Death Penalty Database

Guatemala

Information current as of: September 24, 2012

General

Official Country Name

Republic of Guatemala (Guatemala). [1]

Geographical Region

Latin America (Central America). [2]

Death Penalty Law Status

Abolitionist de facto. [3]

Methods of Execution

Lethal Injection. [4]

References

[1] U.S. Dept. of State, Background Note: Guatemala, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2045.htm, Jan. 19, 2012.
[2] U.N., Composition of macro geographical (continental) regions, geographical sub-regions, and selected economic and other groupings, http://unstats.un.org/unsd/methods/m49/m49regin.htm, Sep. 20, 2011.
[3] Amnesty Intl., Annual Report 2012: Guatemala, http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/guatemala/report-2012, last accessed Jul. 24, 2012.
[4] Act establishing the procedure for the execution of the death sentence of Guatemala, art. 7, Decree No. 100-1996, 1996. Guatemala: http://www.handsoffcain.info/bancadati/schedastato.php?idstato=16000067, last accessed Jun. 21, 2012; Amnesty Intl., Execution by Lethal Injection –A quarter century of state poisoning, ACT 50/007/2007, Oct. 2007.

Country Details

Language(s)

Spanish. [1]

Population

14,700,000. (2011 est.) [2]

Number of Individuals Currently Under Sentence of Death

0. Between 2005 and February 2012, the Supreme Court of Justice commuted all 54 pending death sentences into the maximum imprisonment terms for the relevant crimes for which the prisoners had been convicted (kidnapping, murder and rape). [3] There was no one under sentence of death at the end of 2014, [4] and we have recorded no new death sentences since then.

(This question was updated on October 9, 2015.)

Annual Number of Reported Executions

Executions in 2017 to date (last updated on October 18, 2017)

0. [5]

Executions in 2016

0. [6]

Per capita execution rate in 2016

Executions in 2015

0. [7]

Per capita execution rate in 2015

0 executions.

Executions in 2014

0. [8]

Per capita execution rate in 2014

0 executions

Executions in 2013

0. [9]

Per capita execution rate in 2013

0 executions

Executions in 2012

0. [10]

Per capita execution rate in 2012

0 executions

Executions in 2011

0. [11]

Per capita execution rate in 2011

0 executions

Executions in 2010

0. [12]

Executions in 2009

0. [13]

Executions in 2008

0. [14]

Executions in 2007

0. [15]

Year of Last Known Execution

2000. [16] On June 29, 2000, two men were executed by lethal injection for kidnapping and murdering a woman although her family paid a ransom. Both executions were broadcast on public television. [17]

References

[1] U.S. Dept. of State, Background Note: Guatemala, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2045.htm, Jan. 19, 2012.
[2] U.S. Dept. of State, Background Note: Guatemala, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2045.htm, Jan. 19, 2012.
[3] U.N.G.A., 104th Session, 2874th Plenary Meeting, Major Progress Made in Human Rights Protections Since Guatemala’s Peace Accords 15 Years Ago, Although Much Work Remains, Human Rights Committee Told, U.N. Doc. HR/CT/744, Mar. 19, 2012; Hoy Digital, Suprema Corte de Guatemala revoca la pena de muerte a 53 condenados, http://www.hoy.com.do/el-mundo/2012/1/23/411325/Suprema-Corte-de-Guatemala-revoca-la-pena-de-muerte-a-53-condenados, Jan. 23, 2012; Coralia Orantes, Corte anula pena capital, Prensa Libre, http://prensalibre.com.gt/noticias/Corte-anula-pena-capital_0_645535458.html, Feb. 13, 2012.
[4] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2014, ACT 50/001/2015, Mar. 31, 2015.
[5] DPW Executions and Death Sentences Monitor.
[6] Amnesty International, Death sentences and executions in 2016, ACT 50/5740/2017, Apr. 11, 2017.
[7] DPW Executions and Death Sentences Monitor.
[8] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2014, ACT 50/001/2015, Mar. 31, 2015.
[9] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2013, ACT 50/001/2014, Mar. 26, 2014.
[10] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2012, ACT 50/001/2012, Apr. 9, 2013.
[11] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2011, ACT 50/001/2012, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ACT50/001/2012/en, Mar. 27, 2012.
[12] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2010, p. 5, ACT 50/001/2011, Mar. 28, 2011.
[13] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2009, pp. 24-25, ACT 50/001/2010, Mar. 30, 2010.
[14] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2008, pp. 22-23, ACT 50/003/2009, Mar. 24, 2009.
[15] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2007, p. 6, ACT 50/001/2008, Apr. 15, 2008.
[16] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2010, p.14, ACT 50/001/2011, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ACT50/001/2011/en, Mar. 28, 2011; Guatemala: http://www.handsoffcain.info/bancadati/schedastato.php?idstato=16000067, last accessed Jun. 21, 2012;; Amnesty Intl., Execution by lethal injection: A quarter century of state poisoning, ACT 50/007/2007, Oct. 2007.
[17] The New York Times, Guatemalan TV Shows Execution of Two Men, http://www.nytimes.com/2000/06/30/world/guatemalan-tv-shows-execution-of-2-men.html?pagewanted=1, Jun. 30, 2000.

Crimes and Offenders Punishable By Death

Crimes Punishable by Death

Aggravated Murder. [1]
Extrajudicial or terrorist executions, murder of a family member (ascendant, descendant or conjugal partner), murder of the President or Vice-President, or murder aggravated by treachery, pecuniary motive, to further or conceal a crime or act of or preparation for terrorism, or the use of violent or dangerous methods or cruelty may be punishable by death. [2] For the first three forms of aggravated murder, the death penalty must be restricted to instances where the offender poses a continuing threat (after assessment of the offender’s “dangerousness”) or has killed a youth or elderly person. [3]

In 2005 the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled in Fermín Ramírez v. Guatemala, [4] that Guatemala must abstain from issuing death sentences based on the “dangerousness” of the murderer and must also eliminate any reference to dangerousness in article 132 of the Penal Code, which defines aggravated murder. The rationale behind this ruling is that the defendant’s “dangerousness” did not need be proved during trial, but resulted from a subjective assessment by the judge that the defendant was likely to commit criminal acts in the future. As of mid-2012, Guatemala has not modified article 132 of the Penal Code.

Murder. [5]

Other Offenses Resulting in Death. [6]
A number of offenses (such as causing floods, arson, poisoning, collapsing buildings, or other dangerous offenses) appear to be punishable by death when they cause death, regardless of the offender’s intent.

Terrorism-Related Offenses Resulting in Death. [7]
Terrorism-related offenses resulting in death are death-eligible if the circumstances of the crime reveal that the offender poses a continuing danger or if the crime resulted in the death of a person younger than 12 or older than 60. [8]

Terrorism-Related Offenses Not Resulting in Death. [9]
Torture by terrorist groups is to be tried as kidnapping, which carries the possibility of the death penalty. [10]

Drug Trafficking Resulting in Death. [11]
A number of drug offenses are punishable by death when they cause death, including: the international trafficking of drugs, planting and cultivating, manufacturing or processing drugs, illicit marketing of drugs, trafficking and storage of drugs, promoting or facilitating means to manufacture and transport drugs, aiding or abetting the cultivation of or trafficking in seeds, plants or drugs, furnishing the means to manufacture, store, cultivate or sell drugs, altering medicines to produce drugs, illicitly selling medicinal substances that contain drugs different from those specified on a medical prescription, illicitly investing money that comes from drug trafficking, belonging to a criminal association formed for the purposing of drug trafficking, and aiding or encouraging drug addiction. [12]

Drug Possession. [13]
If one or more persons die, as a consequence of the act of acquiring drugs for personal use, the death penalty may be imposed, depending on the circumstances of the case. [14]

Kidnapping Not Resulting in Death.
Abduction for the purpose of obtaining a ransom, an exchange of persons, or any coerced act carries a death sentence according to Guatemala’s Penal Code. [15] This form of kidnapping is distinguished in the law from abductions not intended to coerce an action from a third party, which are not punishable by death, except in cases involving torture, where offenders will be tried for capital kidnapping in addition to the offense of abduction. [16] This form of kidnapping is also distinguished from disappearances carried out or assisted by government authorities. Such disappearances are not generally punishable by death, but may carry the death penalty in cases where the victim is seriously injured or dies or where the victim experiences serious mental or psychological trauma. [17]

Treason. [18]
Various crimes of treason are punishable by death. Treason by a member of the military [19] and insurgency against the Republic of Guatemala are punishable by death if they result in war. [20] Moreover, attempting to destroy the independence or the integrity of the Republic, supporting foreign enemies by providing them with weapons or information, preventing national troops from receiving support when needed, and inciting troops to desert and join enemy troops are punishable by death. [21] A soldier who is in close proximity to the enemy and intentionally sends a false instruction which may endanger the security of the army is also punishable by death. [22] Attempting or committing an act to violently or illegally destroy or modify “[s]ocial institutions that are guaranteed by law” (such as the family and any government department), or inciting such actions through propaganda, are treated as treason and are punishable by death. [23]

Espionage.
Espionage by a national or by a member of the military is punishable by death. [24]

Military Offenses Not Resulting in Death.
Various military crimes are punishable by death, including: rebelling against the institutions or powers of the state, [25] sedition against military troops, [26] a soldier disobeying his sergeant in time of war, [27] in some cases a soldier insulting his superior in time of war, [28] desertion or abandoning one’s post before the enemy or in time of war, [29] cowardice, [30] concealing relevant information or falsifying orders so as to endanger the army, [31] failing to perform sentinel duties, [32] destroying any vehicle or infrastructure used by the army, [33] failing to request weapons or supplies needed by the army, [34] offenses against civilians, [35] and pillage. [36]

The Military Code of 1878 is still in force in Guatemala. In 1996, Decree 41-96 amended the Military Code so as to limit its application exclusively to military crimes and place all members of the military who are charged with common law offenses under the jurisdiction of ordinary courts.

Comments.
Drug trafficking offenses are not death eligible when they do not result in death, despite some reports to the contrary. [37]

Convictions based on circumstantial evidence [38] (a “presumption of fact”) may not lead to a death sentence, pursuant to Article 18 of the constitution. [39]

Does the country have a mandatory death penalty?

No. While there used to be some ambiguity about whether Guatemala’s Criminal Code provided for a mandatory death penalty for aggravated murder, [40] kidnapping [41] and terrorism, [42] applying these criminal provisions so as to impose a mandatory death penalty is clearly illegal pursuant to the decision of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Raxcacó Reyes v. Guatemala. [43]

Guatemala’s Constitution indicates that the death penalty is only applicable as an extraordinary measure and recognizes the primacy of international human rights treaties to which Guatemala is a party. [44] Furthermore, Guatemala has recognized the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court on Human Rights. [45] In Raxcacó Reyes v. Guatemala, the court ruled that by failing to consider the individual circumstances of the defendant, Guatemalan courts had effectively imposed a mandatory death penalty on the defendants. For this reason (and others), these death sentences violated the state’s obligations under the American Convention on Human Rights. [46]

Nevertheless, we note that the last time the Inter-American Court reviewed this issue in 2008, it concluded that Guatemala had not yet amended its criminal legislation to comply with the Raxcacó Reyes ruling. [47] Also, as of mid-2012 Guatemala had not modified article 201 of the Penal Code in order to define different forms of kidnapping with a range of penalties or to remove the death penalty altogether. However, in every recent case for which we located a judicial ruling, the Supreme Court of Justice has systematically commuted death sentences for kidnapping based on the judgment of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Raxcacó Reyes. [48] It is therefore most likely that there is no more mandatory death penalty in Guatemala.

For Which Offenses, If Any, Is a Mandatory Death Sentence Imposed?

There is no mandatory death penalty in Guatemala (see discussion above).

Crimes For Which Individuals Have Been Executed Since January 2008:

None. [49]

Categories of Offenders Excluded From the Death Penalty:

Individuals Below Age 18 At Time of Crime.
Individuals under the age of 18 when the offense was committed. [50]

Women. [51]

Elderly.
Persons over the age of 60 are not executed. [52]

Mentally Ill.
Persons who have diminished capacity due to mental illness or temporary disorder have diminished responsibility at the time a crime is committed and may be non-indictable, and capital convicts receive a temporary stay of execution if the illness develops after sentencing. [53]

However, mental illness is also listed as a relevant factor in the determination of an offender’s “dangerousness,” which is a precondition for the death penalty to apply to certain types of aggravated murder. [54]

Intellectually Disabled.
Persons who because of “incomplete or retarded mental development” are unable to comprehend the illegality of their actions, or persons who have reduced understanding, may be non-indictable or may be able to assert a mitigating factor. [55]

References

[1] Penal Code of Guatemala, arts. 131, 132, 132 Bis, 383, Decree 17-73, amended by Legislative Decree No. 4-2010 of 2010, 1973.
[2] Penal Code of Guatemala, arts. 131, 132, 132 Bis, 383, Decree 17-73, amended by Legislative Decree No. 4-2010 of 2010, 1973.
[3] Penal Code of Guatemala, arts. 131, 132, 132 Bis, 383, Decree 17-73, amended by Legislative Decree No. 4-2010 of 2010, 1973.
[4] Fermín Ramírez v. Guatemala, part X, Series C no. 126, Inter-Amer. Ct. of Human Rights, 2005.
[5] Penal Code of Guatemala, art. 132(4), Decree No. 17-73, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 4-2010 of 2010, 1973.
[6] Penal Code of Guatemala, art. 132(3), Decree No. 17-73, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 4-2010 of 2010, 1973.
[7] Penal Code of Guatemala, arts. 132(8), 132 Bis, Decree No. 17-73, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 4-2010 of 2010, 1973.
[8] Penal Code of Guatemala, art. 132 Bis, Decree No. 17-73, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 4-2010 of 2010, 1973.
[9] Penal Code of Guatemala, art. 201 (BisC), Decree No. 17-73, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 4-2010 of 2010, 1973.
[10] Penal Code of Guatemala, art. 201 Bis, Decree No. 17-73, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 4-2010 of 2010, 1973.
[11] Law Against Drug-Related Activities of Guatemala, art. 52, Decree No. 48-92, 1992.
[12] Law Against Drug-Related Activities of Guatemala, arts. 35-38, 40-45, 47-52, Decree No. 48-92, 1992.
[13] Law Against Drug-Related Activities of Guatemala, arts. 39, 52, Decree No. 48-92, 1992.
[14] Law Against Drug-Related Activities of Guatemala, arts. 39, 52, Decree No. 48-92, 1992.
[15] Penal Code of Guatemala, art. 201, Decree No. 17-73, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 4-2010 of 2010, 1973.
[16] For one example, see Penal Code of Guatemala, arts. 201 (Bis), 203, Decree No. 17-73, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 4-2010 of 2010, 1973.
[17] Penal Code of Guatemala, art. 201 Ter, Decree No. 17-73, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 4-2010 of 2010, 1973.
[18] Military Code of Guatemala, art. 34, Decree No. 214-1878, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 41-96 of 1996, 1878.
[19] Military Code of Guatemala, art. 34, Decree No. 214-1878, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 41-96 of 1996, 1878.
[20] Military Code of Guatemala, art. 35, Decree No. 214-1878, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 41-96 of 1996, 1878.
[21] Military Code of Guatemala, arts. 36-38, 40-43, Decree No. 214-1878, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 41-96 of 1996, 1878.
[22] Military Code of Guatemala, art. 39, Decree No. 214-1878, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 41-96 of 1996, 1878.
[23] Military Code of Guatemala, art. 45-A, Decree No. 214-1878, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 41-96 of 1996, 1878.
[24] Military Code of Guatemala, art. 44, Decree No. 214-1878, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 41-96 of 1996, 1878.
[25] Military Code of Guatemala, art. 47, Decree No. 214-1878, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 41-96 of 1996, 1878.
[26] Military Code of Guatemala, arts. 49-51, 53, 54, 57, Decree No. 214-1878, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 41-96 of1996, 1878.
[27] Military Code of Guatemala, art. 70, Decree No. 214-1878, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 41-96 of 1996, 1878.
[28] Military Code of Guatemala, art. 75, Decree No. 214-1878, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 41-96 of 1996, 1878.
[29] Military Code of Guatemala, arts. 78, 80- 82, 93, 94, 96, 99, 153, 169, Decree No. 214-1878, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 41-96 of 1996, 1878.
[30] Military Code of Guatemala, arts. 79, 95, Decree No. 214-1878, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 41-96 of 1996, 1878.
[31] Military Code of Guatemala, arts. 86, 87, 100, Decree No. 214-1878, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 41-96 of 1996, 1878.
[32] Military Code of Guatemala, arts. 88, 89, 91, Decree No. 214-1878, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 41-96 of 1996, 1878.
[33] Military Code of Guatemala, arts. 101, 102, Decree No. 214-1878, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 41-96 of 1996, 1878.
[34] Military Code of Guatemala, arts. 103-105, Decree No. 214-1878, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 41-96 of 1996, 1878.
[35] Military Code of Guatemala, art. 171, Decree No. 214-1878, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 41-96 of 1996, 1878.
[36] Military Code of Guatemala, arts. 172, 173, 177, Decree No. 214-1878, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 41-96 of 1996, 1878.
[37] Law Against Drug-Related Activities of Guatemala, art. 52, Decree No. 48-92, 1992. Inés Benítez, Inmates in Limbo, Inter Press Service, http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=37790, May 18, 2007; U.N. ICCPR Human Rights Committee, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 40 of the Covenant, para. 17, U.N. Doc. CCPR/CO/72/GTM, Aug. 27, 2001 (indicating an expansion of the death penalty for kidnapping not resulting in death but not for other crimes).
[38] Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala, art. 18, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 18-93 of 1993, 1985; Penal Code of Guatemala, art. 43, Decree No. 17-73, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 4-2010 of 2010, 1973.
[39] Presumptions of fact are logical arguments that are derived entirely and directly from the circumstances of the case and which do not depend upon a rule of law.
[40] Penal Code of Guatemala, art. 132 Bis, Decree No. 17-73, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 4-2010 of 2010, 1973.
[41] Penal Code of Guatemala, art. 201, Decree No. 17-73, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 4-2010 of 2010, 1973.
[42] Penal Code of Guatemala, arts. 132 Bis (8), 201, Decree No. 17-73, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 4-2010 of 2010, 1973.
[43] Raxcacó Reyes v. Guatemala, Series C No. 133, Inter-American Court of Human Rights, 2005.
[44] Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala, art. 46, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 18-93 of 1993, 1985.
[45] Status, Declarations, Reservations, Denunciations, Withdrawals, B-32: Amer. Conv. on Human Rights, Pact of San Jose, Costa Rica, Nov. 22, 1969, http://cidh.oas.org/basicos/english/basic4.amer.conv.ratif.htm, last accessed Jul. 6, 2012.
[46] Raxcacó Reyes v. Guatemala, paras. 73-90, Series C No. 133, Inter-American Court of Human Rights, 2005.
[47] Inter-Amer. Ct. of Human Rights, Order of May 9, 2008, Case Raxcacó Reyes et al. v. Guatemala, monitoring compliance with judgment, available at http://www.corteidh.or.cr/docs/medidas/Raxcaco_se_07_ing.pdf.
[48] Court for Criminal Sentencing, Drug-Trafficking and Environmental Crimes of Mixco v. Pineda Morales, Appeal 6-2009, Jul. 22, 2010; Court for Criminal Sentencing, Drug-Trafficking and Environmental Crimes of Amatitlán v. Mazate Paz, Appeal 446-2010, Apr. 4, 2011.
[49] Amnesty Intl., Report 2012: Guatemala, http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/guatemala/report-2012, last accessed Aug. 23, 2012.
[50] Penal Code of Guatemala, art. 23, Decree No. 17-73, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 4-2010 of 2010, 1973; Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala, art. 46, amended by the Legislative Decree No.18-93 of 1993, 1985 (granting the primacy of international law to which Guatemala is a party); together with Amer. Conv. on Human Rights, art. 4(5), 1114 U.N.T.S. 123, O.A.S.T.S. no. 36, Nov. 22, 1969 (stating that persons under the age of 18 at the time a crime is committed cannot be punished by death); Patterson v. U.S., para. 16, Case 12.439, Report No. 25/05, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.124, doc. 5, Inter-Amer. Ct. of Human Rights, 2005 (confirming that no OAS states apply the death penalty for offenses committed when the offender is under the age of 18).
[51] Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala, art. 18, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 18-93 of 1993, 1985; Penal Code of Guatemala, art. 43, Decree No. 17-73, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 4-2010 of 2010, 1973.
[52] Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala, art. 18, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 18-93 of 1993, 1985; Penal Code of Guatemala, art. 43, Decree No. 17-73, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 4-2010 of 2010, 1973.
[53] Penal Code of Guatemala, arts. 23, 26, 67, Decree No. 17-73, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 4-2010 of 2010, 1973.
[54] Penal Code of Guatemala, arts. 87(2), 131, 132, 132 Bis, 383, Decree No. 17-73, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 4-2010 of 2010, 1973.
[55] Penal Code of Guatemala, arts. 23, 26, Decree No. 17-73, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 4-2010 of 2010, 1973.

International Commitments

ICCPR

Party?

Yes. [1]

Date of Accession

May 5, 1992. [2]

Signed?

No. [3]

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, Recognizing Jurisdiction of the Human Rights Committee

Party?

Yes. [4]

Date of Accession

November 28, 2000. [5]

Signed?

No. [6]

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, Toward the Abolition of the Death Penalty

Party?

No. [7]

Date of Accession

Not Applicable.

Signed?

Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

American Convention on Human Rights

Party?

Yes. [8]

Date of Accession

April 27, 1978. [9]

Signed?

Yes. [10]

Date of Signature

November 22, 1969. [11]

Death Penalty Protocol to the ACHR

Party?

No. [12]

Date of Accession

Not Applicable.

Signed?

Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR)

Party?

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Signed?

Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

Protocol to the ACHPR on the Rights of Women in Africa

Party?

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Signed?

Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child

Party?

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Signed?

Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

Arab Charter on Human Rights

Party?

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Signed?

Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

2016 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [13]

Vote

In Favor. [14]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

No. [15]

2014 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [16]

Vote

In Favor. [17]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

No. [18]

2012 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [19]

Vote

In Favor. [20]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

No. [21]

2010 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [22]

Vote

In Favor. [23]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

No. [24]

2008 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [25]

Vote

Abstained. [26]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

No. [27]

2007 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [28]

Vote

In Favor. [29]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

No. [30]

References

[1] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Jun. 25, 2012.
[2] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Jun. 25, 2012.
[3] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Jun. 25, 2012.
[4] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-5&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Jun. 25, 2012.
[5] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-5&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Jun. 25, 2012.
[6] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-5&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Jun. 25, 2012.
[7] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Second Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, Aiming at the Abolition of the Death Penalty, 1642 U.N.T.S. 414, Dec. 15, 1989, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-12&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Jun. 25, 2012.
[8] Status, Declarations, Reservations, Denunciations, Withdrawals, B-32: Amer. Conv. on Human Rights, Pact of San Jose, Costa Rica, Nov. 22, 1969, http://cidh.oas.org/basicos/english/basic4.amer.conv.ratif.htm, last accessed Jun. 25, 2012.
[9] Status, Declarations, Reservations, Denunciations, Withdrawals, B-32: Amer. Conv. on Human Rights, Pact of San Jose, Costa Rica, Nov. 22, 1969, http://cidh.oas.org/basicos/english/basic4.amer.conv.ratif.htm, last accessed Jun. 25, 2012.
[10] Status, Declarations, Reservations, Denunciations, Withdrawals, B-32: Amer. Conv. on Human Rights, Pact of San Jose, Costa Rica, Nov. 22, 1969, http://cidh.oas.org/basicos/english/basic4.amer.conv.ratif.htm, last accessed Jun. 25, 2012.
[11] Status, Declarations, Reservations, Denunciations, Withdrawals, B-32: Amer. Conv. on Human Rights, Pact of San Jose, Costa Rica, Nov. 22, 1969, http://cidh.oas.org/basicos/english/basic4.amer.conv.ratif.htm, last accessed Jun. 25, 2012.
[12] Status, Declarations, Reservations, Denunciations, Withdrawals, A-53: Prot. to the Amer. Conv. on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty, Jun. 8, 1990, http://cidh.oas.org/basicos/english/basic8.death%20penalty%20ratif.htm, last accessed Jun. 25, 2012.
[13] U.N.G.A., 71st Session, Promotion and protection of human rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, paras. 54-71 U.N. Doc. A/71/484/Add.2, Dec. 6, 2016.
[14] U.N.G.A., 71st Session, Promotion and protection of human rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, paras. 54-71 U.N. Doc. A/71/484/Add.2, Dec. 6, 2016.
[15] U.N.G.A., 71st Session, Note Verbale dated 7 September 2017, U.N. Doc. A/71/1047, Sep. 13, 2017.
[16] U.N.G.A., 69th Session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, paras. 141, 144, U.N. Doc. A/69/488/Add.2, Dec. 8, 2014.
[17] U.N.G.A., 69th Session, 73rd Plenary Meeting, pp. 17-18, U.N. Doc. A/69/PV.73, Dec. 18, 2014.
[18] U.N.G.A., 69th Session, Note Verbale dated 28 July 2015, U.N. Doc. A/69/993, Jul. 29, 2015.
[19] U.N.G.A., 67th Session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, paras. 95-96, U.N. Doc. A/67/457/Add.2, Dec. 8, 2012.
[20] U.N.G.A., 67th Session, 60th Plenary Meeting, pp. 16-17, U.N. Doc. A/67/PV.60, Dec. 20, 2012.
[21] U.N.G.A., 67th Session, Note Verbale dated 16 April 2013, U.N. Doc. A/67/841, Apr. 23, 2013.
[22] U.N.G.A., 65th Session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, p. 5, U.N. Doc. A/65/456/Add.2, Dec. 8, 2010.
[23] U.N.G.A., 65th Session, 71st Plenary Meeting, pp. 18-19, U.N. Doc. A/65/PV.71, Dec. 21, 2010.
[24] U.N.G.A., 65th Session, Note Verbale dated 11 March 2011, U.N. Doc. U.N. Doc. A/65/779, Mar. 11, 2011.
[25] U.N.G.A., 63rd session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, U.N. Doc. A/63/430/Add.2, Dec. 4, 2008.
[26] U.N.G.A., 63rd Session, 70th Plenary Meeting, pp. 16-17, U.N. Doc. A/63/PV.70, Dec. 18, 2008.
[27] U.N.G.A., 63rd Session, Note Verbale dated 10 February 2009, U.N. Doc. A/63/716, Feb. 12, 2009.
[28] U.N.G.A., 62nd Session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, U.N. Doc. A/62/439/Add.2, Dec. 5, 2007.
[29] U.N.G.A., 62nd Session, 76th Plenary Meeting, pp. 16-17, U.N. Doc. A/62/PV.76, Dec. 18, 2007.
[30] U.N.G.A., 62nd Session, Note Verbale dated 11 January 2008, U.N. Doc. A/62/658, Feb. 2, 2008.

Death Penalty In Law

Does the country’s constitution make reference to capital punishment?

Yes. Article 3 provides that every individual has a right to life, and Article 12 states that no one shall be convicted or deprived of rights without due process of law. [1] Article 18 prohibits the application of the death penalty when the sentence is based on circumstantial evidence (“presumption of fact”), [2] against women, the elderly, political prisoners, and persons extradited to Guatemala on the condition that Guatemala not pursue the death penalty. [3] Article 18 also states that “[a]ll the pertinent legal recourses, including that of cassation, are admissible in any trial involving the death sentence; appeal will always be admissible for its proceedings. The sentence will be executed after all recourses will have been exhausted.” [4] Finally, Article 18 specifies that an act of Congress is sufficient to abolish the death penalty. [5] Together, these provisions may indicate that a very limited use of the death penalty is constitutional, while the Constitution ultimately anticipates abolition.

Does the country’s constitution make reference to international law?

Yes. Article 18 implicitly refers to international agreements by providing that a capital defendant cannot be executed if his extradition was conditioned on Guatemala’s agreement not to impose capital punishment. [6] Article 27 recognizes the right to asylum according to customary international law, states that Guatemala will grant political asylum, and provides that Guatemala will not grant asylum to human rights offenders under international treaties and conventions. [7] Article 46 establishes that human rights treaties accepted and ratified by Guatemala take precedence over domestic law, [8] and Article 149 aspires to apply customary and treaty-based international human rights as a step in normalizing Guatemala’s relations with other countries. [9]

Have there been any significant changes in the application of the death penalty over the last several years?

There have been no executions in Guatemala since 2000. [10] Moreover, between 2005 and February 2012, the Supreme Court of Justice commuted all pending death sentences to the maximum terms of imprisonment allowable for the offender’s crimes. [11] Most of these commutations resulted from two 2005 rulings from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which established that Guatemala’s death penalty provisions violated its international obligations.

Since 2005, the two rulings from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights combined with political disagreement in Guatemala have triggered a de facto moratorium on the death penalty. In 2005, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled in Fermín Ramírez v. Guatemala and in Raxcacó Reyes v. Guatemala that Guatemala’s death penalty violates Article 4.6 of the American Convention on Human Rights because there is no procedure for clemency or pardon in Guatemala. [12] In 2008, following a hearing aimed at monitoring compliance with the two judgments, the IACHR issued a resolution reiterating the need for a clemency process in Guatemala prior to the carrying out of any executions. [13] In 2008, and again in 2010, Guatemala’s former president vetoed legislation that would have restored clemency processes in Guatemala. Consequently, Guatemala is currently unable to carry out executions in conformity with its international treaty obligations. [14]

In April 2012, Congressman Roberto Ricardo Villate Villatoro and Congressman Alvaro Manuel Trujillo Baldizon of the political party “Libertad Democratica Renovada,” proposed a bill which would establish a procedure for the President to decide on clemency petitions. As of August 2012, the bill was still going through Congress. [15] If this new legislation is passed it would create the possibility of presidential pardons for those on death row, a move that would allow the country to use the death penalty in what politicians say is a response to public pressure over rising crime and violence.

The de facto moratorium in Guatemala exists because of conflicts between the executive and legislative branches rather than because of any official stance on the death penalty. [16] The abolition of the death penalty is not immediately foreseeable. Many politicians consider capital punishment essential to their political careers. Regarding the abolition of the death penalty, congressman Oliverio Garcia Rodas of the political party “Partido Patriota” has explained that, although he himself disagreed, many congressmen fear that an abolitionist stance would be perceived as a sign of weakness by an electorate focused on the need for a quick solution to the country’s insecurity problems. [17]

Otto Perez Molina, who has been the President of Guatemala since January 14, 2012, announced during his campaign that he would resume executions on taking office. [18] As of mid-2012 he has not done anything to fulfill this promise. Nevertheless, if President Perez Molina resumed executions before a clemency process is adopted, he would violate the country’s international obligations under the American Convention.

In 1996, lethal injection replaced the firing squad as the method of execution in Guatemala. [19]

Is there currently an official moratorium on executions within the country?

No. However, no executions have taken place since 2000, [20] and since 2005, two rulings by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights combined with political disagreement in Guatemala have triggered a de facto moratorium on the death penalty.

In 2005, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled in Fermín Ramírez v. Guatemala and in Raxcacó Reyes v. Guatemala that Guatemala’s death penalty violates Article 4.6 of the American Convention on Human Rights because there is no procedure for clemency or pardon in Guatemala. [21] In 2008, following a hearing aimed at monitoring compliance with the two judgments, the IACHR issued a resolution reiterating the need for a clemency process in Guatemala prior to the carrying out of any executions. [22] In 2008, and again in 2010, Guatemala’s former president vetoed legislation that would have restored clemency processes in Guatemala. Consequently, Guatemala is currently unable to carry out executions in conformity with its international treaty obligations. [23]

In April 2012, Congressman Roberto Ricardo Villate Villatoro and Congressman Alvaro Manuel Trujillo Baldizon of the political party “Libertad Democratica Renovada,” proposed a bill which would establish a procedure for the President to decide on clemency petitions. As of August 2012, the bill was still going through Congress. [24]

However, the de facto moratorium in Guatemala exists because of conflicts between the executive and legislative branches rather than because of any official stance on the death penalty. [25]

Guatemalan legislation still provides for the death penalty; however, between 2005 and February 2012, the Supreme Court of Justice commuted all death sentences into the maximum imprisonment penalties for the offender’s crimes (kidnapping, murder and rape). [26]

Have there been any significant published cases concerning the death penalty in national courts?

There have been numerous significant judicial decisions on the death penalty in recent years.

In January and February 2012, the Supreme Court of Justice commuted all death sentences to the maximum imprisonment term of the offenses for which death-sentenced prisoners had been sentenced. The Court invoked both domestic law and the case law of the Inter-American Commission and Inter-American Court in ordering these commutations. [27]

In 1998 and 1999, the Supreme Court commuted two death sentences to terms of imprisonment based on the fact that the convictions were based on circumstantial evidence (“presumptions of fact”). [28]

Between 2001 and 2011, fifteen death row inmates had their death sentences commuted to 50 years of prison. [29] All had been sentenced to death for kidnapping not resulting in death of the victim pursuant to article 201 of the Penal Code, which introduced the death penalty after Guatemala ratified the American Convention on Human Rights. The Supreme Court commuted these sentences on the basis of article 4.2 of the American Convention, which expressly prohibits any expansion of the death penalty to new or different crimes, and pursuant to the Inter-American Court’s decision in Raxcacó Reyes v. Guatemala which applied this principle to Guatemala’s kidnapping provisions.

In 2011 and 2012, the Supreme Court of Justice commuted the death sentences of three convicted murderers [30] based on the decision of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Fermín Ramírez v. Guatemala, [31] which ruled that Guatemala must abstain from issuing death sentences based on the “dangerousness” of the defendant. The rationale behind the IACHR’s ruling was that, pursuant to Guatemala’s Penal Code, the defendant’s dangerousness did not need be proved during trial, but resulted from a subjective assessment by the judge that the defendant was likely to commit criminal acts in the future. As of mid-2012, Guatemala has not modified article 132 of the Penal Code.

In 2007, Guatemalan courts commuted a death sentence to comply with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights’ ruling in Raxcacó Reyes, which stated that Guatemala cannot apply the death penalty in the absence of a clemency process. [32] In 2008, following a hearing aimed at monitoring the compliance with the two judgments, the IACHR issued a resolution reiterating the need for a clemency process in Guatemala. [33] In 2008, and again in 2010, Guatemala’s former president vetoed legislation that would have restored clemency processes in Guatemala. Consequently, Guatemala is currently unable to carry out executions in conformity with its international treaty obligations. [34] By August 2012, a new clemency bill was under consideration. [35]

Where can one locate or access judicial decisions regarding the death penalty?

Guatemala’s Constitutional Court maintains a website at http://www.cc.gob.gt/, and that page links to a search engine for Constitutional Court decisions. Guatemala’s court system maintains a website at http://www.oj.gob.gt/, and its search engine (available at http://www.oj.gob.gt/index.php/areajurisdiccional2/cenadoj) provides access to Supreme Court and appeals court decisions. Please note however that these search engines only provide access to a selection of judicial opinions.

What is the clemency process?

There is currently no clemency process in Guatemala, which would make any execution a violation of the American Convention on Human Rights. By February 2012, Guatemalan courts had commuted every pending death sentence in order to bring Guatemala into compliance with its international obligations.

In 2000, the statute on pardons (Ley de Indulto, Legislative Decree No. 159 of 1892), which established the procedure for the President of the Republic to decide on petitions of clemency, was repealed. This created a void that prevented death-sentenced persons from accessing a clemency process. In 2005, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that the repeal of the 1892 statute violated art. 4.6 of the American Convention on Human Rights, which states that “every person condemned to death shall have the right to apply for amnesty, pardon, or commutation of sentence, which may be granted in all cases. Capital punishment shall not be imposed while such a petition is pending decision by the competent authority.” The court held that Guatemala should adopt a procedure that guarantees all persons sentenced to death the right to file and obtain a decision on a clemency petition. [36]

In 2008, Congress approved a new bill regulating the clemency process, but it was vetoed by the former President because the bill would reinstate the death penalty. [37] This process was repeated in 2010. [38] In April 2012, a new clemency bill was introduced and by August 2012 was still under consideration. [39]

Are jury trials provided for defendants charged with capital offenses?

No. [40]

Brief Description of Appellate Process

Pursuant to the constitution, capital defendants in Guatemala cannot be executed prior to exhausting the appeals process. [41] The courts of appeal (“Segunda Instancia”) engage in automatic fact-based and law-based review of the trial judge’s ruling, and may request that the parties submit additional evidence. [42] After the court of Segunda Instancia rules, either party may appeal to the Supreme Court. [43] A defendant may also appeal to the Constitutional Court to challenge the constitutionality of the law under which he is charged. [44]

References

[1] Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala, arts. 3, 12, amended by Legislative Decree No. 18-93 of 1993, 1985.
[2] Presumption of fact are mere logical arguments that are derived entirely and directly from the circumstances of the particular case and which depend not upon a rule of law.
[3] Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala, art. 18, amended by Legislative Decree No. 18-93 of 1993, 1985.
[4] Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala, art. 18, amended by Legislative Decree No. 18-93 of 1993, 1985.
[5] Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala, art. 18, amended by Legislative Decree No. 18-93 of 1993, 1985.
[6] Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala, art. 18, amended by Legislative Decree No. 18-93 of 1993, 1985.
[7] Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala, art. 27, amended by Legislative Decree No. 18-93 of 1993, 1985.
[8] Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala, art. 46, amended by Legislative Decree No. 18-93 of 1993, 1985.
[9] Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala, art. 149, amended by Legislative Decree No. 18-93 of 1993, 1985.
[10] Amnesty Intl., Report 2012: Guatemala, http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/guatemala/report-2012, last accessed Aug. 23, 2012.
[11] U.N.G.A., 104th Session, 2874th Plenary Meeting, Major Progress Made in Human Rights Protections Since Guatemala’s Peace Accords 15 Years Ago, Although Much Work Remains, Human Rights Committee Told, U.N. Doc. HR/CT/744, Mar. 19, 2012; Hoy Digital, Suprema Corte de Guatemala revoca la pena de muerte a 53 condenados, http://www.hoy.com.do/el-mundo/2012/1/23/411325/Suprema-Corte-de-Guatemala-revoca-la-pena-de-muerte-a-53-condenados, Jan. 23, 2012; Coralia Orantes, Corte anula pena capital, Prensa Libre, http://prensalibre.com.gt/noticias/Corte-anula-pena-capital_0_645535458.html, Feb. 13, 2012.
[12] Amnesty Intl., Guatemala: Proposed Resumption of Executions, AMR 34/004/2008, Feb. 27, 2008; Fermín Ramírez v. Guatemala, part X, Series C no. 126, Inter-Amer. Ct. of Human Rights, 2005; Raxcacó-Reyes v. Guatemala, part XIV, Series C no. 133, Inter-Amer Ct. of Human Rights, 2005.
[13] Inter-Amer. Ct. of Human Rights, Order of May 9, 2008, Case of Fermín Ramírez v. Guatemala (Monitoring Compliance with Judgment), Case of Raxcacó Reyes et al. v. Guatemala (Monitoring Compliance with Judgment), available at http://www.corteidh.or.cr/docs/medidas/Raxcaco_se_07_ing.pdf.
[14] Amnesty Intl., Guatemala: Proposed Resumption of Executions, AMR 34/004/2008, Feb. 27, 2008; Acuerdo Gubernativo No. 144-2008 of the President of the Republic, Mar. 3, 2008, published in the official journal of Mar. 17, 2008; Ana González, Presidente Colom Veta Ley de Indulto Presidencial, Noticias de Guatemala, http://noticias.com.gt/nacionales/20101105-presidente-colom-veta-ley-del-indulto-presidencial.html, Nov. 5, 2010.
[15] Congress of the Republic of Guatemala, Bill No. 4476, http://200.12.63.122/Legislacion/iniciativa1.asp; Glenda Sánchez, Abolición de la Pena de Muerte Inicia su ruta en el Congreso, Agencia Guatemalteca de Noticias, http://agn.com.gt/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=18347:abolicion-de-la-pena-de-muerte-inicia-su-ruta-en-el-congreso&catid=88:reportajes-especiales, Apr. 10, 2012
[16] Inés Benítez, Green Light for Executions, Inter Press Service, http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=41189, Feb. 13, 2008 (indicating that the probably former abolitionist Guatemalan president, widely opposed on that issue by Guatemala’s public and legislature, is refusing to pass legislation that would require him to commute specific sentences when the current state of affairs creates a de facto moratorium on the death penalty).
[17] Glenda Sánchez, Abolición de la Pena de Muerte Inicia su ruta en el Congreso, Agencia Guatemalteca de Noticias, http://agn.com.gt/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=18347:abolicion-de-la-pena-de-muerte-inicia-su-ruta-en-el-congreso&catid=88:reportajes-especiales, Apr. 10, 2012
[18] Amnesty Intl., Annual Report 2012: Guatemala, http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/guatemala/report-2012, 2012.
[19] Intl. Federation of Human Rights, The Death Penalty in Guatemala: On the road towards abolition, p. 5, no. 422/2, Jul. 2005. Act establishing the procedure for the execution of the death sentence of Guatemala, art. 7, Decree 100-1996, 1996.
[20] Amnesty Intl., Report 2012: Guatemala, http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/guatemala/report-2012, last accessed Aug. 23, 2012.
[21] Amnesty Intl., Guatemala: Proposed Resumption of Executions, AMR 34/004/2008, Feb. 27, 2008; Fermín Ramírez v. Guatemala, part X, Series C no. 126, Inter-Amer. Ct. of Human Rights, 2005; Raxcacó-Reyes v. Guatemala, part XIV, Series C no. 133, Inter-Amer Ct. of Human Rights, 2005.
[22] Inter-Amer. Ct. of Human Rights, Order of May 9, 2008, Case of Fermín Ramírez v. Guatemala (Monitoring Compliance with Judgment), Case of Raxcacó Reyes et al. v. Guatemala (Monitoring Compliance with Judgment), available at http://www.corteidh.or.cr/docs/medidas/Raxcaco_se_07_ing.pdf.
[23] Amnesty Intl., Guatemala: Proposed Resumption of Executions, AMR 34/004/2008, Feb. 27, 2008; Acuerdo Gubernativo No. 144-2008 of the President of the Republic, Mar. 3, 2008, published in the official journal of Mar. 17, 2008; Ana González, Presidente Colom Veta Ley de Indulto Presidencial, Noticias de Guatemala, http://noticias.com.gt/nacionales/20101105-presidente-colom-veta-ley-del-indulto-presidencial.html, Nov. 5, 2010.
[24] Congress of the Republic of Guatemala, Bill No. 4476, http://200.12.63.122/Legislacion/iniciativa1.asp; Glenda Sánchez, Abolición de la Pena de Muerte Inicia su ruta en el Congreso, Agencia Guatemalteca de Noticias, http://agn.com.gt/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=18347:abolicion-de-la-pena-de-muerte-inicia-su-ruta-en-el-congreso&catid=88:reportajes-especiales, Apr. 10, 2012
[25] Inés Benítez, Green Light for Executions, Inter Press Service, http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=41189, Feb. 13, 2008 (indicating that the probably former abolitionist Guatemalan president, widely opposed on that issue by Guatemala’s public and legislature, is refusing to pass legislation that would require him to commute specific sentences when the current state of affairs creates a de facto moratorium on the death penalty).
[26] U.N.G.A., 104th Session, 2874th Plenary Meeting, Major Progress Made in Human Rights Protections Since Guatemala’s Peace Accords 15 Years Ago, Although Much Work Remains, Human Rights Committee Told, U.N. Doc. HR/CT/744, Mar. 19, 2012; Hoy Digital, Suprema Corte de Guatemala revoca la pena de muerte a 53 condenados, http://www.hoy.com.do/el-mundo/2012/1/23/411325/Suprema-Corte-de-Guatemala-revoca-la-pena-de-muerte-a-53-condenados, Jan. 23, 2012; Coralia Orantes, Corte anula pena capital, Prensa Libre, http://prensalibre.com.gt/noticias/Corte-anula-pena-capital_0_645535458.html, Feb. 13, 2012.
[27] O.A.S. IACHR Hails Progress Against Impunity in Guatemala and Expresses Concern about the Human Rights Situation of Indigenous Peoples and Women, No. 33/12, Mar. 27, 2012; U.N.G.A., 104th Session, 2874th Plenary Meeting, Major Progress Made in Human Rights Protections Since Guatemala’s Peace Accords 15 Years Ago, Although Much Work Remains, Human Rights Committee Told, U.N. Doc. HR/CT/744, Mar. 19, 2012; Hoy Digital, Suprema Corte de Guatemala revoca la pena de muerte a 53 condenados, http://www.hoy.com.do/el-mundo/2012/1/23/411325/Suprema-Corte-de-Guatemala-revoca-la-pena-de-muerte-a-53-condenados, Jan. 23, 2012; Coralia Orantes, Corte anula pena capital, Prensa Libre, http://prensalibre.com.gt/noticias/Corte-anula-pena-capital_0_645535458.html, Feb. 13, 2012.
[28] Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala, art. 18, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 18-93 of 1993, 1985. Tenth Chamber of Criminal Sentencing, Drug-Trafficking and Environmental Crimes v. Castro Landaverde, García Hernández and Juárez, Cassation Appeal No. 175-98 and 193-98, Apr. 26, 1999.
[29] Fourth Chamber of the Court of Appeal v. Barahona Castillo, Ávila Ruano, Alvarado García, Carrillo Contreras and Ávila Morán, Cassation Appeal, Feb. 2, 2001. Fourth Chamber of the Court of Appeal (currently Second Chamber of the Criminal Court of Appeal, Drug-Trafficking and Environmental Crimes) v. Sopón Bámaca and Escoto Centeno, Cassation Appeal No. 274-2003, 275-2003 and 282-2003, Apr. 18, 2005. Court for Criminal Sentencing, Drug-Trafficking and Environmental Crimes of Mixco v. Pineda Morales, Appeal 6-2009, Jul. 22, 2010. Court for Criminal Sentencing, Drug-Trafficking and Environmental Crimes of Amatitlán v. Mazate Paz, Appeal 446-2010, Apr. 04, 2011. Court for Criminal Sentencing, Drug-Trafficking and Environmental Crimes of Guatemala v. Chun Choc, Carranza Castañeda and Rembilt Montt Solorzano Appeal No. 1546-2011, Nov. 14, 2011.
[30] Court for Criminal Sentencing, Drug-Trafficking and Environmental Crimes of Jutiapa v. Samayoa García, Appeal No. 282-2011, Sep. 1, 2011. Court for Sentencing of Suchitepéquez v. Jiménez Godínez, Appeal No. 2410-2011, Feb. 7, 2012.
[31] Fermín Ramírez v. Guatemala, part X, Series C no. 126, Inter-Amer. Ct. of Human Rights, 2005.
[32] Inés Benítez, Death Penalty: Guatemala Complies with Inter-American Court Ruling, Inter Press Service, http://www.galdu.org/web/index.php?odas=2308&giella1=eng, Oct. 20, 2007; Inter-Amer. Ct. of Human Rights, Order of May 9, 2008, Case of Fermín Ramírez v. Guatemala (Monitoring Compliance with Judgment), Case of Raxcacó Reyes et al. v. Guatemala (Monitoring Compliance with Judgment), available at http://www.corteidh.or.cr/docs/medidas/Raxcaco_se_07_ing.pdf.
[33] Inter-Amer. Ct. of Human Rights, Order of May 9, 2008, Case of Fermín Ramírez v. Guatemala (Monitoring Compliance with Judgment), Case of Raxcacó Reyes et al. v. Guatemala (Monitoring Compliance with Judgment), available at http://www.corteidh.or.cr/docs/medidas/Raxcaco_se_07_ing.pdf.
[34] Amnesty Intl., Guatemala: Proposed Resumption of Executions, AMR 34/004/2008, Feb. 27, 2008; Acuerdo Gubernativo No. 144-2008 of the President of the Republic, Mar. 3, 2008, published in the official journal of Mar. 17, 2008; Ana González, Presidente Colom Veta Ley de Indulto Presidencial, Noticias de Guatemala, http://noticias.com.gt/nacionales/20101105-presidente-colom-veta-ley-del-indulto-presidencial.html, Nov. 5, 2010.
[35] Congress of the Republic of Guatemala, Bill No. 4476, http://200.12.63.122/Legislacion/iniciativa1.asp; Glenda Sánchez, Abolición de la Pena de Muerte Inicia su ruta en el Congreso, Agencia Guatemalteca de Noticias, http://agn.com.gt/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=18347:abolicion-de-la-pena-de-muerte-inicia-su-ruta-en-el-congreso&catid=88:reportajes-especiales, Apr. 10, 2012.
[36] Fermín Ramírez v. Guatemala, para. 107, part X, Series C no. 126, Inter-Amer. Ct. of Human Rights, 2005; Raxcacó Reyes v. Guatemala, paras. 83-86, part XIV, Series C no. 133, Inter-Amer. Ct. of Human Rights, 2005.
[37] Acuerdo Gubernativo No. 144-2008 of the President of the Republic, Mar. 3, 2008, published in the official journal of Mar. 17, 2008.
[38] Ana González, Presidente Colom Veta Ley de Indulto Presidencial, Noticias de Guatemala, http://noticias.com.gt/nacionales/20101105-presidente-colom-veta-ley-del-indulto-presidencial.html, Nov. 5, 2010.
[39] Congress of the Republic of Guatemala, Bill No. 4476, http://200.12.63.122/Legislacion/iniciativa1.asp; Glenda Sánchez, Abolición de la Pena de Muerte Inicia su ruta en el Congreso, Agencia Guatemalteca de Noticias, http://agn.com.gt/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=18347:abolicion-de-la-pena-de-muerte-inicia-su-ruta-en-el-congreso&catid=88:reportajes-especiales, Apr. 10, 2012.
[40] U.S. Dept. of State, 2011 Human Rights Report: Guatemala, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2011/wha/186518.htm, May 24, 2012.
[41] Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 18-93, 1993, art. 18, 1985.
[42] National Academy of Sciences, Committee on Human Rights, Institute of Medicine & Committee on Health and Human Rights, Scientists and Human Rights in Guatemala: Report of a Delegation, pp. 66-67, National Academy Press, 1992.
[43] National Academy of Sciences, Committee on Human Rights, Institute of Medicine & Committee on Health and Human Rights, Scientists and Human Rights in Guatemala: Report of a Delegation, p. 67, National Academy Press, 1992.
[44] Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala, art. 272, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 18-93 of 1993, 1985.

Death Penalty In Practice

Where Are Death-Sentenced Prisoners incarcerated?

Death-sentenced prisoners are incarcerated at the High Security Detention Center in Escuintla, the Preventive Detention Center for Zone 18, the Preventative Detention Center in Zacapa, [1] and Pavon Prison (Granja Penal de Pavón).

Note that there are currently no death-sentenced prisoners in Guatemala. Between 2005 and February 2012, the Supreme Court of Justice commuted all death sentences to the maximum imprisonment term for the offenses for which the death-sentenced prisoners had been convicted. [2]

Description of Prison Conditions

The Preventive Detention Center for Zone 18 has a building that houses death row prisoners and is separate from the rest of the prison. The prison cells are small patios (with mesh ceilings instead of roofs) equipped with sinks. The cells are designed for two to four prisoners. [3] Pavon Prison also houses death row prisoners and has an execution chamber to carry out executions by lethal injection [4] Currently, the execution chamber is abandoned since the last execution that took place there was in 1998. [5] As of mid-2012 we were not able to find more information on death row conditions in other prisons.

General prison conditions in Guatemala are harsh and dangerous. Prisons are overcrowded, and prisoners lack access to adequate nutrition, basic emergency and medical care, and prison work or education programs. Illegal drug sales and use are widespread. Corruption of prison administration, lack of effective control by prison administration, gang activity and violence are common. [6] These conditions also exist on death row. [7] In a 2005 report, the FIDH found that death row prisoners often did not receive medical exams upon incarceration, did not have access to psychological or psychiatric resources and were sometimes isolated in cages. [8]

Some prisoners lived in wards where, due to inadequate staffing, prisoners were assigned significant prison administration tasks, [9] despite the prevalence of gang control in Guatemalan prisons. [10] Administrative tasks performed by prisoners included creating rules, assigning tasks, and devising sometimes severe punitive measures (such as beatings or possibly death) and fines for prisoners who did not comply with norms or the rules or tasks imposed on them by ungoverned fellow-prisoners [11] who could be members of violent prison gangs. [12]

While prisons allow visitation for death row inmates, including conjugal visits, it is unclear whether death row inmates genuinely are permitted visitation—a “visit” includes the time spent on administrative procedures required prior to visitation, and the total time of a visit may be as little as half an hour. [13] Death row inmates are permitted correspondence and in at least some cases have access to phones. [14] At least some cells for death row inmates have access to sunlight and open air, and death row prisoners are permitted to exercise, although exercise or sport facilities are reportedly inadequate. [15]

Note that there are currently no death-sentenced prisoners in Guatemala. Between 2005 and and February 2012, the Supreme Court of Justice commuted all death sentences to the maximum imprisonment term for the offenses for which the death-sentenced prisoners had been convicted. [16]

Are there any known foreign nationals currently under sentence of death?

There is currently no one on death row in Guatemala. By February 2012, the Supreme Court of Justice had commuted all 53 pending death sentences into terms of imprisonment. [17]

What are the nationalities of the known foreign nationals on death row?

There is currently no one on death row in Guatemala. By February 2012, the Supreme Court of Justice had commuted all 53 pending death sentences into terms of imprisonment. [18]

Are there any known women currently under sentence of death?

In Guatemala, women cannot be sentenced to death. [19] Moreover, there is currently no one on death row in Guatemala. By February 2012, the Supreme Court of Justice had commuted all 53 pending death sentences into terms of imprisonment. [20]

Are there any reports of individuals currently under sentence of death who may have been under the age of 18 at the time the crime was committed?

In Guatemala, juveniles cannot be sentenced to death. [21] Moreover, there is currently no one on death row in Guatemala. By February 2012, the Supreme Court of Justice had commuted all 53 pending death sentences into terms of imprisonment. [22]

Comments regarding the racial/ethnic composition on death row

There is currently no one on death row in Guatemala. By February 2012, the Supreme Court of Justice had commuted all 53 pending death sentences into terms of imprisonment. [23]

In 2006, U.N. reports indicated that Guatemala’s indigenous population is seriously disadvantaged in the justice system because of a lack of interpreters. [24] Moreover, access to lawyers for indigent persons is limited by resource constraints and inadequate procedures for informing indigent defendants of the right to representation. [25] In practice, many indigent people have no legal representation. [26]

Are there lawyers available for indigent defendants facing capital trials?

Yes. [27] However, access to lawyers for indigent persons is limited by resource constraints and inadequate procedures for informing indigent defendants of the right to representation. [28] In practice, many indigent people have no legal representation. [29]

Are there lawyers available for indigent prisoners on appeal?

Yes. [30] However, access to lawyers for indigent persons is limited by resource constraints and procedural inadequacies, [31] and in practice, many indigent people have no legal representation. [32]

Comments on Quality of Legal Representation

Because Guatemala recently transitioned to an adversarial rather than an inquisitorial criminal court system, the availability of experienced criminal law defense attorneys is limited and highly dependent on aid from the United States. [33] Legal process in Guatemala is marked by high levels of corruption and violence, [34] and lawyers working for the office of the public defender are characterized by inexperience due to over-rotation within the office, inadequate education, unprofessionalism, unpreparedness, and incompetence in representation. [35] Moreover, the criminal defense service suffers from budgetary restrictions and a lack of training of public defenders. The number of cases that each public defender must handle is extremely high and makes it impossible to provide Guatemalans with an adequate public defense. [36]

Other Comments on Criminal Justice System

The criminal justice system in Guatemala has been marked by pervasive corruption and coercion through violence. [37] While the constitution and the law provide for an independent judiciary, the judicial system often failed to provide fair or timely trials due to inefficiency, corruption, and insufficient personnel and funds. [38] Despite extreme levels of violence—including a murder rate of 48 murders per 100,000 persons—impunity remains a problem and poorly coordinated investigative and prosecutorial systems along with poorly qualified personnel continue to cause lengthy pre-trial detentions. [39] Guatemala’s indigenous population has difficulty gaining access to justice because the availability of interpreters for court proceedings is limited due to underfunding. [40]

In 1996, after the peace accords that ended the country's 36-year civil war were signed, vigilante justice became a widespread phenomenon in Guatemala. The number of cases of lynching began to rise in Guatemala because of the absence of police in isolated communities and pervasive distrust of the judicial system. According to the national ombudsman's office, “[l]ynchings of suspected criminals increased from 25 in 2004 to 147 in the first 10 months of 2011.” [41]

References

[1] Intl. Federation of Human Rights, The Death Penalty in Guatemala: On the road towards abolition, p. 21, no. 422/2, Jul. 2005.
[2] O.A.S. IACHR Hails Progress Against Impunity in Guatemala and Expresses Concern about the Human Rights Situation of Indigenous Peoples and Women, No. 33/12, Mar. 27, 2012; U.N.G.A., 104th Session, 2874th Plenary Meeting, Major Progress Made in Human Rights Protections Since Guatemala’s Peace Accords 15 Years Ago, Although Much Work Remains, Human Rights Committee Told, U.N. Doc. HR/CT/744, Mar. 19, 2012; Hoy Digital, Hoy Digital, Suprema Corte de Guatemala revoca la pena de muerte a 53 condenados, http://www.hoy.com.do/el-mundo/2012/1/23/411325/Suprema-Corte-de-Guatemala-revoca-la-pena-de-muerte-a-53-condenados, Jan. 23, 2012; Coralia Orantes, Corte anula pena capital, Prensa Libre, http://prensalibre.com.gt/noticias/Corte-anula-pena-capital_0_645535458.html, Feb. 13, 2012.
[3] Intl. Federation of Human Rights, The Death Penalty in Guatemala: On the road towards abolition, p. 21, no. 422/2, Jul. 2005.
[4] Rehabilitan "pabellón de la muerte" a la espera de futuras ejecuciones en Guatemala, Feb.17, 2008
[5] Julio F. Lara, Modulo esta en abandono, Prensa Libre, http://www.prensalibre.com/noticias/Modulo-abandono_0_310768950.html, Aug. 4, 2010.
[6] U.S. Dept. of State, 2011 Human Rights Report: Guatemala, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2011/wha/186518.htm, May 24, 2012.
[7] Intl. Federation of Human Rights, The Death Penalty in Guatemala: On the road towards abolition, pp. 21-25, no. 422/2, Jul. 2005.
[8] Intl. Federation of Human Rights, The Death Penalty in Guatemala: On the road towards abolition, pp. 21-25, no. 422/2, Jul. 2005.
[9] Intl. Federation of Human Rights, The Death Penalty in Guatemala: On the road towards abolition, pp. 21-25, no. 422/2, Jul. 2005.
[10] U.S. Dept. of State, 2011 Human Rights Report: Guatemala, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2011/wha/186518.htm, May 24, 2012.
[11] Intl. Federation of Human Rights, The Death Penalty in Guatemala: On the road towards abolition, pp. 21-25, no. 422/2, Jul. 2005.
[12] U.S. Dept. of State, 2011 Human Rights Report: Guatemala, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2011/wha/186518.htm, May 24, 2012.
[13] Intl. Federation of Human Rights, The Death Penalty in Guatemala: On the road towards abolition, p. 24, no. 422/2, Jul. 2005.
[14] Intl. Federation of Human Rights, The Death Penalty in Guatemala: On the road towards abolition, pp. 21, 24, no. 422/2, Jul. 2005.
[15] Intl. Federation of Human Rights, The Death Penalty in Guatemala: On the road towards abolition, pp. 21, 25, no. 422/2, Jul. 2005.
[16] O.A.S. IACHR Hails Progress Against Impunity in Guatemala and Expresses Concern about the Human Rights Situation of Indigenous Peoples and Women, No. 33/12, Mar. 27, 2012; U.N.G.A., 104th Session, 2874th Plenary Meeting, Major Progress Made in Human Rights Protections Since Guatemala’s Peace Accords 15 Years Ago, Although Much Work Remains, Human Rights Committee Told, U.N. Doc. HR/CT/744, Mar. 19, 2012; Hoy Digital, Hoy Digital, Suprema Corte de Guatemala revoca la pena de muerte a 53 condenados, http://www.hoy.com.do/el-mundo/2012/1/23/411325/Suprema-Corte-de-Guatemala-revoca-la-pena-de-muerte-a-53-condenados, Jan. 23, 2012; Coralia Orantes, Corte anula pena capital, Prensa Libre, http://prensalibre.com.gt/noticias/Corte-anula-pena-capital_0_645535458.html, Feb. 13, 2012.
[17] O.A.S. IACHR Hails Progress Against Impunity in Guatemala and Expresses Concern about the Human Rights Situation of Indigenous Peoples and Women, No. 33/12, Mar. 27, 2012; U.N.G.A., 104th Session, 2874th Plenary Meeting, Major Progress Made in Human Rights Protections Since Guatemala’s Peace Accords 15 Years Ago, Although Much Work Remains, Human Rights Committee Told, U.N. Doc. HR/CT/744, Mar. 19, 2012; Hoy Digital, Hoy Digital, Suprema Corte de Guatemala revoca la pena de muerte a 53 condenados, http://www.hoy.com.do/el-mundo/2012/1/23/411325/Suprema-Corte-de-Guatemala-revoca-la-pena-de-muerte-a-53-condenados, Jan. 23, 2012; Coralia Orantes, Corte anula pena capital, Prensa Libre, http://prensalibre.com.gt/noticias/Corte-anula-pena-capital_0_645535458.html, Feb. 13, 2012.
[18] O.A.S. IACHR Hails Progress Against Impunity in Guatemala and Expresses Concern about the Human Rights Situation of Indigenous Peoples and Women, No. 33/12, Mar. 27, 2012; U.N.G.A., 104th Session, 2874th Plenary Meeting, Major Progress Made in Human Rights Protections Since Guatemala’s Peace Accords 15 Years Ago, Although Much Work Remains, Human Rights Committee Told, U.N. Doc. HR/CT/744, Mar. 19, 2012; Hoy Digital, Hoy Digital, Suprema Corte de Guatemala revoca la pena de muerte a 53 condenados, http://www.hoy.com.do/el-mundo/2012/1/23/411325/Suprema-Corte-de-Guatemala-revoca-la-pena-de-muerte-a-53-condenados, Jan. 23, 2012; Coralia Orantes, Corte anula pena capital, Prensa Libre, http://prensalibre.com.gt/noticias/Corte-anula-pena-capital_0_645535458.html, Feb. 13, 2012.
[19] Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala, art. 18, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 18-93 of 1993, 1985; Penal Code of Guatemala, art. 43, Decree No. 17-73, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 4-2010 of 2010, 1973.
[20] O.A.S. IACHR Hails Progress Against Impunity in Guatemala and Expresses Concern about the Human Rights Situation of Indigenous Peoples and Women, No. 33/12, Mar. 27, 2012; U.N.G.A., 104th Session, 2874th Plenary Meeting, Major Progress Made in Human Rights Protections Since Guatemala’s Peace Accords 15 Years Ago, Although Much Work Remains, Human Rights Committee Told, U.N. Doc. HR/CT/744, Mar. 19, 2012; Hoy Digital, Hoy Digital, Suprema Corte de Guatemala revoca la pena de muerte a 53 condenados, http://www.hoy.com.do/el-mundo/2012/1/23/411325/Suprema-Corte-de-Guatemala-revoca-la-pena-de-muerte-a-53-condenados, Jan. 23, 2012; Coralia Orantes, Corte anula pena capital, Prensa Libre, http://prensalibre.com.gt/noticias/Corte-anula-pena-capital_0_645535458.html, Feb. 13, 2012.
[21] Penal Code of Guatemala, art. 23, Decree No. 17-73, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 4-2010 of 2010, 1973 (minors are not indictable under the criminal code); Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala, art. 46, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 18-93 of 1993, 1985 (granting the primacy of international law to which Guatemala is a party); together with Amer. Conv. on Human Rights, art. 4(5), 1114 U.N.T.S. 123, O.A.S.T.S. no. 36, Nov. 22, 1969 (stating that persons under the age of 18 at the time a crime is committed cannot be punished by death); Patterson v. U.S., para. 16, Case 12.439, Report No. 25/05, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.124, doc. 5, Inter-Amer. Ct. of Human Rights, 2005 (confirming that no OAS states apply the death penalty for offenses committed when the offender is under the age of 18).
[22] O.A.S. IACHR Hails Progress Against Impunity in Guatemala and Expresses Concern about the Human Rights Situation of Indigenous Peoples and Women, No. 33/12, Mar. 27, 2012; U.N.G.A., 104th Session, 2874th Plenary Meeting, Major Progress Made in Human Rights Protections Since Guatemala’s Peace Accords 15 Years Ago, Although Much Work Remains, Human Rights Committee Told, U.N. Doc. HR/CT/744, Mar. 19, 2012; Hoy Digital, Hoy Digital, Suprema Corte de Guatemala revoca la pena de muerte a 53 condenados, http://www.hoy.com.do/el-mundo/2012/1/23/411325/Suprema-Corte-de-Guatemala-revoca-la-pena-de-muerte-a-53-condenados, Jan. 23, 2012; Coralia Orantes, Corte anula pena capital, Prensa Libre, http://prensalibre.com.gt/noticias/Corte-anula-pena-capital_0_645535458.html, Feb. 13, 2012.
[23] O.A.S. IACHR Hails Progress Against Impunity in Guatemala and Expresses Concern about the Human Rights Situation of Indigenous Peoples and Women, No. 33/12, Mar. 27, 2012; U.N.G.A., 104th Session, 2874th Plenary Meeting, Major Progress Made in Human Rights Protections Since Guatemala’s Peace Accords 15 Years Ago, Although Much Work Remains, Human Rights Committee Told, U.N. Doc. HR/CT/744, Mar. 19, 2012; Hoy Digital, Hoy Digital, Suprema Corte de Guatemala revoca la pena de muerte a 53 condenados, http://www.hoy.com.do/el-mundo/2012/1/23/411325/Suprema-Corte-de-Guatemala-revoca-la-pena-de-muerte-a-53-condenados, Jan. 23, 2012; Coralia Orantes, Corte anula pena capital, Prensa Libre, http://prensalibre.com.gt/noticias/Corte-anula-pena-capital_0_645535458.html, Feb. 13, 2012.
[24] U.N. Intl. Conv. On the Elimination Of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 9 of the Convention, para. 14, U.N. Doc. CERD/C/GTM/CO/11, May 15, 2006.
[25] Inter-Amer. Commn. on Human Rights, Fifth Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Guatemala, ch. IV: The Administration of Justice, paras. 38-39, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.111, Apr. 6, 2001. Inter-Amer. Commn. on Human Rights, Justice and Social Inclusion: The Challenges of Democracy in Guatemala, ch. I, The Administration of Justice, F. Public Defenders para. 79, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.11o, Dec. 29, 2003.
[26] Inter-Amer. Commn. on Human Rights, Justice and Social Inclusion: The Challenges of Democracy in Guatemala, ch. I, The Administration of Justice, F. Public Defenders, para. 79, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.11o, Dec. 29, 2003.
[27] U.S. Dept. of State, 2011 Human Rights Report: Guatemala, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2011/wha/186518.htm, May 24, 2012; Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala, art. 8, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 18-93 of 1993, 1985; Code of Penal Procedure of Guatemala, arts. 20, 92, Decree No. 51-92, 1992.
[28] Inter-Amer. Commn. on Human Rights, Fifth Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Guatemala, ch. IV: The Administration of Justice, paras. 38-39, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.111, Apr. 6, 2001. Inter-Amer. Commn. on Human Rights, Justice and Social Inclusion: The Challenges of Democracy in Guatemala, ch. I, The Administration of Justice, F. Public Defenders para. 79, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.11o, Dec. 29, 2003.
[29] Inter-Amer. Commn. on Human Rights, Justice and Social Inclusion: The Challenges of Democracy in Guatemala, ch. I, The Administration of Justice, F. Public Defenders, para. 79, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.11o, Dec. 29, 2003.
[30] Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala, arts. 8, 18, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 18-93 of 1993, 1985 (providing legal assistance for defendants and indicating that in death penalty cases the defendant must be allowed to exhaust the appeals process).
[31] Inter-Amer. Commn. on Human Rights, Fifth Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Guatemala, ch. IV: The Administration of Justice, paras. 38-39, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.111,Apr. 6, 2001.
[32] Inter-Amer. Commn. on Human Rights, Justice and Social Inclusion: The Challenges of Democracy in Guatemala, ch. I, The Administration of Justice, F. Public Defenders, para. 79, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.11o, Dec. 29, 2003.
[33] Andres Torres, From Inquisitorial to Accusatory: Columbia and Guatemala’s Legal Transition, p. 9, Boston College Law School: Law and Justice in the Americas Working Paper Series, 2007.
[34] U.S. Dept. of State, 2011 Human Rights Report: Guatemala, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2011/wha/186518.htm, May 24, 2012.
[35] Inter-Amer. Commn. on Human Rights, Fifth Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Guatemala, ch. IV: The Administration of Justice, para. 39, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.111, Apr. 6, 2001.
[36] Inter-Amer. Commn. on Human Rights, Justice and Social Inclusion: The Challenges of Democracy in Guatemala, ch. I, The Administration of Justice, F. Public Defenders, para. 80, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.11o, Dec. 29, 2003.
[37] U.S. Dept. of State, 2011 Human Rights Report: Guatemala, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2011/wha/186518.htm, May 24, 2012.
[38] U.S. Dept. of State, 2011 Human Rights Report: Guatemala, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2011/wha/186518.htm, May 24, 2012.
[39] U.N.G.A. Human Rights Council, Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the activities of her office in Guatemala, p. 5, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/13/26/Add.1, Mar. 3, 2010.
[40] U.S. Dept. of State, 2011 Human Rights Report: Guatemala, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2011/wha/186518.htm, May 24, 2012; U.N. Intl. Conv. On the Elimination Of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 9 of the Convention, para. 14, U.N. Doc. CERD/C/GTM/CO/11, May 15, 2006.
[41] Fox News, Indigenous Group Lynches Four Men in Guatemala, http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2012/07/24/4-men-lynched-in-guatemala/, Jul.25, 2012.

Decisions of International Human Rights Bodies

Decisions of Human Rights Committee

The UN Human Rights Committee, in its 2001 Concluding Observations regarding Guatemala’s compliance with the ICCPR, urged Guatemala to rescind its extension of the death penalty to kidnapping not resulting in death. [1] In that document, the HRC also commented on the application of the death penalty in the absence of the possibility of clemency, [2] a practice that was later pronounced illegal by the Inter-American Court on Human Rights. [3]

On March 31, 2010, Guatemala submitted a state party report to the Human Rights Committee. This report did not focus extensively on the death penalty, instead pointing out that death sentences are awarded infrequently and that Guatemala had only 12 persons on death row as of October 2009. [4]

The UN Human Rights Committee, in its 2012 Concluding Observations regarding Guatemala’s compliance with the ICCPR, noted with satisfaction the de facto moratorium on executions which had existed since 2000, as well as the commutations ordered by the Supreme Court in all cases of capital punishment. Nevertheless, the Committee expressed concern at the bills that had been introduced in the past two years with a view to resuming executions. The Committee recommended that Guatemala abolish the death penalty. [5]

Decisions of Other Human Rights Bodies

In the case of Raxcacó Reyes v. Guatemala, where the applicant had been sentenced to death for the kidnapping of a minor not resulting in death, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights found several violations of the American Convention on Human Rights related to the application of the death penalty in Guatemala. First, article 4.2 was violated because, at the time Guatemala ratified the Convention, kidnapping not resulting in death was not punishable by capital punishment. Article 4.2 prohibits the extension of capital punishment to crimes to which it did not apply at the time of the country’s accession to the Convention. Secondly, by punishing kidnapping not resulting in death with the death penalty, Guatemala also violated article 4.2, which provides that the death penalty must be restricted to the most serious crimes. Thirdly, articles 4.1 and 4.2 of the Convention were violated because the death penalty for kidnapping was mandatory, and the court was not allowed to consider the circumstances of the case. Lastly, article 4.6 was violated because of the lack of a clemency process. The Court ruled that Guatemala should amend its kidnapping provisions, differentiate the punishment according to the level of seriousness, allow for an individualized assessment of the circumstances of the case for the purpose of sentencing, and ensure that no crime is death-eligible if it was not so at the time of the country’s accession to the Convention. Until then, Guatemala should refrain from applying the death penalty for kidnapping. The judgment also ruled that Guatemala should adopt a clemency procedure that ensures the right of every person sentenced to death to request a pardon and obtain a decision on the petition; the sentence should not be executed before the petition is decided. [6] The Inter-American Court is supervising the execution of this judgment, but the last time it considered the issue in 2008, it concluded that the kidnapping provisions had not yet been amended. [7] However, Guatemalan courts have followed the Inter-American Court’s ruling and by February 2005, they had commuted all pending death sentences to terms of imprisonment based on article 4 of the Convention.

Past reports of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have indicated that Guatemala’s justice system is deficient due to inadequate judicial resources and a lack of experienced attorneys. [8] In 2010, U.N. reports confirmed such observations and added that incompetence, a lack of training, and poorly coordinated investigation and prosecution contribute to both lengthy pre-trial detention and impunity. [9] U.N. reports from 2006 have furthermore indicated that Guatemala’s indigenous population is seriously disadvantaged because of a lack of interpreters necessary to help indigenous peoples access justice. [10]

The Human Rights Council, pursuant to its Universal Periodic Review of human rights in Guatemala in 2008, recommended that Guatemala maintain its de facto moratorium on the death penalty and abolish the death penalty. [11]

In 2010 the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights urged the Congress and the Government to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the Death Penalty. [12]

In March 2012, the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, Navi Pillay, visited Guatemala. [13] Since article 18 of the Constitution states that the Congress is able to abolish the death penalty, she recommended to the President and Vice-President of Congress that they abolish capital punishment. [14]

The Permanent Representative of Guatemala to the United Nations, told the Human Rights Committee in March 2012, as he presented the country’s third periodic report, that “[w]ith regard to death sentences, when the Supreme Court had taken responsibility for that issue, it had 52 pending death sentences before it. Out of those cases, all had been commuted to life in prison. There were no longer death sentences in Guatemala. The abolition of the death penalty, however, would take more time, as it called for an amendment to the Constitution.” [15] The Guatemala constitution, however, explicitly provides that an act of Congress would be sufficient to abolish the death penalty. [16]

References

[1] U.N. ICCPR Human Rights Committee, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 40 of the Covenant, para. 17, U.N. Doc. CCPR/CO/72/GTM, Aug. 27, 2001.
[2] U.N. ICCPR Human Rights Committee, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 40 of the Covenant, para. 18, U.N. Doc. CCPR/CO/72/GTM, Aug. 27, 2001.
[3] Fermín Ramírez v. Guatemala, part X, Series C no. 126, Inter-Amer. Ct. of Human Rights, 2005.
[4] U.N. ICCPR Human Rights Committee, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 40 of the Covenant, paras. 187-191, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/GTM/3, Mar. 31, 2010.
[5] U.N. ICCPR Human Rights Committee, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 40 of the Covenant, para. 13, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/GTM/CO/3, Apr. 19, 2012.
[6] Raxcacó-Reyes v. Guatemala, part XIV, Series C no. 133, Inter-Amer. Ct. of Human Rights, 2005; Mario Roberto Franchi, Raxcacó Reyes vs. Guatemala, in Derecho Internacional de los Derechos Humanos. Análisis de los estándares del Sistema Interamericano, p. 269, Ministerio Publico de la Defensa/Defensoría General de la Nación, Argentina, 2009.
[7] Inter-Amer. Ct. of Human Rights, Order of May 9, 2008, Case Raxcacó Reyes et al. v. Guatemala, monitoring compliance with judgment, available at http://www.corteidh.or.cr/docs/medidas/Raxcaco_se_07_ing.pdf.
[8] Inter-Amer. Commn. on Human Rights, Fifth Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Guatemala, ch. V: The Right To Life, paras. 38-39, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.111, Apr. 6, 2001.
[9] U.N.G.A. Human Rights Council, Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the activities of her office in Guatemala, paras. 28, 29, 34, 35, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/13/26/Add.1, Mar. 3, 2010.
[10] U.N. Intl. Conv. On the Elimination Of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 9 of the Convention, para. 14, U.N. Doc. CERD/C/GTM/CO/11, May 15, 2006.
[11] U.N.G.A. Human Rights Council, Universal Periodic Review: Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, para. 89(14), U.N. Doc. A/HRC/8/38, May 29, 2008.
[12] U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the activities of her office in Guatemala, para. 86, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/13/26/Add.1, Mar. 3, 2010.
[13] OHCHR News and Events, A critical period in Guatemala's history - Navi Pillay Press conference by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in Guatemala City, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=11967&LangID=E, Mar. 15, 2012.
[14] Jessica Gramajo and Coralia Orantes, Relatora de Naciones Unidas pide abolición de pena de capital, Prensa Libre, http://www.prensalibre.com/noticias/justicia/Relatora-pide-abolicion-pena-capital_0_664133595.html, Mar. 15, 2012; Congreso Guatemala, Alta Comisionada de Derecho Humanos visita el Congreso, http://www.congreso.gob.gt/noticias.php?id=2560, Mar., 14, 2012
[15] U.N.G.A., 104th Session, 2874th Plenary Meeting, Major Progress Made in Human Rights Protections Since Guatemala’s Peace Accords 15 Years Ago, Although Much Work Remains, Human Rights Committee Told, U.N. Doc. HR/CT/744, Mar. 19, 2012.
[16] Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala, art. 18, amended by the Legislative Decree No. 18-93 of 1993, 1985.

Additional Sources and Contacts

Direct member(s) of World Coalition Against the Death Penalty

Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo
Mr. Mario Polanco
8a calle 3-11 Zona 1
01001 Guatemala City, Guatemala
Tel: +502 22323208, +502 22519037
Fax: +502 22200606
grupodeapoyomutuo@gmail.com
www.grupodeapoyomutuo.blogspot.com

Other non-governmental organizations and individuals engaged in advocacy surrounding the death penalty

None.

Helpful Reports and Publications

The International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, http://fidh.org/, produces reports and position papers on the human rights situation in Guatemala.

A researcher should reference a variety of UN treaty and charter organization reports, available at the Guatemala’s home page on the website of the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/LACRegion/Pages/GTIndex.aspx because the UN maintains somewhat active interest in Guatemala.

The IACHR’s publications, (http://www.cidh.org/) are less frequent but are minutely detailed. The United States is highly involved in assisting Guatemala with the restructuring of its criminal justice system, and maintains current and detailed reports on the human rights situation in Guatemala (http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/index.htm)

Additional notes regarding this country

A 2010 report by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights indicates that the Guatemalan state is so incapacitated that security has become the realm of the private market for those who can afford it and of vigilante justice for those who cannot. [1]

Research indicates that human rights organizations are mainly interested in addressing the fact that Guatemala does not provide adequate security or civil services for its citizenry and cannot assure the rule of law. Extreme violence, police involvement in serious crimes, including unlawful killings, drug trafficking, and extortion, femicide, rape, kidnapping for extortion, a business of international adoption-driven child theft, and criminal organization are common. [2] The murder rate in Guatemala is 48 murders per 100,000 people, or 6,498 murders in 2009, a significant number of which were killings of women and children. [3] Government incompetence and corruption—including pervasive corruption of the courts and criminal justice system—and corresponding impunity for crime, have led to extreme and organized extrajudicial reprisals against suspected criminals and criminal organizations. [4] Until that situation is resolved, it may be difficult to locate domestic organizations in Guatemala that take a high level of interest in limiting the legal application of the death penalty.

In January 2012, when Guatemala ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the President of the Assembly of States Parties, commented: “[t]he accession by Guatemala is a testament to the will and steadfast determination of its people and its leaders to strengthen the rule of law and to contribute to the international endeavour to end impunity for egregious crimes.” [5]

References

[1] U.N.G.A. Human Rights Council, Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the activities of her office in Guatemala, paras. 11-20, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/13/26/Add.1, Mar. 3, 2010.
[2] U.S. Dept. of State, 2011 Human Rights Report: Guatemala, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2011/wha/186518.htm, May 24, 2012.
[3] U.N.G.A. Human Rights Council, Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the activities of her office in Guatemala, para. 12, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/13/26/Add.1, Mar. 3, 2010.
[4] U.S. Dept. of State, 2011 Human Rights Report: Guatemala, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2011/wha/186518.htm, May 24, 2012; U.N.G.A. Human Rights Council, Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the activities of her office in Guatemala, para. 11-20, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/13/26/Add.1, Mar. 3, 2010.
[5] U.N. ICCPR Human Rights Committee, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 40 of the Covenant, para. 13, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/GTM/CO/3, Apr. 19, 2012; Intl. Criminal Court, Guatemala becomes the 121st State to join the ICC’s Rome Statute system, Press Release Doc. ICC-CPI-20120403-PR783, Mar. 4, 2012.

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