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Guatemala: Stepped-Up Efforts To Addr Abuses Urged


UN’S Guatemala Mission Urges Stepped-Up Efforts To Address Past Abuses

Five years after the publication of a major report on human rights in Guatemala, the United Nations mission in the country today said more efforts are needed to implement its recommendations.

Following Guatemala’s three decades of war, which left some 200,000 people dead, the Government and rebels signed an accord in 1994 creating a Historical Clarification Commission, under UN auspices, to examine rights violations during the conflict and make recommendations on national reconciliation. Those recommendations were published in 1999.

Issuing its analysis of progress since then, the UN Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA) today said attention to the recommendations has grown increasingly scarce. The authorities, the report warns, cannot continue to postpone a response to the thousands of Guatemalans seeking redress.

MINUGUA chief Ton Koenigs said the UN, always on the side of victims, hoped the report would serve to raise awareness of the need to give priority to correcting past wrongs. “We hope that the new authorities will lead, by example, the fight against indifference,” he said. “This is the only way to advance along the difficult path of reconciliation.”

While welcoming some developments, including efforts to help torture victims, he said the tasks ahead remain daunting. The families of victims of past killings needed to move on with their lives, but the authorities had given little support to the exhumation process, which has been largely carried out with the backing of non-governmental organizations. He called on the Government to develop an active policy, supported by legislation, in dealing with human rights abuses of the conflict era.

Mr. Koenigs also emphasized the importance of healing past wounds to achieve national reconciliation, citing the examples of Argentina, Germany and Chile in this regard. The Commission’s recommendations, he said, serve as a guide to ensure that the conflict’s atrocities would never be repeated.

In addition to presenting its report to the authorities, he said MINUGUA hoped that Guatemalan civil society would continue its fight to heal the wounds of the past.

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