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Human Rights: UN experts express concern about severe restriction of civic space in Guatemala

GENEVA (3 March 2020) - A group of UN human rights experts* expressed deep concern over reforms in Guatemala to the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) Act that present inconsistencies with international human rights standards by introducing additional requirements and administrative controls.

"These new requirements and controls could in practice be used to limit the work of human rights defenders and civil society in general, so that NGOs cannot fully carry out their activities, particularly in the promotion and protection of human rights and democracy," the experts said.

They also noted that Decree 4-2020 approved on 11 February by the Guatemalan Congress, endorsed on 27 February by the President of the Republic, and published on 28 February in the official journal, contains inconsistencies with international human rights law.

"When the law enters into force, its provisions will open the way to discretionary and arbitrary limitations on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, association and expression, as well as to the criminalization of human rights defenders," the experts said.

They also pointed out that these reforms contravene the State's obligation to protect and guarantee democratic space for civil society, which is an essential pillar for the promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

Under the reforms to the law, all NGOs registered and operating in Guatemala are obliged to update their information in this regard and to comply with all new requirements within a maximum of six months. After this period, those that have not complied with the requirements would be automatically cancelled and would have to be dissolved.

“We call on the Government of Guatemala to ensure that its laws are in conformity with international human rights norms and standards," the experts concluded.

ENDS

* The experts: Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of the 'Special Procedures', the largest body of independent experts in the UN human rights system, which brings together the investigative and monitoring mechanisms established by the Human Rights Council to address specific country situations or thematic issues around the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and act in their individual capacity.

Country page: Guatemala

UN Human Rights: Office in Guatemala

For more information and media requests please contact: Ms. Marta Franco (+41 22 917 9389) or write to mfranco@ohchr.org

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Xabier Celaya (+ 41 22 917 9445 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)