Indigenous forms of imparting justice in Guatemala have become a point of controversy between Mayan communities and the government. This article is the first of three in-depth reports by Luc’a Escobar into Mayan community justice, its norms, its values, and its controversies.
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This information sheet is a summary of important aspects of Guatemalan criminal procedure. It is meant to assist U.S. citizens in understanding the basics of the Guatemalan judicial system. It is not intended as a guide for self-representation.
Guatemala has a republican, democratic, and representative form of government (Article 140 of the Political Constitution). From a centralized view of the state (1965 Constitution), there has been an evolution to the current supreme legal framework of the Republic of Guatemala in Central America (the 1985 Constitution), which enshrines the primacy of the human person as the subject and purpose of social order (Preamble), as a response to humanist trends of thought.
The highest court in Guatemala has made a precedent setting decision in favor of the community of Agua Caliente, a small Maya Q’eqchi’ indigenous community of 385 people in El Estor, in the country’s Izabal province. The community has been fighting for formal recognition of its land rights and for justice against plans to mine nickel on the community’s lands.
States Parties to the UN Convention against Torture are not only under an obligation to prevent torture and ill-treatment and to bring perpetrators of torture to justice, but also to assist victims of torture and to grant them adequate reparation, including compensation and rehabilitation.
Since the adoption of the United Nations Charter in 1945, the international community, in recognition of the vital importance of securing respect for human rights and freedom from fear, has developed an impressive body of international human rights law.