Since 2001 over 2,200 women and girls have been murdered in Guatemala and the rate of murders is on the increase.(4) Between 1 January 2006 and 5 May according to police statistics 229 women and girls were killed. (5) Many of the murders have been characterised by exceptional brutality, with many victims subjected to sexual violence, mutilation and dismemberment.(6) Despite considerable national and international concern -- including two visits and subsequent recommendations by the United Nations and Inter-American Commission special rapporteurs on Women - women and girls continue to be murdered with impunity in Guatemala. (7) As of June 2006, of the over six hundred cases of women reported murdered in 2005, to Amnesty International's knowledge, only two convictions had taken place.
The alarming number of killings and lack of an effective government response has also caught the attention of the international community and prompted demonstrations across Latin America and hearings in the European Parliament and the US Congress.(8) Most recently in the US, on 8 May 2006, 117 members of the US Congress signed a letter in which they urged the US State Department to call on the Guatemalan government to take prompt and effective action to address the killings of women and that the State Department provide technical assistance to promote the proper investigation, prosecution and punishment of these crimes. Concern was also expressed over the tendency of the authorities to blame the victims rather than focusing resources on investigating and prosecuting the perpetrators of the killings.
In its concluding comments in regard to Guatemala's sixth periodic report, on 2 June 2006 the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) expressed its concern regarding the insufficient efforts taken by the Guatemalan authorities to end the killings:
The Committee is deeply concerned about the continuing and increasing cases of disappearances, rape, torture and murders of women, the engrained culture of impunity for such crimes, and the gender-based nature of the crimes committed, which constitute grave and systematic violations of women's human rights. It is concerned about the insufficient efforts to conduct thorough investigations, the absence of protection measures for witnesses, victims' families and the lack of information and data regarding the cases, the causes of violence and the profiles of the victims.(9)
It called on the Guatemalan government to:
take without delay all the measures necessary to put an end to the murders and disappearances of women and the impunity of perpetrators.
Concluding comments of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women: Guatemala (CEDAW/C/GUA/CO/6).