Demobilization: Accord for a Firm and Lasting Peace

Agreement on the Strengthening of Civilian Power and the Role of the Armed Forces in Democratic Society (Mexico City, 19 September 1996)

IV. Executive Branch: C. Armed forces

35. The signing of an agreement on a firm and lasting peace constitutes a fundamental change in relation to the conditions which have prevailed in Guatemala for more than three decades. This change has positive implications for State institutions, and in particular the Guatemalan armed forces. The role of the Guatemalan armed forces is defined as that of defending Guatemala’s sovereignty and territorial integrity; they shall have no other functions assigned to them, and their participation in other fields shall be limited to cooperative activities. The measures laid down in this Agreement ensure that the doctrine, means, resources and deployment of the armed forces are in line with their functions and Guatemala’s development priorities.

Constitutional reforms

36. The Government undertakes to sponsor the following amendments to the Guatemalan Constitution:

(a) Article 244. Constitution, organization and functions of the armed forces. The Guatemalan armed forces are a permanent institution in the service of the nation. They are unique and indivisible, essentially professional, apolitical, loyal and non-deliberative. Their function is to protect the sovereignty of the State and its territorial integrity. They consist of ground, air and naval forces. Their organization is hierarchical and based on the principles of discipline and obedience;

(b) Article 219. Military courts. The military courts shall take cognizance of the crimes and misdemeanours specified in the military code and in the corresponding regulations. Ordinary crimes and misdemeanours committed by military personnel shall be tried and judged by the ordinary courts. No civilian may be judged by military courts;

(c) Article 246. Duties and powers of the President over the armed forces. Replace the first paragraph by the following: "The President of the Republic is the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces and shall issue his orders through the Minister of Defence, whether he is a civilian or a member of the military".

Legal framework

37. Amendments to the Constituent Act of the armed forces deriving from the amendments to the Guatemalan Constitution, and amendments deriving from the peace agreements, shall be sponsored.

Military doctrine

38. A new military doctrine shall be formulated in accordance with the reforms envisaged in this Agreement. The doctrine shall encompass respect for the Guatemalan Constitution, human rights, the international instruments ratified by Guatemala in the military field, protection of national sovereignty and independence, the territorial integrity of Guatemala and the spirit of the agreements on a firm and lasting peace.

Size and resources

39. The size and resources of the Guatemalan armed forces shall be sufficient to enable them to discharge their function of defending Guatemala’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and shall be commensurate with the country’s economic capabilities.

Educational system

40. The necessary amendments shall continue to be made to the corresponding regulations so that the military education system is consistent, in its philosophical framework, with respect for the Guatemalan Constitution and other laws, with a culture of peace and democratic coexistence, with the doctrine defined in this Agreement, and with national values, the integral development of the individual, knowledge of our national history, respect for human rights and the identity and rights of the indigenous peoples, and the primacy of the individual.

Arms and munitions

41. The Government shall adopt the most appropriate policies for the acquisition of combat weapons and equipment in accordance with the new functions of the armed forces. The operation of the munitions factory shall be taken into account so that it can meet the needs of the civilian public security forces.


42. The public educational, financial, health, commercial, assistance and insurance institutions, installations and offices corresponding to the needs and functions of the Guatemalan armed forces shall operate under the same conditions as other similar not-for-profit institutions. All the graduates of the Adolfo V. Hall institutes shall join Guatemala’s military reserves. The Guatemalan armed forces shall allocate programmes to them for that purpose. The Government shall decide on an appropriate use for the television frequency allocated to the Guatemalan armed forces.

Military and community service

43. The practice of voluntary military recruitment shall be continued, until the Government of Guatemala, on the basis of the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights, adopts the necessary administrative decisions, and the Guatemalan Congress approves a civil service law, which shall include military service and community service; this law shall entail fulfillment of a duty and a constitutional right, which is neither compulsory nor a violation of human rights, is universal and non-discriminatory, and would reduce the length of service and offer options to citizens.

44. On the basis of these general principles, the Government undertakes to sponsor the above-mentioned law, which shall be drafted on the basis of what has been agreed on and achieved by the joint working group which is currently considering the matter.

VII. Operational Considerations Resulting from the End of the Armed Conflict

Voluntary Civil Defence Committees (CVDC)

61. The Government shall ask the Congress of the Republic to repeal the decree creating CVDCs, effective on the day of the signing of the agreement on a firm and lasting peace. Demobilization and disarming of CVDCs shall take place within 30 days from the repeal of the decree. The CVDCs including those already demobilized, shall no longer have any institutional relationship with the armed forces of Guatemala and shall not be restructured in such a way as to restore that relationship.

Mobile military police

62. The Parties agree that the mobile military police shall be disbanded within one year from the signing of the agreement on a firm and lasting peace, at the end of which time its members will have been demobilized.

Reducing the size and budget of the armed forces

63. As from the signing of the agreement on a firm and lasting peace, in keeping with the new situation and the definition of the functions of the armed services of Guatemala contained in this Agreement, the Government of Guatemala shall begin a progressive process aimed at achieving the following:

(a) Reorganizing the deployment of military forces in the country, in 1997, assigning them for the purposes of national defence, border patrol and protection of sea, land and air jurisdiction;

(b) Reducing the size of the armed forces of Guatemala by 33 per cent in 1997, relative to its current size and organization;

(c) Redirecting and reallocating its budget to the constitutional functions and military doctrine referred to in this Agreement, making maximum use of available resources to achieve, by 1999, a 33 per cent reduction in military spending as a proportion of GDP, as compared to 1995. This will free resources from the Government’s general budget to be applied to programmes in education, health and public safety.

Agreement on the Basis for the Legal Integration of the URNG (Madrid, 12 December 1996)

III. Elements of the Integration Programme

A. Legal area


28. In order to foster compliance with the demobilization of URNG members stipulated in the Agreement on the Definitive Ceasefire, the National Reconciliation Act shall establish the complete extinction of criminal liability for persons who perpetrated, abetted or were accessories to the crimes defined in articles 398, 399, 402 and 407 of the Penal Code and articles 87, 88 and 91 to 97, paragraph (c), of the Arms and Munitions Act and who committed such acts up to the date on which their demobilization was completed in accordance with the terms, conditions and time-limits stipulated in the aforesaid Agreement. The date on which that demobilization was completed shall be communicated officially by the United Nations verification authority.


29. As a result of the conditions in which the internal armed conflict took place, many URNG members have no personal documentation. This limits the exercise of their civil rights and duties. To facilitate an immediate solution to this problem, the Government undertakes to sponsor in the Congress of the Republic the corresponding amendments to the Act on the Personal Documentation of the Population Uprooted by the Internal Armed Conflict (Decree 73-95). Such amendments, in addition to solving the documentation problems of uprooted population groups, shall resolve the lack of personal documentation of URNG members. The Congress shall be asked to consider and resolve this issue in the two months following the signing of the Agreement on a Firm and Lasting Peace.

Temporary documentation

30. Pending completion of the procedures required for the issue of permanent personal documentation, the verification authority shall be asked to issue temporary documentation for demobilized combatants and other beneficiaries of the Agreement on the Basis for the Legal Integration of URNG.

Other documentation

31. The procedures for naturalization of children born abroad to Guatemalans belonging to URNG shall be expedited.

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.

Agreement on the Definitive Ceasefire (Oslo, 4 December 1996)

B. Separation of Forces


8. Redeployment of Guatemalan armed forces units: withdrawal means the establishment of spaces in which there is no Guatemalan armed forces presence of any kind. These spaces are to ensure safety and logistical support for URNG in order to facilitate verification by the United Nations.

9. Assembly and disarming of URNG members: assembly of URNG members shall take place at the points specified by the parties. Their size shall be determined by the number of URNG members to be assembled and shall be sufficient to allow for temporary residence in adequate conditions.

Separation distance

10. Once the assembly points for members of URNG have been agreed upon and the military units of the Guatemalan armed forces referred to in annex C have been redeployed, the minimum distance between the units and the assembly points shall be 6 kilometres, in order to ensure that the operation proceeds without incident. The URNG assembly points shall be located preferably no less than 20 kilometres from the border.

Security zone

11. A security zone having a radius of 6 kilometres shall be established around each assembly point in which no units of the Guatemalan armed forces, Volunteer Civil Defence Committees (CVDC) or members of URNG may be present.

12. Only United Nations verification units may have access to these zones. Police activities may be carried out subject to coordination with the United Nations verification authority.

Coordination zone

13. A coordination zone extending a further 6 kilometres shall be established around each security zone. Movement by military units of the Guatemalan armed forces and CVDCs must be coordinated in advance with the United Nations verification authority.

Establishment of assembly points and transit routes

14. Assembly points and transit routes are listed in the following annexes to this Agreement:

(a) Annex A: Assembly points for URNG units;

(b) Annex B: Transit routes by which URNG units are to travel to the
assembly points;

(c) Annex C: Redeployment and location of Guatemalan armed forces military units subject to verification.

Information concerning troops and weapons

15. URNG shall provide the United Nations with detailed information on the number of troops, lists of names, inventories of weapons, explosives and mines, and all other necessary information concerning the existence of minefields, munitions and other military equipment, both in their possession and in storage. The Guatemalan armed forces shall likewise provide updated information on the number of troops in the units to be redeployed which are identified in annex C. Both parties shall transmit this information to the verification authority no later than D+15.

16. The parties agree to transmit to the verification authority within the time agreed with both of them any additional information required by the authority.

Start of redeployment

17. Redeployment of the units of the Guatemalan armed forces designated in annex C shall begin on D+2 and shall continue until D+10, or earlier, if possible.

18. URNG troops shall begin to move towards the assembly points designated in annex A from D+11 to D+21 or earlier, if possible. They shall be accompanied in this move by the verification mission.

19. The Parties shall communicate to the United Nations verification authority no later than D-10 the full programme for the moves of their respective forces (composition, route to be taken, when the move is to begin and any other information needed to complete the verification).

Troops to be assembled

20. The troops to be assembled by URNG are as follows:

(a) Members of the various guerrilla fronts or their equivalent in each URNG organization, having command, policy, security, intelligence, logistic, medical service, permanent force and minor unit structures;

(b) Armed elements organized into groups known as local, resistance
guerrilla forces and similar groups in each URNG organization, which have been established to provide combat support;

(c) Armed elements organized into groups operating in the urban and suburban fronts of the various URNG organizations.

Restrictions on assembled URNG troops

21. Assembled URNG elements undertake not to leave the assembly points without the consent and verification of the United Nations. They may do so if they are unarmed and accompanied by verification representatives in coordination with the Government of Guatemala, in the cases provided for in the following subparagraphs:

(a) Medical treatment;

(b) To hand over clandestine stores of arms, munitions and equipment located anywhere;

(c) To point out areas where there are minefields;

(d) For any other humanitarian purpose, whether individual or collective;

(e) To conduct consultations with other assembly points or working groups.

Verification of military units of the Guatemalan armed forces designated in annex C

22. The military units of the Guatemalan armed forces designated in annex C of this document shall be subject to verification programmes by the United Nations during the ceasefire process and shall give prior notice of their movements to the verification authority when such movements are scheduled to be conducted within the coordination zones.

Restriction of airspace

23. This shall enter into force on D-Day; utilization of airspace shall remain restricted as follows:

(a) Military flights over security zones shall be prohibited save in case of disaster or public emergency in which case advance notice of such flights shall be given to the United Nations verification authority;

(b) Military flights over coordination zones shall be permitted with advance notification to the United Nations verification mission.

Disarming of URNG

24. Disarming shall consist of the depositing, registration and handing over to the United Nations of all types of offensive and defensive weapons, munitions, explosives, mines and other supplementary military equipment in the possession of URNG forces, whether in their possession or in minefields or clandestine storage anywhere.

Control of armaments

25. From D+11 to D+42 in URNG assembly points, weapons, munitions and other military equipment shall be deposited in special warehouses designated by the United Nations; combatants, however, shall keep their personal equipment and weapons as long as they remain in those locations.

26. Each warehouse shall have two locks; one key shall be held by the United Nations and the other by the URNG official in charge of each encampment. The United Nations shall periodically check the inventory of each warehouse.

C: Demobilization


27. Demobilization means the ending of URNG military structures in the agreed assembly points. The integration of URNG in the country's political life shall proceed in accordance with the agreement on basis for the integration of URNG into the political life of the country, which is subject to United Nations verification.

Operational aspects

28. The phased demobilization of URNG combatants and their integration, within a framework of legality, into the civil, political, socio-economic and institutional life of the country shall be based on the provisions of the agreement on basis for the integration of URNG into the political life of the country and in accordance with the implementation of the agreement on the timetable for implementation and verification of the peace agreements. The demobilization shall be carried out as follows:

(a) From D+43 to D+48: 33 per cent;

(b) From D+49 to D+54: 66 per cent;

(c) From D+55 to D+60: 100 per cent.

Logistical support

29. A commission made up of representatives of URNG and of the Government of Guatemala shall be established under the coordination of the United Nations, in order to provide logistical support to the ceasefire and demobilization process. The number of members of the Commission shall be determined in accordance with needs.

Handing over of weapons and munitions

30. Prior to the demobilization of the last group of combatants, and by D+60 at the latest, URNG shall hand over to the United Nations all weapons and military equipment of its forces whether in its possession or in storage.

Implementation History


Intermediate Implementation

United Nations military observers verified that the Guatemalan Armed Forces and the Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca (URNG) separated, assembled in the proper locations, and began demobilizing on schedule—even ahead of schedule in some cases. A total of 2,928 URNG personnel assembled at the camps, which was 642 less than the 3,570 on the list submitted to the UN military observers previously, but subsequent investigations showed that the concentration of URNG forces was indeed complete. An additional 1,258 persons affiliated with the URNG were not required to go to the assembly points, but they were registered and issued identification cards. After the verification of concentration on 24 March, the URNG combatants were demobilized in three waves, beginning on 15 April and ending on 2 May.1

The Ministry of Defense began reducing military personnel in accordance with the Agreement on the Strengthening of Civilian Power and on the Role of Armed Forces in a Democratic Society. By the end of 1997, the number of active duty troops dropped from 46,900 to 31,270, which actually exceeded the 33% reduction mandated by the agreements. However, the Armed Forces did not satisfy the agreement in terms of geographic redeployment and redistribution.2

  • 1. “Report of the Secretary-General on the Group of Military Observers Attached to MINUGUA,” United Nations Security Council (S/1997/432), June 4, 1997.
  • 2. “Verification Report: Status of the Commitments of the Peace Agreements Relating to the Armed Forces,” United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA), May 2002; “United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala: Report of the Secretary-General,” United Nations General Assembly (A/52/757), February 4, 1998.

Intermediate Implementation

Military personnel reductions continued, culminating on 23 September 1998, when MINUGUA verified that the Armed Forces fulfilled the agreements, with a total number of 31,423 personnel. Unfortunately, military units were deployed in postures inconsistent with the commitment to serve in a national defense capacity only.3

  • 3. “Verification Report: Status of the Commitments of the Peace Agreements Relating to the Armed Forces,” United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA), May 2002.

Intermediate Implementation

The Armed Forces continued to deploy in patterns more suited for counter-insurgency than for national defense.4


Intermediate Implementation

Over 30 of the military's counter-insurgency units were dismantled, but further progress toward compliance with demobilization stipulations were deferred until the new deadline at the end of 2002.5


Intermediate Implementation

The Armed Forces maintained several units that served no purpose for external defense and instead involved themselves in all sorts of internal affairs that should have been relegated to the National Civilian Police (PNC) and other non-military bodies. The Minister of Defense admitted that the Armed Forces were still deployed for counter-insurgency. The Chief of the General Staff spoke of a five-year plan to shift military deployment so it would comply with the agreements, but UN verifiers never received a copy of the plan.6


Intermediate Implementation

The Government demobilized 186 members of the Presidential General Staff (EMP).7

  • 7. “United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala: Report of the Secretary-General,” United Nations General Assembly (A/58/267), August 30, 2003.

Intermediate Implementation

The Government made more progress in demobilizing the EMP, which was to be replaced by the Administrative and Security Affairs Secretariat (SAAS). The EMP had 449 members remaining after 107 members were demobilized in May 2003.8

  • 8. “United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala: Report of the Secretary-General,” United Nations General Assembly (A/58/267), August 30, 2003.

Full Implementation

The demobilization of the URNG was a general success. After converting to a political organization, the URNG never resumed an armed strategy. The Government decided to reduce the number of troops and officers in the Armed Forces from 27,000 to 15,500 and to accelerate base closings consistent with a reorientation toward external defense only. The EMP was finally replaced by the SAAS.9

  • 9. “United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala: Report of the Secretary-General,” United Nations General Assembly (A/59/307), August 30, 2004.

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.


Full Implementation

No further developments observed.