Document: UN Guatemala Recommendations

September 25, 2007

On February 25, the UN Commission for Historical
Clarification (CEH) published its final report. The CEH, cre-
ated by the 1996 Oslo Accords signed between the Guatemalan
government and the Guatemalan National Revolutionary
Unity (URNG), was designed to document the nature and
scope of violence and human rights violations during
Guatemala's 36-year internal war In the March/April 1999
issue, NACILA reproduced some of the key findings of the CEH.
Below, NACLA compiles some of the CEH's most important
recommendations, and urges readers to consult the report sum-
mary and full recommendations on line at:
The Accord of Oslo emphasizes the need to remember and
dignify the victims of the fratricidal confrontation that took
place in Guatemala. The CEH believes that the historical
memory, both individual and collective, forms the basis of
national identity. Remembrance of the victims is a funda-
mental aspect of this historical memory and permits the
recovery of the values of, and the validity of the struggle for,
human dignity.
On the basis of these considerations, and considering the
appeal for forgiveness made by the President of the Republic
on 29 December 1998, and the partial appeal for forgiveness
made by the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity on 19
February 1998, the CEH recommends:
Dignity for the victims
1. That, in the name of the State of Guatemala and with the
primary aim of restoring dignity to the victims, the President
of the Republic recognize, before the whole of Guatemalan
society, before the victims, their relatives and their commu-
nities, those acts described in this Report, ask pardon for
them and assume responsibility for the human rights viola-
tions connected with the internal armed confrontation, partic-
ularly for those committed by the Army and the state security
2. That the Congress of the Republic issue a solemn decla-
ration reaffirming the dignity and honor of the victims and
restoring their good name and that of their relatives.
3. That the ex-Command of the Guatemalan National
Revolutionary Unity, with the primary aim of restoring dig-
nity to the victims, ask forgiveness, solemnly and publicly,
before the whole of society, before the victims, their relatives
and their communities, and assume responsibility for those
acts of violence committed by the ex-guerrillas connected
with the armed confrontation that have caused the
Guatemalan population to suffer.
Remembrance of the victims
4. That the Guatemalan State and society commemorate
the victims by means of various activities carried out in co-
ordination with organizations from civil society ....
5. That the commemorations and ceremonies for the vic-
tims of the armed confrontation take into consideration the
multicultural nature of the Guatemalan nation ....
The CEH considers that truth, justice, reparation and for-
giveness are the bases of the process of consolidation of
peace and national reconciliation. Therefore, it is the respon-
sibility of the Guatemalan State to design and promote a pol-
icy of reparation for the victims and their relatives ....
On this basis, the CEH recommends:
National Reparation Program
7. That the Guatemalan State, by means of appropriate
measures taken by the Government and the Congress of the
Republic, urgently create and put into effect a National
Reparation Program for the victims, and their relatives, of
human rights violations and acts of violence connected with
the armed confrontation.
11. That, for the process of reparation to become one of the
principal bases for the process of national reconstruction and
reconciliation, it is vital that Guatemalan society participate
actively in the definition, execution and evaluation of the
National Reparation Program. This participation is especially
important in the case of the Mayan population, which was
affected with particular severity by the violence. In the spe-
cific case of measures for collective reparation it is essential
that the beneficiaries themselves participate in defining the
priorities of the reparation process ....
19. That the State fund the National Reparation Program
by putting into effect the universally progressive tax reform
established by the Peace Accords. To achieve this, a redistri-
bution of social spending and a decrease in military spending
would be appropriate ....
Forced Disappearance
Given the extent of the crime of forced disappearance,
developed as a repeated practice in Guatemala during the
period of armed confrontation, and considering that forced
disappearance not only causes those close to the detained per-
son long-term distress due to the uncertainty of the fate of
their loved one, but also generates a series of legal and
administrative problems, it becomes vital to rectify these
problems so that the suffering and complications occasioned
by the disappearance are not prolonged. Therefore, so that it
may be included in the National Reparation Program, the
CEH recommends:
Search for the disappeared
22. That the Government and the judiciary, in collaboration
with civil society, initiate, as soon as possible, investigations
regarding all known forced disappearances. All available
legal and material resources should be utilized to clarify the
whereabouts of the disappeared and, in the case of death, to
deliver the remains to the relatives.
23. That the Guatemalan Army and the former
Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity provide what-
ever information they may have in relation to the disappear-
ances of people that occurred during the period of internal
armed confrontation ....
24. That the Government urgently activate the search for
children who have been disappeared including ... [e]stab-
lishment of a National Commission for the Search for
Disappeared Children whose aim should be to look for chil-
dren who have been disappeared, illegally adopted or ille-
gally separated from their parents and of documenting their
disappearance ....
Active policy of exhumation
The CEH believes that the exhumation of the remains of
the victims of the armed confrontation and the location of
clandestine and hidden cemeteries, wherever they are found
to be, is in itself an act of justice and reparation and is an
important step on the path to reconciliation ....
On this basis, and taking into consideration the high num-
ber of clandestine cemeteries referred to in this Report, as
well as those still not publicly known, the CEH recommends:
28. That the Government prepare and develop an active
policy of exhumation and urgently present to the Congress of
the Republic legislation for a Law of Exhumation which
establishes rapid and effective procedures for this and which
takes into account the.., following recommendations.
29. That the process of exhumation is carried out with full
respect for the cultural values and dignity of the victims and
their families, considering the process of exhumation not
only as a judicial procedure, but above all as means for indi-
vidual and collective reparation.
30. That the bodies and remains of the victims be handed
over to their relatives for a dignified burial according to their
particular culture ....
Culture of mutual respect
[A] culture of violence has developed in Guatemala, which
has resulted in mistrust and a lack of respect among its peo-
ple. This clearly needs to be transformed into a culture of tol-
erance and mutual respect.
The relationship between the State and the indigenous pop-
ulation of Guatemala-particularly the Mayan people-has
subsisted within an environment of racism, inequality and
exclusion. As this can be considered to be one of the histori-
cal causes of the armed confrontation, measures guaranteeing
the protection of the individual and collective rights of the
indigenous population, the respect for cultural plurality and
the promotion of intercultural relations become vital.
On this basis, the CEH recommends:
The dissemination and teaching of the
contents of the Report
32. That the State, as a moral imperative and as a duty,
Vol XXXII, No 6 MAY/JUNE 1999
embrace the contents of this Report and support all initiatives
put into effect for its dissemination and promotion among all
33. That, to this end, and in coordination with the organi-
zations of civil society in Guatemala and particularly with
indigenous and human rights organizations, the Government
promote a campaign for the general dissemination of the
Report, that takes into consideration the social, cultural and
linguistic reality of Guatemala.
34. That . . . the Guatemalan Academy of Mayan
Languages carry out the translation of the Report, with pub-
lic financing, into the [country's five principal indigenous]
36. That the curricula of primary, secondary and university
level education include instruction on the causes, develop-
ment and consequences of the armed confrontation and like-
wise of the content of the Peace Accords ....
Education for a culture of
mutual respect and peace
37. That the State, along with the national human rights
non-governmental organizations, co-finance an educational
campaign to promote a culture of mutual respect and peace....
38. That the Government, by means of the educational
reform envisaged by the Peace Accords, foster an environ-
ment of tolerance and respect and promote self-awareness
and awareness of the other, so that the dividing lines created
by the ideological, political and cultural polariz\ation may be
erased ....
Observance of human rights
With the aim of strengthening a culture of mutual respect
and observance of human rights and of effectively protecting
those working for their defence, the CEH recommends:
Mechanisms for international protection
39. That the executive and legislative branches take all nec-
essary steps to allow the Guatemalan State to ratify those
international human rights instruments still pending, as well
as the corresponding implementation mechanisms ....
International humanitarian law
40. That the Government take the necessary measures to
fully incorporate into national legislation the standards of
international humanitarian law and that it regularly provide
instruction regarding these norms to the personnel of state
institutions, particularly the Army, who are responsible for
respecting, and in turn engendering respect in others for said
Human rights defenders
41. That the Government promote, with prior consultation
the organizations for human rights, legislative measures
specifically orientated towards the protection of human rights
Administrative measures related to public
officials responsible for human rights violations
At the same time as reiterating the importance of the mea-
sures and commitments assumed by the signatories to the
Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights, and as a solely
preventative rather than repressive or punitive measure, the
CEH recommends:
42. That a commission should be established by the
President of the Republic using his constitutional prerogative,
to be under his immediate authority and supervision, and
which will examine the conduct of the officers of the Army
and of the various bodies of state security forces active dur-
ing the period of the armed confrontation. Its purpose is to
assess the adequacy of their conduct in the execution of their
duties during the said period, in regard to the minimum stan-
dards established by the instruments of international human
rights and humanitarian law ....
Administration of justice
In various sections of the Peace Accords express reference
is made to Guatemala's system for the administration of jus-
tice ... as "one of the greatest structural weaknesses of the
Guatemalan State.".. . [T]he CEH has also come to the con-
clusion that the weakness and dysfunction of the judicial sys-
tem has contributed decisively to impunity and the misappli-
cation of criminal law during the period covered by the
CEH's mandate.
Also, as a result of the Peace Accords, the Congress of the
Republic approved the National Reconciliation Law, which,
according to Article 1, is considered to be a "basic instrument
for the reconciliation of those people involved in the internal
armed confrontation."
Considering the former, the CEH recommends:
46. That the powers of the Guatemalan State regard the ful-
fillment of their commitments on justice contained in the
Agreement on the Strengthening of Civil Power and the Role
of the Armed Forces in a Democratic Society, as of utmost
importance. The recommendations contained in the final
Report produced by the Commission on the Strengthening of
the Justice System, and which the CEH assumes and reiter-
ates as it own, should be carried out in full.
National Reconciliation Law
47. That the powers of the State fulfill, and demand fulfill-
ment of, the Law of National Reconciliation, in all of its
terms and in relation to the rest of Guatemalan law. Those
crimes for whose commission liability is not extinguished by
the said law, should be prosecuted, tried and punished, par-
ticularly following Article 8 "crimes of genocide, torture and
forced disappearance, as well as those crimes that are not
subject to prescription or that do not allow the extinction of
criminal liability, in accordance with domestic law or inter-
national treaties ratified by Guatemala."'
48. That, in applying the National Law of Reconciliation,
the relevant structures take into account the various degrees
of authority and responsibility for the human rights violations
and acts of violence, paying particular attention to those who
instigated and promoted these crimes.
Right to habeas data
49. That a bill of law be presented by the Government to
the Congress of the Republic which quickly and effectively
establishes the right of habeas data as a specific mechanism
of protection and activates the constitutional right, recog-
nized in Article 31 of the Constitution, of access to informa-
tion contained in archives, files or any other form of state or
private record. It should also penalize the gathering, storage
or concealment of information about individuals, their reli-
gious or political affiliation, their trade union or social
activism and any other data relating to their private lives.
The Commission on the Strengthening of the Justice
System [suggested that it is] "necessary to proceed with the
search for formulas that encompass traditional methods of
conflict resolution and the state judicial system, capable of
complementing both components ... ."
[T]he CEH has noted that disrespect for the traditional
methods of conflict resolution, and for the authorities
charged with applying them, to the point of the perpetration
of acts aimed at eliminating them, has been an almost con-
stant characteristic from 1980 until the end of the armed con-
Considering all the former... the CEH especially recom-
Legal integration
50. That what is known as customary law is recognized and
integrated into the Guatemalan legal framework ....
51. That the universities and other state educational bodies
which teach the law include knowledge of the norms of the
traditional forms of conflict resolution as a distinct subject in
their study program ....
Primacy of civilian power and the role of the Armed
Legal reform
Considering the grave human rights violations committed
by Army agents during the armed confrontation and the
marked weakening of the social fabric as a direct conse-
quence of the militarization, the CEH believes it vital to pro-
mote legislative measures which establish the fundamental
bases for the correct relationship between the Army and civil
society within a democratic system, and the necessary subor-
dination of the Army to civilian rule ....
On the basis of the former, the CEH recommends:
53. That the Government present to the Congress of the
Republic the necessary legislative reform bills that include
measures to implement the Recommendations number 54 to
59 below ....
Reform of the Constitutive Law of the Army
54. That the Presidential and Vice-presidential General
Staff structures be abolished, being unnecessary in a democ-
ratic State.
Reform of military legislation
55. That a new Military Code be drafted and put into effect
based on legal, moral and doctrinal criteria in accordance
with the Constitution of the Republic and the reforms to the
same derived from the Peace Accords.
56. That the Military Code include the correct concept,
already contained in the Constitution of the Republic, of dis-
cipline and obedience solely within the law and never outside
it, and that reference be removed in the Military Code to obe-
dience being owed to whatever kind of order.
57. That the death penalty for the military offense of dis-
obedience be abolished.
New legislation regarding
the state intelligence apparatus
58. That the Government present to Congress of the
Republic the corresponding legislation that:
a) Precisely define the structures, tasks and limits of civil
and military intelligence, restricting the latter to exclusively
military affairs; and
b) Establish clear mechanisms of effective control in
Congress regarding all aspects of the apparatus of state intel-
59. That the commitments regarding intelligence contained
in the Agreement on the Strengthening of Civilian Power and
the Role of the Armed Forces in a Democratic Society [of the
Oslo Peace accords] be fulfilled as soon as possible ....
New military doctrine
60. That the Government promote a new military doctrine
for the Guatemalan Army, that should result from a process
of internal reflection and consultation with the organizations
of civil society. This doctrine should establish the basic prin-
ciples for the appropriate relationship between the Army and
society within a democratic and pluralist framework. Among
these fundamental principles, at least the following should
a) The function of the Army is the defense of the sover-
eignty and independence of the State and the integrity of its
territory. Its organization is hierarchical and based on the
principles of discipline and obedience within the law.
b) The Army should accept that sovereignty resides in the
Guatemalan people. As a consequence, the Army should
respect whatever social reforms and changes which result
from the exercise of this sovereignty, reconciling itself to the
mechanisms established in the Constitution.
c) The Army will base its legal standards, as well as its
conduct, on systematic respect for human rights.
d) The Army will be subordinate to political power, which
emanates from the ballot box through the procedures estab-
lished by the Constitution.
e) The Army will show respect for the Constitution in all
its aspects.
f) The Army is apolitical. It should remain at the margins
of party politics ....
Reform of military education
62. That the Government take measures for the revision of
the curricula of the Guatemalan Army's various training cen-
ters ....
63. That the CEH's Report be studied as part of the
Guatemalan Army's educational curriculum.
Vol XXXII, No 6 MAY/JUNE 1999
64. That the Guatemalan Army's various educational cen-
ters promote a review of the teaching staff and remove mili-
tary personnel involved in present or past human rights vio-
lations from educational functions. Maximum professional
and ethical rigor from the teaching staff is required ....
Other recommendations pertaining to the Army
Civil service: military and social
Considering that forced and discriminatory recruitment has
been a continuous and abusive practice throughout the armed
confrontation, having affected almost every Mayan commu-
nity ... the CEH particularly recommends with regard to this
66. That the regulations of military service maintain strict
respect for the principle of equality before the law in the
mechanisms and process of recruitment.
67. That the option of conscientious objection be estab-
lished and registered for those whose religious, ethical or
philosophical convictions do not permit them to carry arms,
so that they are not obliged to do so, but instead allowed to
perform other types of civic service to the community.
68. That young men of military service age who them-
selves, or whose family members within first degree consan-
guinity, were victims of human rights violations and acts of
violence connected with the armed confrontation, remain
exempt from military service and be directly assigned to civil
69. That, in conformity with the principles of military doc-
trine and education stated previously, the training programs
of the armed forces be subject to drastic and profound revi-
sion, especially those conceived specifically for counter-
insurgency, such as that known as the Kaibil School ....
Public security
The principal aim of the restructuring of the security
forces, their professionalization and their instruction regard-
ing the law, democracy, human rights and a culture of peace
... is to convert the role of the police into one of genuine
public service.
On this basis and with a view to guaranteeing suitable
future development of the duties of the police, the CEH par-
ticularly recommends:
Security forces doctrine
73. That under the guidance of the Ministry of the Interior,
the PNC begin a process of internal reflection in consultation
with organizations from civil society, with the aim of pro-
ducing and defining the doctrine of the civilian security
forces, whose bases should be:
a) service to the community, without discrimination of any
type and with respect for the multiethnic character of the
Guatemalan nation;
b) development of the civilian nature of the police force
and the demilitarization of its organization, hierarchy and
disciplinary procedures;
c) complete respect for human rights and the consequent
investigation, prosecution and conviction of any members
who have committed human rights violations;
d) respect for democracy and the rule of law; and
e) the continuous professional training and instruction of
the police at every rank.
Internal control
74. That under the supervision of the Ministry of the
Interior, the Directorate of the PNC take the relevant mea-
sures to ensure the removal from the police of those elements
who have acted, or act, against its doctrine of public service
and create a new unit for internal control or inspection, which
is accessible both to the public and the Human Rights
Ombudsman, and which has autonomy to investigate and
sanction both individual and institutional professional mis-
Indigenous participation
75. That the directorate of the PNC promote measures
which genuinely open the way for participation by indige-
nous peoples in public security service ....
Civilian nature of the PNC
77. That the new Public Order Law, referred to by the
Agreement on the Strengthening of Civilian Power and the
Role of the Armed Forces in a Democratic Society, considers
the civilian nature of the Police during emergency situations
of whatever type, and does not oblige it to participate in
duties which appertain to the Army ....
The CEH believes that for the promotion of peace and
national harmony it is necessary to know and face the causes
of the armed confrontation and its consequences, in such a way
as to put an end to the social, ethnic and cultural divisions in
Equally necessary, are social participation and the contribu-
tion of all Guatemalans without discrimination in the fulfil-
ment of public duties.
Although the CEH's Report should serve as a fundamental
reference point in the investigation of Guatemala's past, it does
not in itself bring to a close the investigation and analysis that
must be carried out regarding the armed confrontation, its
causes, the extent of the violence and its effects. The Report of
the CEH should serve as a platform for continuing investiga-
tion within Guatemala. On this basis, the CEH recommends:
Investigation and analysis of the past
79. That the Guatemalan people continue the investigation
and analysis of the events of the past, so as to construct firm
foundations for the future based on their knowledge of the past,
and thereby avert a repetition of the mistakes that provoked the
Political participation of indigenous peoples
The CEH, without prejudice to the commitments already
established in the Agreement on Identity and Rights of
Indigenous Peoples, would like to reiterate the importance of
the obligations assumed by the Government to promote social
and political participation by the indigenous population and to
bring about regional administration coherent with ethnic iden-
tity. For this reason the CEH particularly recommends:
80. That among the public officials and other personnel
employed by the State, room is given, in sufficient number, to
indigenous professionals with the qualifications and experi-
ence relevant to the demands of the various posts.
81. That, to the end expressed in the previous paragraph,
the State establish and finance a system of grants for the
training and specialization of the aforementioned indigenous
Elimination of racism and of the subordination of
indigenous peoples
Given that the relationship between the State and the
indigenous population of Guatemala-particularly the
Mayan people-has subsisted within an environment of
racism, inequality and exclusion, and that this is one of the
historical causes of the armed confrontation, measures guar-
anteeing the protection of the individual and collective rights
of the indigenous population, respect for cultural plurality
and promotion of intercultural relations, become vital.
On this basis, the CEH reiterates:
82. That the Agreement on Identity and Rights of
Indigenous Peoples be implemented, in its entirety.
Fiscal Reform
Considering the Agreement on Social and Economic
Aspects and the Agrarian Situation and the need for all
Guatemalans to contribute to social development and the
improvement of public services, the CEH reiterates:
83. That the Government promote measures designed to
encourage the mobilization of national resources, carrying
out urgent fiscal reform that is just, equitable and progressive,
as established in the Agreement on Social and Economic
Aspects and the Agrarian Situation.
The CEH believes it vital that these recommendations be
fulfilled so that the mandate entrusted to the CEH within the
framework of the peace process achieves its objectives ....
Therefore, the CEH recommends the establishment of a fol-
low-up body in which both State and civil society are repre-
sented, to aid, promote and monitor the implementation of the
recommendations. Consolidation of the peace and reconcilia-
tion process in Guatemala requires that the State and civil
society work together to achieve their common objectives
On this basis, the CEH considers it necessary and, there-
fore, recommends:
84. That the Congress of the Republic ... approve, no more
than 60 days from the publication of the CEH's Report and
through the corresponding legislative measure, the establish-
ment of a body responsible for implementing and monitoring
the recommendations of the CEH under the name of
"Foundation for Peace and Harmony".. . The Foundation's
principal objective will be to facilitate the implementation of
the recommendations made by the CEH .... .


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