Skip to main content

Countdown to Human Rights Day

Women played a large part in drafting the UDHR

Learn more

Press releases Special Procedures

Guatemala must break cycle of discrimination against indigenous peoples, says UN expert

Guatemala indigenous peoples

11 May 2018

GENEVA (11 May 2018) – UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, has expressed concerns over the discrimination and marginalisation of indigenous peoples in Guatemala, referring to extreme poverty, malnutrition, forced evictions and criminal prosecutions.

At the end of a 10-day visit to the country, the UN human rights expert urged the Government to reconstruct its relationship with indigenous peoples. She also called on the Government to ensure accountability and reparations with respect to Guatemala’s civil war from 1960 to 1996.

The number of people living in poverty in Guatemala has increased 22 per cent in the last 10 years, she said. Around 40 per cent of indigenous peoples live in extreme poverty and more than half of all indigenous children are malnourished.

“I am extremely concerned over the increasing inequalities in the country and over the failure of the Government to address structural discrimination and allocate funds to address the grave situation of indigenous peoples,” Tauli-Corpuz said.

“The escalating incidence of forced evictions and the abuse of criminal proceedings against indigenous peoples who seek to defend their lands was repeatedly raised as a key concern in the various regions that I visited.

“While I was in the country I met numerous indigenous peoples who had been forcibly evicted without the provision of any humanitarian assistance. I also visited several indigenous leaders in prison who have been charged with criminal offences which appear to be inflated and who have been subjected to lengthy pre-trial detention. 

“The root cause of the situation is land tenure insecurity. Guatemala has not adopted legislation nor a mechanism for the adjudication of the rights of indigenous peoples to lands, territories and natural resources. Many are left in a situation of total vulnerability in the face of competing interests and numerous projects that are carried out without consultations or the consent of the peoples concerned.

“The criminalisation of indigenous leaders who seek specific and legal solutions to land disputes will only increase tensions in society. It is necessary that Guatemala identifies, confronts and starts to work towards the resolution of these structural problems.”

Tauli-Corpuz held meetings in Guatemala City, San Marcos, Chiquimula, Alta Verapaz and Santa Rosa. Some 10’000 indigenous peoples attended the meetings with the Special Rapporteur.

‘Finally, I wish to emphasise that Guatemala has a pending debt to its indigenous peoples who were victims in the internal armed conflict,” she said. “While some steps have been taken towards accountability, such as the landmark Sepur Zarco judgment, a high level of impunity remains and reparations are outstanding.”

The full report from her mission will be presented to the Human Rights Council in September 2018.


Ms Victoria Tauli-Corpuz (The Philippines), the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, is an indigenous leader from the Kankana-ey Igorot people of the Cordillera Region in the Philippines. As an indigenous leader, she has worked for over three decades on building movement among indigenous peoples and as an advocate for women's rights.  Ms. Tauli-Corpuz is the former Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (2005-2010). She was actively engaged in drafting and adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007. 

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of 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 serve in their individual capacity. 

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Guatemala 

For additional information before and during the visit please contact: Christine Evans (+41 79 201 0119 / [email protected]) and Miriam Chavajay (+502 5874 7154 / [email protected]) 

For media requests and queries relating to the news conference on 10 May, please contact, in Guatemala City Estela Morales, (+502) 5632-2261 / [email protected] 

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Jeremy Laurence (+ 41 22 917 9383 / 
[email protected]) 

This year 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 70th anniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human