Senate Passes Resolution Condemning Murders of Women in Guatemala
The U.S. Senate unanimously approved a resolution (S.Res.178) condemning the brutal murders of women in Guatemala and encouraging the United States to work with Guatemala to bring an end to these heinous crimes. The resolution, which follows a unanimously approved resolution in the House (H.Res.100) last year, demonstrates Congress' concern for the families of the victims and a desire to clarify these crimes, according to the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), which supported the measure.
With the passage of this resolution, the Senate has expressed its support for the thousands of families who continue to seek justice for the murder of their loved ones, while promoting concrete actions to address the impunity with which these murders are committed,” said Maureen Meyer, WOLA Associate for Mexico and Central America.
WOLA and other U.S. and international organizations have long highlighted the crucial role of public security and judicial institutions in responding to violence against women , while emphasizing the ongoing failures of the criminal justice systems in Guatemala to ensure respect for women’s rights and protection under the law.
Congressional resolutions on a problem outside the United States can have a strong effect in the country concerned, in part because they put authorities there on notice that the U.S. lawmakers are monitoring the problem. In this case, the bipartisan resolution was introduced in May 2007 by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and was co-sponsored by 13 senators. The resolution:
- Condemns the ongoing abduction and murder of women and increasing brutality perpetrated against the victims. Since 2001, more than 3,000 women have been murdered in this small country of 13 million. Last year, police authorities reported nearly 500 murders of women, following 603 in 2006, 580 in 2005, and 531 in 2004. So far this year, more than 60 cases have been reported. “While there has been a significant increase in general levels of violence in Guatemala, the brutality and noticeable rise in the killings of women over the last 7 years is of particular concern,” said Meyer. Many of the victims have been violently killed and present evidence of rape, sexual assault, torture, and in some cases mutilation.
- Urges the Guatemalan government to hold accountable those law enforcement and judicial officials whose negligence, omission, or abuse has led to impunity for the crimes. The investigations of the killings of women have been flawed by systematic shortcomings from the initial stages, including a failure by police to respond appropriately and effectively to emergency calls or reports of missing women, collect and preserve evidence, interrogate witnesses, or carry out arrest warrants. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights noted in its most recent report that "the weaknesses and shortcomings of the Justice System in conducting investigations, particularly of sexual crimes, in addition to deficiencies in the legal framework and discriminatory attitudes of justice officials, continue obstructing women's access to justice…" Meyer added, “Law enforcement officials’ disregard for the crimes has meant that the majority of the murders have gone unpunished and remained in virtual impunity.”
- Supports the victims’ families in their request for due diligence and thorough and impartial forensic analysis to identify the perpetrators and, in some cases, victims. A 2006 investigation conducted by the Guatemalan Human Rights Ombudsman into the procedures undertaken by the authorities in the case of the murder of 19-year-old law student Claudina Velásquez concluded that “the State failed in its obligation to respect and guarantee the right to life, security, and due process.” Unfortunately, many of the inconsistencies described in the investigation are systematic.
- Encourages the Guatemalan government to take measures to ensure that authorities have sufficient resources and properly trained personnel to reflect the gravity of the problem.The lack of equipment, severe shortage of police investigators, and proper training on investigative techniques and gender-based crimes have contributed to the shortcomings in investigations. International observers have repeatedly noted that one of the components of the State’s failure to probe cases of gender-based violence is the lack of resources in terms of staff, infrastructure, equipment and budget. “It is imperative that investigators be provided with the necessary training, resources and technical assistance so that they can respond effectively to violence against women,” said Adriana Beltrán, WOLA Associate on Police Reform.
- Encourages Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to develop a comprehensive plan to address and combat the growing problem of violence against women in Latin America.
The text of the resolution can be seen here.
Associate for Mexico and Central America