Guatemala: Allegations of police killings must be investigated-New report

Amnesty International has condemned the failure of the Guatemalan authorities to thoroughly investigate extra-judicial killings in which police officers have been implicated.

In a report released today (15 December), Amnesty says that killings by police officers - often of young people with a criminal record or those suspected of involvement in crime - are common in the country. Research indicates that the numbers may run into hundreds per year.

Amnesty International Americas Deputy Programme Director Kerrie Howard said:

“Despite repeated reports and investigations by local and international human rights organisations, the problem of police involvement in extra-judicial killings continues. The Guatemalan authorities must take seriously these allegations and investigate effectively and thoroughly.”

In Guatemala the media and at times even the authorities have referred to such killings as a form of “social cleansing”. Amnesty is emphasising that the Guatemalan officials are failing to investigate killings and the organisation is insisting that the authorities must fulfil their obligations under international human rights law to protect the right to life and bring to justice those responsible for violating this right.

Guatemala has a very high level of violent crime and a very low conviction rate. It is estimated that 98% of homicides go unresolved in the country.

Amnesty has received frequent reports of individuals who came into contact with the police and were then never seen alive again. The bodies of victims, some as young as 13, have been discovered in vacant lots or on rubbish tips - with their hands tied behind their backs, strangled or with multiple gun shot wounds inflicted at close range.

Investigations into such cases have often taken months even to begin, by which time potentially crucial evidence has been lost. Amnesty is critical of the fact that there has been no serious initiative to hold those responsible to account and the organisation is calling on the Guatemalan president to guarantee an end to extra-judicial killings.

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