|Guatemala Human Rights Commission - Peace Accords|
From the Guatemala Human Rights Commission
September 30, 2004
Nearly eight years since the signing of the Peace Accords, Guatemala has not kept the most important promises, the United Nations Verification Mission to Guatemala (MINUGUA) said in its final annual report presented on September 30.
?The country still faces big problems,? said MINUGUA director Tom Koenigs. The Mission?s mandate to monitor compliance with the peace treaty ends at the end of the year. Koenigs cited problems with the criminal justice system and with continued racism against the country?s indigenous majority. ?Corruption, inequality, criminality, and the effects of a weak justice system are disturbingly common,? Koenigs said.
Koenigs said MINUGUA is especially appalled by the continuing lack of economic opportunity for the 60 percent of Guatemala?s population that has lived in poverty since the end of the 1960-1996 war. Koenigs warned that poverty could ?lead to social conflict and the deterioration of democracy.? But he said there was little chance Guatemala could again erupt in civil war, a prospect that had seemed all too real in the months following the war ?s conclusion. ?Guatemalans don?t want to relieve the past,? he said.
UN observers arrived in 1994 to ensure the government and the guerrillas were respecting a human rights agreement signed during early negotiations to end the war. Peace accords pledging twelve major reforms and both sides signed a host of recommendations on December 26, 1996.
Guatemala has only recently begun to keep promises to drastically reduce military spending. Koenigs said each of the three postwar presidents has ?made advances, but they have yet to implement the peace accords in a complete manner.? The report said the worst problems were in dealing with the country?s largely marginalized indigenous majority. ?The steps taken have been very slow,? Koenigs said. ?And racism continues to be an enormous problem.?
Other major failures have been a corrupt and disorganized national civilian police force, which was created after the war to reduce the army?s role in patrolling the streets and fighting common crime. ?Negligence, constant changes in leadership, and corruption have sent the police force on a downward spiral,? Koenigs said.
The UN report recommended strengthening the Human Rights Ombudsman?s Office, which will take over many of the responsibilities MINUGUA now handles. It also said the government should compensate relatives of those killed in the war and consider ?important spending increases in health, education, security, and criminal justice.?
Click here to read the full report (PDF).
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