Guatemala: No protection, no justice: killings of women (an update)

July 18, 2006

Guatemala: No protection, no justice: killings of women (an update)

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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights following her visit to Guatemala, 27 May 2006.(45)

Recommendations, including by the UN and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, to address the range of serious failings and shortcomings in relation to the killing of women and girls were first made to the Guatemalan authorities several years ago. Amnesty International concurs with other national and international experts that the steps taken by government authorities since have been wholly insufficient to address the scale of the problem.

While some initiatives have been taken over the past year, these have yet to have any real impact on the numbers of women killed, or the ability of police and prosecutors to effectively investigate and bring to justice those responsible. Despite increased technical resources given to crime scene investigation, the quality of investigations, including the collection and preservation of forensic evidence, continues to be woefully inadequate, with many reports of evidence being lost or damaged and the failure to follow leads.

On 25 November 2005 the government announced the creation of the Comisión para el Abordaje del Femicidio, the National Commission to Address Femicide, which aims to develop a diagnostic of the situation from a government perspective and improve coordination between state institutions responsible for the prevention, investigation and prosecution of killings of women and girls.

While the creation of the Commission needs to be viewed positively, it is unclear how another institutional structure will improve the government response and overcome issues of duplication and official incompetence.

The level of coordination and cooperation, in particular, between the PNC and the Public Ministry continues to be extremely poor. Contradictory and incomplete data relating to the killings of women and girls, including the near total invisibility of gender-based violence in official reports and analysis, continues to prevent the authorities from determining both the extent and the gender-based nature of the violence suffered by the victims. Amnesty International believes that collection of and reference to such data is a necessary requirement for the development of sound policies to combat gender-based violence.

The continued vulnerability of women and girls reported missing is also symptomatic of the failure to recognize the killings as a public security issue and to undertake measures to ensure an immediate response to cases where women and girls are in immediate danger. Despite recommendations made by Amnesty International and others, no urgent search mechanisms or comprehensive data collection system of women and girls reported missing have yet been created.

Although some senior government officials have publicly recognized the seriousness of the killings, Amnesty International is concerned that individual officials, including those at the highest levels of the PNC, still place the blame on the victim and have also made unfair and unsubstantiated generalizations as to the identity of the victim. Such attitudes coupled with the lack of genuine sanctions for officials who fail to take action to prevent violence against women continues to perpetuate the idea that female victims are to blame for their own deaths and that violence against women is acceptable rather than a violation of girls' and women's fundamental human rights. In addition, widespread impunity, including a low conviction rate, sends the message to perpetrators that crimes against women go unpunished.



Amnesty International offers the following set of recommendations to complement and reinforce those previously made and those of other national and international experts. Relevant state institutions should coordinate their actions to ensure that these are fully implemented and appropriately assessed with agreed timelines and benchmarks.

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