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Death Penalty to be Reinstated in Guatemala

March 5, 2008

On February 12, 2008 the Guatemalan Congress passed a law (Decree 06-2008) that establishes a procedure for those condemned to death to request a pardon from the president. Ultimately, Decree 06-2008 opens the door for the death penalty to be reinstated after a prolonged de facto moratorium by resolving clemency protocols.

Click here to send a message to Guatemalan President Colom urging him to veto this law, which would reinstate capital punishment in Guatemala!

In 2000, the Guatemalan Congress revoked the law that allowed those sentenced to death to apply for presidential pardon. In 2005 the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) found that Guatemala could not carry out executions without a clemency procedure in place and established criteria for such a procedure. Although Congress passed Decree 06-2008 as their attempt to comply with part of the IACHR’s ruling, the new law in fact breaches both the ruling and international human rights law which Guatemalan has committed to respect.

At present, 135 countries - more than two thirds of the countries in the world - have now abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Furthermore, last December the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for a moratorium on executions. The resolution was adopted by an overwhelming majority of 104 states – including Guatemala. The resolution called for all states that still use the death penalty to respect international standards that provide safeguards to those facing execution and to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.

GHRC recognizes the grave situation of security in Guatemala. With nearly 6,000 homicides a year and a conviction rate of less than 2%, there is understandably much public anxiety at the lack of security. We do not excuse or minimize the consequences of violent crime. Rather, GHRC, along with many national and international organizations, advocates on behalf of victims of violence and recommends changes in public security, in a manner upholding human rights.

The death penalty runs the risk of the irrevocable error of executing the innocent. It tends to be applied discriminatorily on grounds of race and class. It denies the possibility of reconciliation and rehabilitation. It promotes simplistic answers to the suffering of the murder victim’s family, and extends that suffering to the loved ones of the condemned prisoner. It diverts resources that could be better used to work against violent crime and assist those affected by it. It is a symptom of a culture of violence, not a solution to it. It is an affront to human dignity. The death penalty should be abolished in Guatemala, not reinstated.

The Guatemalan Congress had 10 days to send Decree 06-2008 to the President after it was passed and President Colom has 15 days to either approve the law or veto it.


[Information for this Urgent Action has been taken from Amnesty International’s Urgent Action 51/08, Executions to be Resumed. We appreciate their contributions!]





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