Amnesty: Accord for a Firm and Lasting Peace

Agreement on the Basis for the Legal Integration of the Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca (Madrid, 12 December 1996)

III. Elements of the Integration Programme: A. Legal area

National Reconciliation Act

17. The Government shall sponsor in the Congress of the Republic a draft National Reconciliation Act whose object shall be, in accordance with the spirit and content of the Peace Agreements, to promote a culture of harmony and mutual respect that will eliminate any form of revenge or vengeance, while safeguarding the fundamental rights of the victims, as prerequisites for a firm and lasting peace.

Extinction of criminal liability

20. With a view to promoting national reconciliation, without neglecting the need to combat impunity, the National Reconciliation Act shall contain a clause allowing URNG members to be integrated into lawful life.

Political crimes

21. In relation to the aforesaid clause, the National Reconciliation Act shall declare the extinction of criminal liability for political crimes committed in the internal armed conflict up to the date on which the Act enters into force and shall cover persons who perpetrated, abetted or were accessories to crimes against State security, public institutions and the public administration, as defined in articles 359, 360, 367, 368, 375, 381, 385 to 399, 408 to 410 and 414 to 416 of the Penal Code and in Title VII of the Arms and Munitions Act. In such cases, the Public Prosecutor's Office shall refrain from exercising a right of action and the judicial authority shall dismiss proceedings.

Related common crimes

22. Also in relation to the clause mentioned in paragraph 20, the National Reconciliation Act shall extinguish criminal liability for related common crimes committed in the armed conflict, such crimes being defined as those which are directly, objectively, intentionally and causally related to the commission of the political crimes referred to in the preceding paragraph and which cannot be shown to be motivated by personal goals. The common crimes which are defined as related to the political crimes mentioned in the preceding paragraph are those described in articles 214 to 216, 278, 279, 282 to 285, 287 to 289, 292 to 295, 321, 325, 330, 333, 337 to 339, 400 to 402, 404, 406 and 407 of the Penal Code.

Other extinctions of criminal liability

23. In respect of persons who were involved in the internal armed conflict owing to institutional mandates, the National Reconciliation Act shall contain specific provisions equivalent to those previously mentioned, in that they shall extinguish criminal liability for common crimes perpetrated with the aim of preventing, thwarting, suppressing or punishing the commission of political crimes and related common crimes, where such crimes were directly, objectively, intentionally and causally related to that aim, unless it is demonstrated that there is no relationship between the criminal act and the stated aim.

Restrictions

24. The provisions in the National Reconciliation Act which extinguish criminal liability shall under no circumstances extend to crimes which, under domestic law or the international treaties ratified or signed by Guatemala, are imprescriptible or are not subject to an extinction of criminal liability.

Proceedings

25. The judicial proceedings for related common crimes shall be consistent with guarantees of due process, shall be expeditious and adversarial, and shall comprise the following stages:

(i) If the Public Prosecutor's Office or a judicial authority is to try one of the crimes referred to in paragraphs 22 and 23, it shall transfer the case immediately to the appeals court division having jurisdiction in the matter. The court shall notify the aggrieved person, defined as such in article 117 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Public Prosecutor's Office and the defendant, ordering them to appear within the same period of 10 working days.

(ii) After this period has elapsed, the court shall have five working days in which to issue a reasoned order declaring the extinction valid or invalid and, where appropriate, dismissing the proceedings. If, after the period for notification of the parties has elapsed, the court feels that it needs additional information in order to reach a decision, it shall convene an immediate oral hearing with the sole participation of the parties, at which it shall receive relevant evidence, hear statements by the parties or their lawyers and, immediately thereafter, issue a reasoned order declaring the extinction valid or invalid and, where appropriate, dismissing the proceedings. The oral hearing shall be held within 10 working days after the end of the period for notification of the parties. At least three days shall elapse between the summons and the hearing.

(iii) An appeal against the court's order shall be admissible only if it is submitted in writing, alleging grievances, within three days from the date of the last notification, by any of the parties having a legitimate interest in the case. If the appeal is declared admissible, the case shall be referred immediately to the amparo and preliminary judgements division of the Supreme Court, which shall decide within one week, without further hearings, to uphold, revoke or amend the contested order. The Supreme Court's decision shall not be subject to any form of appeal.

26. No coercive measures, such as committal orders, pretrial detention, measures in lieu of pretrial detention, remand or arrest shall be ordered during the proceedings. The alleged perpetrators, accused persons or defendants may be represented during the proceedings by their lawyers.

27. Upon conclusion of the proceedings, a certified copy of the entire case record shall be transmitted to the Clarification Commission.

Other legal provisions

32. The Government undertakes to sponsor in the Congress such legal amendments as are needed to permit full compliance with this Agreement.

Implementation History

1997

Full Implementation

The Government submitted a draft National Reconciliation Act to Congress, which included amnesty for certain political and other crimes committed by URNG members, in keeping with the agreements.1 Congress made the bill law on December 18. It gave “limited amnesty” to members of the Armed Forces and Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca (URNG) for political crimes committed during the civil war, excluding acts of genocide, torture and disappearances.2

The Amnesty provision of the accord was implemented in 1996. Prosecution of those not covered by the Amnesty, however, was delayed.

  • 1. “Seventh Report on Human Rights of the United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala,” United Nations General Assembly (A/52/330), September 10, 1997.
  • 2. “Final Peace Accord,” Keesing's Record of World Events Volume 42 (December 1996): 41406.
1998

Full Implementation

No developments observed this year.

1999

Full Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2000

Full Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2001

Full Implementation

In 2011, four soldiers were convicted and imprisoned for the massacre of 201 civilians in Dos Erres 1982.3

  • 3. “Constitutional Court Rulings,” Keesing's Record of World Events Volume 57 (August 2011): 50595.
2002

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

2003

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

2004

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

2005

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

2006

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.