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Guatemala Universal Periodic Review: States call again for action on defenders

During Guatemala’s fourth Universal Periodic Review (UPR) this week, States repeatedly called on Guatemala to take steps to deal with three ongoing crises: attacks against human rights defenders, endemic corruption and a lack of judicial independence.

UN States focused on the situation faced by human rights defenders in Guatemala this week during the country’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Recommendations have been made to Guatemala relating to their obligation to defend the right to defend human rights at every UPR cycle. This week, during the fourth review of Guatemala’s human rights situation and review of the implementation of prior recommendations, 22 States, including Brazil, Chile and Costa Rica, spoke again of their concerns.  

‘In prior reviews, Guatemala has accepted several key recommendations – including adopting a public policy on defender protection. There has been no progress made on this, ’said ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw.

Indeed, during the review Guatemala made no reference to human rights defenders or journalists during their presentation. 

NGOs have made clear how grave the situation they face is. The Network for No Violence Against Women (Red de la No Violencia contra las Mujeres – REDNOVI) says Guatemala has ‘a set of institutions willing to intimidate, harass, persecute, monitor and file complaints against those who defend rights.’ Human rights defenders themselves don’t get the opportunity to make statements during this part of the review – these come when the report is adopted in March – but many, including REDNOVI, provided reports for the review. 

Colombia, Mexico and Panama all called on Guatemala to ratify the Escazú Agreement, key to the protection of environmental defenders. States also spoke of concerns about corruption – including Indonesia – and the lack of independence of the judiciary.  

‘The impunity for attacks against defenders, ongoing corruption and a lack of judicial independence or protection of journalists all converge to create a context of extreme precariousness’, said Openshaw. ‘Guatemala faces huge challenges but also opportunities to seek support through the UPR to deal with these crises.’

The adoption of the UPR report on Guatemala is due to take place later in the year.  A report on OHCHR activities in Guatemala will also be delivered on 7 March.

‘There is considerable focus on Guatemala these early months of 2023. This is the time for States to stand by human rights defenders in the country, being clear about their recommendations to Guatemala and of their commitment to pushing for their implementation,’ said Openshaw.

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