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21 August 2006

A United Nations independent human rights expert begins today a five-day official visit to Guatemala. Philip Alston, Professor of International Law at New York University, is the Human Rights Council's independent expert for extrajudicial executions, mandated to investigate individual cases and systemic causes of such killings in all UN member states. He visits Guatemala upon invitation of the government.

The visit will include a meeting with the President and Vice-President of Guatemala followed by meetings with representatives of all three branches of government, including the parliamentary human rights commission, the military, the police, the Supreme Court, and the Public Prosecutor's office. Mr. Alston will also hold meetings with victims' groups, women's associations, human rights NGOs and other civil society groups.

The independent expert's fact finding will concern a broad array of subjects: from allegations of so-called "social cleansing" (limpieza social), i.e the killing of socially marginalized persons, sometimes in collaboration with deviant elements of the security forces, to lynchings, to the failure to effectively prevent and investigate brutal murders of women, to impunity for past human rights violations, to the debate surrounding the death penalty in Guatemala.

As a result of the visit, Mr. Alston will submit to the Human Rights Council a report analysing the compliance by Guatemala with international law in the area of the right to life and making recommendations to more effectively combat violations.