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Emma Guadalupe Molina Theissen, left, and her mother Emma arrive for a press conference in Guatemala City, Friday, May 25, 2018. Four retired high-ranking military officers in Guatemala were convicted Wednesday of crimes against humanity and other charges in the 1981 rape and torture of Emma Guadalupe and the disappearance of her teenage brother Marco Antonio.  © 2019 AP Photo/Moises Castillo
(New York) – The Guatemalan Congress should comply with a March 12, 2019, Inter-American Court order to suspend consideration of legislation that would provide amnesty for genocide and other past atrocities, Human Rights Watch said today.

The proposed legislation would free dozens of military officials convicted of grave abuses and prohibit all future prosecutions of human rights crimes committed during the country’s 36-year internal armed conflict, which ended in 1996. A UN-sponsored truth commission found that Guatemalan security forces had committed hundreds of massacres of civilians during the conflict, including acts of genocide. 

“The fight for justice in Guatemala has faced many obstacles over the years, but this amnesty for genocide might be the most brazen assault on the rule of law we’ve seen,” said Daniel Wilkinson, Americas managing director at Human Rights Watch. “If it approves this law, Congress will be violating Guatemala’s legal obligation to ensure justice for the worst atrocities and openly defying a binding order from the Inter-American Court.”

The proposed bill would amend the 1996 Law of National Reconciliation, which established that there would be no amnesty for genocide, torture, and forced disappearances. The Guatemalan Congress has already twice voted to advance the amnesty bill. A third and final vote is expected this week.

In a March 12 ruling, the Inter-American Court ordered Guatemala to shelve the proposed legislation. The ruling is legally binding on Guatemala.

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