• Press Release

Lawmakers in Guatemala debate abolition of the death penalty

March 27, 2011

Amnesty International Press Release
For Immediate Release:
Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Contact:  Wende Gozan Brown, [email protected]; 212-633-4247.

(London) – Amnesty International has called on the Guatemalan Congress to abolish the death penalty, as lawmakers debate new legislation that would allow its use for the first time since 2000. Bill 4175 proposes a mechanism for granting presidential pardons for those on death row, a move that would permit the country to use the death penalty in what politicians say is a response to public pressure over rising gang violence.

“The death penalty is a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” said Guadalupe Marengo, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Americas program.  “More than two-thirds of countries have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice. Even the United States, which is the only country in the region that consistently carries out executions, is showing signs of turning against this inhuman and degrading treatment.  Guatemala would be bucking a positive trend if Congress paves the way for the reapplication of the death penalty.” 

If the Guatemalan Congress votes in favor of that legislation, ten people who are currently on death row could be executed.  Amnesty International recognizes that crime in Guatemala is widespread and Guatemalan congressmen and women have a duty to ensure they pass legislation that will reduce this worrying trend so that residents can live without fear. 

“Executing those who commit horrific crimes will not be a deterrent. Studies from around the world show that the death penalty, far from making society safer, has a brutalizing effect on society,” said Marengo.  “State sanctioned killing only serves to endorse the use of force and to continue the cycle of violence. The Guatemalan Congress should be voting to abolish the death penalty instead of regulating it and address the real issues that lie behind crime. Police and judicial systems must be equipped to eradicate impunity and the government should address inequality and discrimination.”

The Guatemalan constitution, passed in 1985, permits the death penalty under Article 18.  The last execution in Guatemala was in 2000, using lethal injection. Since then, successive governments have established a de facto moratorium in the application of death penalty by not implementing measures to enable them to issue presidential pardons.  In 2005 the Inter-American court ruled that Guatemala could not apply the death penalty because it did not have this procedure in place. 

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 million supporters, activists and volunteers who campaign for universal human rights from more than 150 countries. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

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