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UN Expert on Extrajudicial Executions warns against reinstatement of death penalty by stealth

Philip Alston, the United Nations Human Rights Council's Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, expressed his concern that the “Law regulating the commuting of sentence for those condemned to death” violates international human rights law.

“Guatemala is not prohibited by international law from imposing the death penalty. It may not, however, reinstate the death penalty by stealth”, according to Professor Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. Alston reported in detail on the problem of extrajudicial killings after his visit to Guatemala in August 2006. He was commenting on Decree 06-2008, which risks becoming law if the Congress overrides the President’s veto. “This law can only be intended as an end-run around the requirements of international human rights law”, said Alston. “If the Congress is so keen to uphold the rule of law by reinstating the death penalty it should do so in accordance with the international rule of law and not ignore the rulings of both the UN Human Rights Committee and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights directed at Guatemala”, he said.

Alston called upon the Congress not to override the Presidential veto of the decree and to commit itself instead to working out the details of a law governing the right to clemency which meets the criteria clearly spelled out by international law.