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Press briefing notes on Guatemala and Nicaragua


Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:  Liz Throssell
Location: Geneva 
Date: 23 November 2018

(1) Guatemala

We welcome the ruling this week by a Guatemalan court to convict and sentence a former soldier to 5,130 years in prison for his role in the Dos Erres massacre – one of the most shocking episodes of the country’s long civil war when more than 200 people were killed in the village of Dos Erres in 1982.

Santos López Alonso, who was a member of an elite force of the Guatemalan military known as the Kaibiles, was found guilty of crimes against humanity and murder in 171 of these cases.

The Kaibiles suspected the inhabitants of Dos Erres of sympathising with left-wing guerrillas, and after carrying out a search of the village for weapons, they proceeded to systematically shoot or bludgeon to death hundreds of men, women and children. The Kaibiles also systematically tortured, including through rape, women and girls, and kidnapped children, some of whom they adopted.

This verdict by the court is another important step for transitional justice in Guatemala. The court concluded that the crimes against humanity committed in Dos Erres were part of a larger state policy of the ruling military junta. 

Despite the courageous efforts by victims, lawyers and civil society organisations to ensure justice, truth, reparations and non-repetition, there have been very few prosecutions and convictions, particularly of high-level officials, and few victims have received reparations 

It is therefore crucial that the Guatemalan State continues its efforts to investigate and prosecute those who ordered and carried out the crimes committed during the country’s 36-year internal conflict, and ensure the right of victims to reparations.

We urge the Guatemalan authorities to ensure that such trials, which have frequently been stalled due to the malicious use of injunctions, can proceed without undue delays.

This is especially important given the advanced age of many of the victims and defendants, and the consequent considerable risk of depriving people of their right to an effective remedy.

We urge the authorities to guarantee judicial independence and the protection from intimidation and political interference of all those involved in these cases that are a crucial part of the transitional justice process in Guatemala.

(2) Nicaragua

We remain deeply concerned at reports that the Nicaraguan authorities are continuing to criminalize the legitimate actions of social leaders and others associated with the protests that erupted in Nicaragua earlier this year.

Over the past 10 days, two prominent leaders of the country’s peasant movement are reported to have been detained. According to Government figures, some 273 individuals were being held in connection with the protests as of 5 November. Civil society figures suggest at least 586 people are currently being detained. 

We also continue to receive reports that  fair trial rights are being violated in the criminal trials of peasant and student leaders and other people involved in the protests.

The number of demonstrations in Nicaragua has declined dramatically in recent months but far from being a sign of returning normality, we fear that that the authorities’ actions  have deterred people from engaging in demonstrations, severely restricting the exercise of the right to peaceful protest. We remind the Nicaraguan State of the need to respect the rights to freedom of opinion and expression and peaceful assembly.

The UN Human Rights Office continues to monitor Nicaragua’s human rights situation remotely and is publishing monthly reports on the situation. We also repeat our readiness to assist State authorities in fulfilling their international human rights obligations.

Spanish version


For more information and media requests, please contact: Rupert Colville - + 41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org or Ravina Shamdasani - + 41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org or Liz Throssell - + 41 22 917 9466 / ethrossell@ohchr.org

2018 is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70thanniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rightswww.standup4humanrights.org

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