Guatemala: No protection, no justice: killings of women (an update)

July 18, 2006

Guatemala: No protection, no justice: killings of women (an update)

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In Guatemala serious deficiencies persist in the organization and functioning of the judicial system, which are due to an inadequate normative framework and certain practices which do not allow an independent, impartial and effective administration of justice based on respect for human rights."(22)

The failure to carry out the most basic investigations, properly process the crime scene and protect potential evidence remains evident in numerous cases. Francisca López, aged 13, was knifed to death on 2 November 2005 in Guatemala City. Her bloodstained clothes, which may have contained evidence identifying her attackers, were handed back to the family and were buried together with her body.

The heavy case loads, lack of equipment and the continuing severe shortage of police investigators,(23) means that in the majority of cases the initial investigation, in particular the way in which the crime scene and other important evidence is processed, is flawed. As one of the Unit's police officers told Amnesty International we don't have the tools to carry out the work.(24) On many occasions interviews do not take place until months after the crime when witnesses or family members are no longer willing to talk or cooperate, often because they have been threatened.

According to the police Female Homicide Unit by the end of 2005 they had archived 100 cases out of a total of 224 cases of murdered women and girls allegedly due to a lack of evidence because families no longer wanted investigations or witnesses were no longer willing to talk for fear of reprisals.


Lack of coordination regarding the respective roles of police investigators and the Public Ministry prosecutors means that many cases do not advance beyond the initial investigation stage.(25) As noted by the International Commission of Jurists one of the main flaws in the criminal investigation is the lack of institutional coordination between the Public Ministry and the PNC.(26) In the case of Cristina Hernández the police officer charged with the investigation informed Amnesty International that since the days following the murder on 27 July 2005 she had not carried out any further investigations - despite the existence of critical leads - as she had not received any instructions from the Public Ministry.(27) Nearly one year after Cristina was abducted and murdered, the Public Ministry has allegedly still not requested the police to carry out a search of a suspect's house or summoned the witnesses to provide information to construct a identikit picture of individuals believed to be responsible for her abduction and subsequent murder.