Reparations: Accord for a Firm and Lasting Peace

Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights (Mexico City, 19 March 1994)

VIII. Compensation and/or Assistance to the Victims of Human Rights Violations

1. The Parties recognize that it is a humanitarian duty to compensate and/or assist victims of human rights violations. Said compensation and/or assistance shall be effected by means of government measures and programmes of a civilian and socio-economic nature addressed, as a matter of priority, to those whose need is greatest, given their economic and social position.

Agreement on Identity and Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Mexico City, 31 March 1995)

Restitution of communal lands and compensation for rights

7. Recognizing the particularly vulnerable situation of the indigenous communities, which have historically been the victims of land plundering, the Government undertakes to institute proceedings to settle the claims to communal lands formulated by the communities and to restore or pay compensation for those lands. In particular, the Government shall adopt or promote the following measures:

(c) When the statute of limitations has already expired, however, establish procedures to compensate the communities which have been plundered with lands acquired for that purpose.

Implementation History

1997

No Implementation

No developments observed this year.

1998

No Implementation

No developments observed this year.

1999

No Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2000

No Implementation

No substantive action was taken to implement the Government's commitment to compensate victims of human rights violations during the armed conflict.1

  • 1. “United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala: Report of the Secretary-General,” United Nations General Assembly (A/55/973), June 1, 2001.
2001

Intermediate Implementation

The Peace Secretariat (SEPAZ) worked with the Multi-institutional Forum for Peace and Harmony on a “negotiating framework” to begin the process that would eventually lead to compensating victims. A few pilot reparation projects had been implemented, but not yet evaluated. The new Commission for Peace and Harmony was established by Governmental Agreement No. 263-2001 on 27 June. This commission was recommended by the Clarification Commission in order to implement the Government's commitments on reparations.2

Following a ruling by the Inter-American Court on Human Rights in 1999, the Guatemalan Government admitted responsibility for privately employed police officers who killed two children and injured a third in 1990, and paid the victims' families compensation.3

  • 2. “Twelfth Report on Human Rights of the United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala,” United Nations General Assembly (A/56/273), August 8, 2001.
  • 3. “Guatemala,” Keesing's Record of World Events (Volume 47), January 2001, 43939.
2002

Intermediate Implementation

Despite the extended timetable for implementation, still no progress was made to provide compensation for the victims of the armed conflict.4

  • 4. “Thirteenth Report on Human Rights of the United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala,” United Nations General Assembly (A/57/336), August 22, 2002.
2003

Intermediate Implementation

The Government created the National Reparations Commission, which was intended to be the main implementing body for the delivery of compensation to victims of the armed conflict.5

  • 5. “Fourteenth Report on Human Rights of the United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala,” United Nations General Assembly (A/58/566), November 10, 2003.
2004

Intermediate Implementation

The Guatemalan government provided funding for the National Reparations Program and appointed Rosalina Tuyuc, an indigenous leader, to oversee the Program. Compensation for victims of past human rights abuses had still not begun, however.6

  • 6. “United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala: Report of the Secretary-General,” United Nations General Assembly (A/50/307), August 30, 2004.
2005

Intermediate Implementation

The Government restructured the National Reparations Program. It was being funded at a rate of 300 million quetzelas (about 37.5 million US dollars) per year for ten years, in keeping with the recommendations from the Clarification Commission.7

  • 7. “Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Situation of Human Rights in Guatemala,” United Nations Economic and Social Council (E/CN.4/2006/10/Add.1), February 1, 2006.
2006

Intermediate Implementation

After a ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Government began to compensate relatives of those killed in the massacres of 1982.8

After President Alvaro Colom took office in January 2008, the Government made significant progress in delivering compensation to families of those killed during the civil war. Approximately 3,000 persons received reparations between January 2007 and May 2009, with payments ranging from $1,500 to $2,500 (USD). However, some 64,000 requests were still pending.9

  • 8. “Compensation for families of massacre victims,” Keesing's Record of World Events (Volume 52), February 2006, 47092.
  • 9. Anne-Marie O'Connor, “Payments and Apologies for Victims of Guatemala's Civil War,” The Washington Post, Suburban Edition, May 6, 2009, A06.