenango. During the meeting, one of the armed men grabbed activist Eliseo Calel and beat him. Calel had been pressing authorities to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the August 1 death of Chimaltenango activist Pascual Serech and the August 20 murder of the judge handling the case, Elias Ogaldez. Ogaldez had ordered the arrest of a military commissioner alleged to have been involved in Serech's death.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The Constitution provides for freedom of expression. There was no evidence of harassment from senior government officials, but both major press associations denounced incidents restricting freedom of the press. The media reported sensitive issues such as corruption, as well as major human rights stories. They also publicized communiques from the URNG, leftist groups, and others opposed to the Government or its policies. Journalists admit, however, that pressure and fears of reprisal result in self-censorship and limits on investigative reporting. For example, there is no open criticism of the military nor is there open discussion of important issues such as land use, land ownership, or similar topics that would affect the interests of powerful economic groups and individuals. Reports on human rights and narcotic trafficking are carefully written and sourced so that neither journalists nor their institutions are put at risk. Radio and television station owners observe that licensing procedures potentialy give the government powerful leverage over their editorial policies, but they have not cited any instances in which the De Leon Government attempted to abuse this power. Continuing acts of political violence directed against journalists give credence to their complaints of pressure and coercion at the working level. Through November the Archbishop's human rights office recorded 25 separate political acts against the media: 2 extrajudicial killings, 5 assaults, and 18 intimidating acts. On March 26, unknown men fired shots at newspaper reporter Marco Tulio De la Roca, killing him and injuring his companion. Unknown perpetrators targeted journalist Hector Adolfo Barrera Ortiz, first by a bomb explosion outside his home and later by a kidnaping attempt while at work.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Constitution provides for the right of peaceful assembly and association. Peaceful demonstrations were common and demonstrators sometimes occupied government institutions, including the presidential palace, government ministries, and the Supreme Court building. In all these cases, the police acted with restraint, and the authorities negotiated a peaceful departure of demonstrators. The Government did not interfere with political associations, although the law nominally requires organizations to obtain legal status, a cumbersome and expensive procedure.
c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution provides for religious freedom, and the authorities respect it in practice. Religious personnel are sometimes threatened on political grounds for their human rights, indigenous rights, and land reform activities.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The Government does not restrict foreign travel, nor does it revoke citizenship for political reasons. The authorities did not restrict movement inside the country except where the army and PAC's limited travel in some areas of conflict. Guerrillas continued to establish roadblocks to rob private citizens, extort protection payments from businessmen, attack and drain petroleum trucks, and limit travel in certain rural areas. Voluntary repatriation of refugees from Mexico continued. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 6,011 refugees were repatriated to Guatemala in 1994. Since the initiation of the program, over 18,000 persons have returned, despite the lack of suitable land which can support the returning population.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
Citizens have the right to change their government by peaceful and democratic means, through secret ballot and universal suffrage for those 18 years of age and older. Members of the armed forces and police may not vote. Since the return to democracy and civilian rule in 1985, there have been seven free elections. International observers concluded that both the January 30 national referendum and the August 14 congressional elections were free and fair. There are no legal impediments to women's participation in politics, but women are underrepresented in the political arena. However, women do hold prominent political positions, including three cabinet posts. The first President of the newly elected Congress was a woman, and 5 other women hold seats in the 80-member body. There are also two female Supreme Court justices and one female Constitutional Court justice. Indigenous people enjoy equal rights under the Constitution, and some have attained positions as army officers (including one general), judges, and government officials, including a Cabinet member and five members of the newly elected Congress. Nevertheless, limited educational opportunity and pervasive discrimination (see Section 5) lead to their underrepresentation in politics.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
The Government permits local human rights groups to operate freely, but the security forces, PAC's, and extremist groups continued to threaten and use violence against their members. For example, on January 24 human rights monitor Amilcar Mendez reported that a masked motorcyclist tried to run over his 16-year-old daughter, Miriam Rocio Mendez, who was en route to the University of San Carlos. The daughter was uninjured. Five months later on June 29, the Mendez family reported there were armed men outside his home. However, when the police were dispatched to the scene, the armed men had left. In August an unknown person called a Mendez relative in Guatemala City stating that Mendez should not return to his home in Quiche because he would be killed. Rosalina Tuyuc, director of CONAVIGUA, the National Council of Guatemalan Widows, reported that during June and July armed soldiers repeatedly were stationed outside her parents' home in Chimaltenango. Throughout the year, the army has accused Tuyuc and CONAVIGUA of being allied with the guerrillas. The army also charged that one of Tuyuc's brothers is a guerrilla commander who engineered recent guerrilla attacks. On June 22, unknown men attacked, stabbed, and robbed Sara Poroj Vasquez, an officer of the human rights organization GAM, "Grupo De Apoyo Mutuo", outside her home. No one was apprehended for this attack.. Disturbed by political activities of some foreign visitors, immigration authorities in late November began limiting U.S., Canadian, and Spanish visitors to 15-day stays (as opposed to 90 days previously). When embassies and individuals protested, the Government decided to issue all foreign visitors 30-day stays. Relations between the executive branch and the Human Rights Ombudsman, who is congressionally appointed, remain tense. The Ombudsman repeatedly accused President De Leon, the previous human rights ombudsman, of not taking action on the numerous resolutions his office has issued concerning human rights. However, the current Ombudsman has significantly reduced his investigative staff, thus limiting his capacity to verify complaints. On September 7, the Ombudsman called for the resignation of the National Police director because of allegations of police abuse in the La Exacta incident (see Section 1.a.). High-ranking government officials working in the fields of human rights and jurisprudence complained publicly and privately of receiving threats stemming from their interest in resolving cases related to human rights violations, official corruption, and drug trafficking. Both the Ombudsman's office and the Archbishop's human rights office continued to enjoy widespread public support and respect. Senior government officials met numerous foreign officials and human rights monitors. International human rights monitors travel throughout the country but on occasion advise local military authorities of their presence to ensure their safety, particularly in rural areas. Despite a persistent, 13-year effort, Peace Brigades International, an international human rights organization which accompanies persons whose lives may be in danger for their political beliefs or activities, has been unable to obtain government recognition. The absence of legal status did not, however, prevent Peace Brigades or other human rights organizations from operating openly.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
The Constitution states that all human beings are free and equal in dignity and rights and that the State must protect the life, liberty, justice, security, peace, and development of all Guatemalans.
The Constitution asserts the principle of equality between the sexes. Nonetheless, women face job discrimination and on average receive significantly lower pay than men. They are primarily employed in low-wage jobs in the textile industry, agriculture, retail business, and the public sector. More working women than men are employed in the informal sector of the economy, where pay and benefits are generally lower. A 1989 survey reported that in Guatemala City women are underrepresented in high-income categories and overrepresented among poorly paid workers. In some cases, domestic laws remain discriminatory against women, such as the Penal Code's provisions on adultery. Only women may be charged with adultery, while men fall under a different statute which is more limited, makes it more difficult to prove, and carries a lesser penalty. CONAVIGUA reported that violence against women, including domestic violence, remains common but receives little attention. There is no specific law against domestic violence, although it is considered to fall under other statutes. Criminal sexual violence often goes unreported by victims, and relatively few rape cases come to court. The human rights Ombudsman's office reported receiving 30 complaints per month of spousal abuse committed by the male spouse.
The Constitution charges the Government with protecting the physical health and mental and moral well-being of minors. However, the abuse of street children (see Section 1.c.) is a serious problem in major cities. Estimated numbers of street children range between 1,500 and 5,000, with the majority of these youths concentrated in Guatemala City. These children are often recruited into thievery or prostitution rings. The Government and a number of nongovernmental organizations operate youth centers, but the funds devoted to them are inadequate for the problem. An accord between Casa Alianza and the Attorney General's office was not renewed because the De Leon administration believes that the treatment of street children is adequately addressed in existing laws. COPREDEH, the Presidential Human Rights Commission, has formed a special commission called the Permanent Commission for Children, composed of Casa Alianza and representatives from the judicial and executive branches, which met through October to address the problems of street children. Relations between Casa Alianza and the National Police have fluctuated and only improved due to the repeated personal intervention of the police department's inspector general and the interest of the department's minors division, office of professional responsibility, and human rights office. However, the police department's office of criminal investigations has been reluctant to release information on past alleged human rights abuses committed by police officers.
The Constitution states that Guatemala is composed of diverse ethnic groups and calls on the Government to recognize, respect, and promote lifestyles, customs, traditions, social organization, and the manner of dress of indigenous people. Indigenous people comprise about one-half the population but remain largely outside the country's political, economic, social, and cultural mainstream. Indigenous people suffered most of the serious human rights abuses described throughout this report. Rural indigenous men were more likely than urban dwellers to be drafted by the army or forcibly recruited by either the army or guerrilla groups. Although the Constitution accords indigenous people equal rights, in practice they have only minimal participation in decisions affecting their lands, culture, traditions, and allocation of natural resources. Rural indigenous people have limited educational opportunities and thus have limited employment opportunities. Many indigenous people are illiterate and do not speak Spanish. Linguistic barriers hinder interaction with the Government and limit access to public services, including the judiciary, because few officials speak any of the 21 indigenous languages. Indigenous persons arrested for crimes are often at a disadvantage due to their lack of Spanish. The public defender's office is charged with providing judicial translating services but is not sufficiently staffed to cope with the problem. Under the new Criminal Procedures Code, the Government is required to provide translating services to all who need it in criminal proceedings.
People with Disabilities
The Constitution provides that the State should protect disabled persons. Nonetheless, physically disabled persons are discriminated against in employment practices, and few resources are devoted to combat this problem or otherwise to assist people with disabilities. There is no legislation mandating provision of accessibility for the disabled.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The Constitution and the Labor Code provide workers complete freedom of association and the right to form and join trade unions. Major reforms to the Labor Code in 1992 mandated concrete steps to improve worker rights by facilitating freedom of association, strengthening the rights of working women, increasing penalties for violations of labor laws, and enhancing the role of the Labor Ministry and labor courts in enforcing them. All workers have the right to form or join unions, including public sector employees, with the exception of members of security forces. National Police officers have unsuccessfully attempted to form a trade union or association. Between 5 and 8 percent of the work force is organized. The 993 registered unions in the country are independent of government and political party domination. The Labor Code amendments simplified the process for unions to obtain legal status. This was further revised when the Minister of Labor made administrative changes to reduce the number of steps needed within the Ministry for consideration of union applications, establishing strict timetables and warning officials that noncompliance with the timetable could lead to dismissal of those responsible for the delay. These new regulations accelerated the approval procedure, and the backlog of union applications was basically eliminated by midyear. The Labor Ministry has granted legal status to 63 unions since late 1993, and only 13 applications are still pending. Of the registered unions, 834 are in the private sector and 159 are in the public sector. The Labor Ministry initiated a program to assist unions with their applications, to avoid some of the pitfalls still inherent in the Labor Code. Workers have the right to strike, but Labor Code procedures make legal strikes cumbersome. Labor organizers criticize the requirement that two-thirds of the workers must approve a vote to strike, the prohibition of strikes by agricultural workers at harvest time, and the right of the Government to prohibit strikes which it deems as seriously affecting the national economy. Those strikes that do occur, frequently in the public sector, are generally called without legal authorization, and in practice the Government makes no effort to intervene on the basis of illegality. Nonetheless, the lack of legal approval for a strike can be used as a threat against strikers. Public sector workers held a series of work stoppages in early 1994 and suffered no sanctions for their action. Indeed, the Government negotiated and reached a peaceful accommodation with the public labor force. The law protects workers from retribution for forming and participating in trade union activities, but enforcement of these provisions varies. While an increasing number of employers accept unionization, many routinely seek to circumvent Labor Code provisions in order to resist union activities, which many view as historically confrontational and disruptive. An ineffective legal system and the inadequate level of penalties for violations has hindered enforcement of the right to form and participate in trade union activities. While penalties were increased in the 1992 Labor Code reform, the previous Supreme Court (replaced in October 1994) delayed full implementation of the reforms. Trade union leaders and members were victims of a marked increase in violence and abuse, such as threats, assassination attempts, kidnapings, and physical harm. In one incident, police killed and wounded several persons while attempting to arrest workers who were illegally occupying a ranch (see Section 1.a.). The Archbishop's human rights office reported that unknown assailants killed 5 unionists, injured 2, and threatened 36, although it is not always clear whether such violence is union-related. Public sector union leaders, as well as unionists in the high-profile in-bond export sector, reported receiving threats against themselves and their families. Such anonymous threats increased markedly early in the year when one of the federations of government employees held a prolonged series of work stoppages for improved wages and government compliance with previously negotiated agreements. This dispute was peacefully settled through negotiations with various union representatives. On September 30, President De Leon Carpio eliminated--allegedly without following legally required procedures--the moribund Committee of National Reconstruction (CNR), a government entity established to manage recovery from the 1976 earthquake. Many of the 600 workers who lost their jobs occupied the Committee's headquarters in an attempt to force the Government to negotiate severance pay or find them alternative employment. Agustin Monzon, a member of the CNR union, was allegedly kidnaped on November 7 and released only after the occupiers agreed to leave the site peacefully on November 18. Unions may and do form federations and confederations and join international organizations. An active "solidarity" movement claims approximately 100,000 members in over 395 companies. Unions may legally continue to operate in workplaces which have solidarity associations, and workers have the right to choose between the two or belong to both. The Government views these associations as civic organizations which need not interfere with the functioning of trade unions. The amended Labor Code stipulates very clearly that trade unions have the exclusive right to bargain collectively over work conditions on behalf of workers. Unionists charge, however, that solidarity associations are promoted by management to avoid the formation of trade unions or to rival existing labor unions. There are credible reports that some of these associations did not always adhere to democratic principles in their formation and management and that workers are unable to participate fully and freely in decision making. Similar credible charges are made against some trade union organizations. At the request of trade union leaders, the independent Human Rights Ombudsman, through his Office for Economic and Social Issues, receives complaints related to trade union activities. Union leaders and workers filed a number of complaints with the Ombudsman during the year, and the Ombudsman has spoken out in public statements about labor conditions in varying sectors of the economy. The Ombudsman can investigate their complaints and issue a statement. He has no enforcement powers but can attempt to ameliorate the situation through publicity and moral suasion.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
Workers have the right to organize and bargain collectively. However, the practice of collective bargaining is limited by the weak structure of the union movement, the lack of experience with this practice, and the preference of management in many cases to avoid formal ties with trade unions. While both management and the unions honored some well-written collective contracts, in other instances, both parties openly ignored and violated contracts. Most workers, even those organized by trade unions, do not have collective contracts to cover their wages and working conditions, but do have individual contracts as required by law. Most workers receive the minimum wages established by bipartite commissions, which operate under the guidance of the Ministry of Labor. Employers cannot dismiss workers for participating in the formation of a trade union; workers file complaints in this regard with the labor inspectors for resolution. The Labor Code provides for the right of employers to fire union workers for cause, permits workers to appeal their dismissal to the labor courts, and requires the reinstatement of any union worker fired without cause. The revised Code prohibits employers from firing workers for union organizing and protects them for 60 days following the official publication of approval of the union. It also prohibits employers from firing any member of the executive committee of a union and protects them for an additional 12 months after they are no longer on the executive committee. An employer may fire a member of the union's executive committee for cause only after a trial and issuance of a court resolution. Labor courts responsible for enforcing labor laws continued to be generally ineffective. Although two new labor courts began to function, efforts to restructure and modernize the labor court system made little headway, in part because of tensions between the executive and judicial branches stemming from President De Leon's reform efforts. A heavy backlog of labor cases continues to clog the courts due to corruption, indolence, and lack of resources. There is only spotty enforcement of the Labor Code, due to the scarcity of labor inspectors, corruption, the lack of adequate training and resources, and structural weaknesses (or the lack of political will) in the labor court system. Nonetheless, enforcement is improving as new labor inspectors complete training and begin work outside the capital, allowing the Ministry of Labor to increase significantly its rate of inspections. The Ministry has also increased the number of court cases filed for failure to comply with the Labor Code and has begun an educationl campaign on worker rights, including providing some documents in indigenous languages. Labor laws and regulations apply throughout the country, including in the few export processing zones (EPZ's). The laws governing EPZ's are not discriminatory on the subject of organizing trade unions or collective bargaining. While union leaders often blame employer pressures and unofficially restricted access to the EPZ's for their virtual inability to organize workers in these zones, labor conditions in the EPZ's are no different from those found outside the zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The Constitution bars forced or compulsory labor, and the practice does not exist. However, human rights and indigenous groups continue to charge that there is coerced participation in the PAC's that violates prohibitions against forced labor.
d. Minimum Age for the Employment of Children
Although the Constitution bars employment of minors under the age of 14, children below this age are regularly employed. Laws governing the employment of minors are not effectively enforced, due to the shortage of qualified labor inspectors and structural weaknesses in the labor court system. Only 5,000 minors have permission from the Labor Ministry to work legally. Thousands working without legal permission are open to exploitation, generally receiving no social benefits, no social insurance, no vacations, and no severance pay, and are paid below the minimum wage level. The Labor Ministry has a program to educate minors, their parents, and employers on the rights of minors in the labor market. Economic necessity, however, forces most families to have their children seek some type of employment to supplement the family income. There are no export industries in which child labor is a significant factor. The Constitution provides for compulsory education for all children up to the age of 12 or to the sixth grade. However, less than half the population actually receives a primary education. Child labor is largely confined to small or family enterprises, to agricultural work, and to the informal sectors of the economy.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
Although the law sets minimum wages, the legally mandated minimum wage for most unskilled and semiskilled workers is rarely paid to rural and urban workers. A bilateral committee representing labor and management in specific economic sectors is named each year to make recommendations for increases in the minimum wage. In the event that agreement is not possible, the Government may decree such increases. In June the National Association of Coffee Growers (ANACAFE) reached an agreement with one trade union group representing coffee farm workers which increased the minimum wage for coffee farm workers by approximately 30 percent to $2.55 (14.50 quetzals) a day. The accord also provides for both productivity training and bonus payments and foresees talks on modernization of the critical coffee sector. Following the ANACAFE accord, the Government substantially increased the minimum wage in the main sectors of the economy in October. The minimum wage for commercial and industrial workers is $2.80 (16 quetzals) for an 8-hour workday, including a required hourly bonus. The minimum wage for farm workers is $2.55 (14.50 quetzals) per day, plus mandatory and productivity bonuses. It has been estimated that an urban family of four needs at least $8.50 (48 quetzales) per day to live, thus the minimum wage does not provide a decent standard of living. An estimated 70 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, including approximately 60 percent of those employed. The legal workday is 8 hours and the workweek is 44 hours, but a tradition of much longer hours remains in place due to economic conditions. The amended Labor Code requires a weekly paid rest period of at least 24 hours. Trade union leaders and human rights groups charge that workers are sometimes forced to work overtime, often without premium pay, or given drugs to help them work longer in order to meet work requirements. Labor inspectors report that numerous instances were uncovered of such abuses, but corruption and inefficiencies in the labor court system inhibit adequate enforcement of the law. Occupational health and safety standards are inadequate. As with other aspects of the labor law, enforcement of standards that do exist is also inadequate. Workers have the legal right to remove themselves from dangerous workplace situations, and the law provides them with protection for their continued employment. However, few workers are willing to jeopardize their jobs by complaining about unsafe working conditions. When serious or fatal industrial accidents do occur, the authorities generally take no legal steps against those responsible. The Labor Ministry provides training courses for labor inspectors in health and safety standards but does not accord them a high priority due to scarce resources. The Government does not effectively enforce legislation requiring companies with more than 50 employees to provide on-site medical facilities for their workers, although many large employers do provide such facilities.