Guatemala’s Human Rights Record

International and local observers reported that judges, prosecutors and lawyers involved in key human rights cases faced harassment and intimidation. Judges and prosecutors were also subject to seemingly spurious criminal proceedings.

High Risk Court Judge Miguel Angel Galvez received frequent threats after presiding over a case that implicated former military members in human rights abuses during the internal armed conflict. Galvez left Guatemala in November.

Human Rights Defenders

Despite constitutional guarantees of freedom of association, groups associated with Indigenous and environmental issues face restrictions. Trade unions are not fully free to organize, and workers who confront crime and corruption risk attack.

Corruption is pervasive. Attorney General Maria Consuelo Porras blocked high-profile corruption investigations and weaponized the justice system against independent anticorruption prosecutors. Judges and prosecutors who tried corruption cases were removed, transferred, or prevented from taking their posts, and many were subjected to threats, frivolous criminal prosecutions, and defamation campaigns.

Civil society space remained restricted, and human rights defenders and journalists faced intimidation, surveillance, attacks, harassment, and unfounded criminal proceedings. Civil society actors seeking to investigate past human rights violations were threatened, smeared in the media, and forced into exile. The Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders reported 589 attacks against them during the year.

The government forged ahead with efforts to identify those who disappeared during the internal armed conflict, but progress was slow. The Public Ministry took steps to combat femicide and to establish a 24-hour victim service center in Guatemala City, but specialized courts to prosecute perpetrators of gender-based violence remain scarce. The country remains a major hub for organized crime, including drug trafficking and money laundering. A large proportion of the population lacks adequate access to health care and education.

Women’s Rights

Women in Guatemala face numerous challenges, including a high rate of gender-based violence. They have restricted access to labor markets and are often victims of rape and sexual assault. They are disproportionately impacted by natural disasters, which cause economic losses and displacement. They are also disproportionately affected by social exclusion and discrimination.

The country’s constitution guarantees freedom of association and a broad range of nongovernmental organizations operate in Guatemala. However, groups associated with Indigenous or environmental rights have faced increased harassment and attacks by police and armed actors. As a result, many activists self-censor their work or remain anonymous.

In the aftermath of 36 years of armed conflict, Guatemala was able to implement a series of reforms that aimed to solidify peace and guarantee respect for human rights. However, a deep-seated legacy of uneven state and society relations continues to limit the impact of these reforms on the lives of victims, particularly women.

The Public Ministry’s Gender Policy and judicial body are taking steps to increase the number of women in decision making positions and to provide services specifically tailored to the needs of female victims. UN Women’s Guatemala Program will continue supporting these institutions and others to strengthen capacities for the prevention of violence against women and girls, and for addressing gender-specific issues in the context of broader justice and security reforms.

Human Rights in Guatemala

The government’s efforts to bring perpetrators of past human rights abuses to justice remained hampered by widespread intimidation campaigns. A judge who handled the prosecution of former military officials for war crimes in connection with the 1983 forced disappearances of social leaders resigned and left Guatemala in November after numerous threats, attacks, and harassment. Several cases related to the Death Squad Dossier, a document of atrocities committed by security forces during the internal armed conflict, were pending at year’s end.

Journalists and other critics faced harassment and censorship. The public defender and other civil society organizations reported that they faced ongoing pressure to refrain from investigating and discussing corruption and other sensitive topics.

The constitution guarantees freedom of assembly, but in practice many people take precautions when expressing their views outside their homes due to the high level of insecurity in the country. In addition, the Giammattei administration has frequently declared states of prevention and siege in response to protests that threaten oil infrastructure or other economic interests. Many of these measures restrict constitutional guarantees and are viewed as unjust by international human rights organizations. The judiciary was generally impartial and independent in civil matters, but suffered from inefficiencies and a system that permitted spurious complaints. The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in providing protection and assistance to refugees and asylum seekers.

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