Guatemala – Human Rights Council – Death Penalty – March 2017

The Advocates for Human Rights, in collaboration with Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo and the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, submitted a joint stakeholder report on the death penalty in Guatemala to the UN Human Rights Council for Guatemala’s third Universal Periodic Review. This submission describes Guatemala’s international human rights obligations with regard to its use of the death penalty.

During its last UPR, Guatemala supported several recommendations pertaining to the death penalty and conditions of detention. Most notably, Guatemala agreed to adopt measures to completely abolish the death penalty, while commuting existing death sentences to life imprisonment. Likewise, Guatemala supported recommendations to improve the living conditions of detainees, in accordance with the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, as well as to implement rehabilitation plans in penitentiary establishments.

Despite Guatemala’s acceptance of these recommendations, the country has not taken steps to completely abolish the death penalty. Guatemala still maintains the death penalty in the Political Constitution of the Republic and in its criminal laws as a possible punishment for certain crimes. Moreover, while there are currently no people sentenced to death in Guatemala, capital punishment still persists in the country’s legislation, and there is support for resumption of the death penalty.

Likewise, since the last UPR, when Guatemala agreed to improve detention conditions, the situation of persons deprived of their liberty has not improved. In fact, increased overpopulation, overcrowding, and further deterioration of prison infrastructure have worsened detention conditions.

This joint stakeholder submission suggests recommendations for the Government of Guatemala, including the need to:

  • Officially abolish the death penalty in national legislation;
  • Ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty;
  • Improve the conditions of detainees, in accordance with the revised Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners;
  • Improve the living conditions of prisoners and implement rehabilitation plans in penitentiary establishments;
  • Improve the quality of prison officers, allocating resources for their training and supervision; and
  • Open local and national dialogues on the role of justice in society and encourage education programs to reduce the stigma of prisoners to reduce incidents of recidivism.