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Guatemala: UN experts call on President to take concrete action to protect civic space

13 March 2024

GENEVA (13 March 2024) – UN experts* today called on the newly elected President of Guatemala and his Government to take concrete action to protect civic space in the country.

“We would like to congratulate the President of the Republic of Guatemala for his election and commend the resilience of Guatemalan society, particularly of Indigenous Peoples, who engaged in peaceful protests for over 100 days to defend democracy, the rule of law and the election result. We call on the President to uphold the trust that the Guatemalan people has placed in the new Government, by undertaking major steps aimed at strengthening civic space and media freedom,” the experts said.

They called for the promotion and comprehensive protection of civic space in Guatemala, with the aim of guaranteeing a safe and enabling environment for associations, human rights defenders and journalists, and civil society as a whole.

“It is essential to guarantee the exercise of fundamental rights, including freedom of peaceful assembly, association, and expression, ensuring that the relevant legislative framework complies with international standards,” the expert said.

The experts have previously expressed concerns about the alleged limitations that were imposed on the free and peaceful exercise of the freedom of opinion, expression, assembly and association, with a focus also on Indigenous Peoples’ rights, in the context of post-election demonstrations. They also raised concerns regarding alleged threats and violence against human rights defenders that are part of an organisation promoting the rights of trans people, as well as the judicial harassment and criminalisation of activists, human rights defenders and journalists, including women. They underlined the importance of independent, free and pluralistic media and expressed concern about the closure and harassment of media organisations (AL GTM 4.2023 , 8.2023 and 9.2023 ).

The experts encouraged Guatemala’s President and his Government to take concrete action to safeguard civic space. They also reaffirmed their availability to provide advice and technical assistance in addressing specific areas of concern, as well as to foster dialogue and cooperation with rights holders and relevant authorities, in order to assist with improving Guatemala’s human rights situation particularly in the context of freedom of peaceful assembly and association, freedom of opinion and expression, protection of human rights defenders and the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

*The experts: Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association; Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; José Francisco Calí Tzay, Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples; Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Reem Alsalem, Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, its causes and consequences; Graeme Reid, Independent Expert on Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups 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 of any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

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