Paramilitary Groups: 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)
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 Governmentâ€™s general budget to be applied to programmes in education, health and public safety.
64. The Government shall adapt and modify the content of those courses created in the context of the armed conflict with a view to counter-insurgency, to make them compatible with the new military education system and to guarantee the dignity of those involved, their observance of human rights, and the public spiritedness of their role.
65. The Government undertakes to design and implement, after the signing of the agreement on a firm and lasting peace, programmes to promote the productive reintegration of those members of the armed forces who may be demobilized as a result of this Agreement, with the exception of those found guilty of committing a criminal act. These programmes shall end within one year. The Government shall ensure that these plans receive the necessary funding.
Comprehensive Agreement Human Rights (Mexico City, 19 March 1994)
IV. Commitment That There Are No Illegal Security Forces and Clandestine Machinery; Regulation of the Bearing of Arms
1. In order to maintain unlimited respect for human rights, there must be no illegal security forces nor any clandestine security machinery. The Government of Guatemala recognizes that it has an obligation to combat any manifestation thereof.
2. The Government of the Republic of Guatemala reiterates its commitment to continue with the purification and professionalization of the security forces. It also expresses the need to continue with the adoption and implementation of effective measures so as to provide specific regulations governing the possession, bearing and use of firearms by individuals, in accordance with the law.
The Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights of 1996 stipulated that the Government of Guatemala must distance itself from the Voluntary Civil Defense Committees (CVDC), which were implicated in many of the human rights violations committed during the decades-long armed conflict. The Agreement on the Strengthening of Civilian Power and on the Role of the Armed Forces in a Democratic Society of 1996 required that the CVDC be fully divorced from the Armed Forces of Guatemala, demobilized and disarmed. This process indeed began even before the signing of the final Agreement on a Firm and Lasting Peace at the end of 1996. On 28 November, the Congress repealed the decree that initially established the CVDC. A total of 270,906 CVDC members in 2,643 committees were demobilized, and 14,000 weapons were recovered. However, many former CVDC members retained light firearms and ammunition without legally registering them. In addition, the Armed Forces supported new alternative community defense organizations with direct ties to former CVDC, both in form and membership.1
A total of 2,421 members of the Mobile Military Police (PMA) were demobilized—699 members of the Ordinary Mobile Military Police in March 1997, and 1,722 members of the Extraordinary Mobile Military Police in December 1997. Before the demobilization was complete, some PMA members protested, refusing to abandon their barracks and holding some military officers hostage. Heavily armed military forces surrounded the protesters and they surrendered.2
- 1. “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/51/936), June 30, 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.
Government Accord 13-98 formally abolished the PMA. All demobilized PMA members received economic compensation, and many were subsequently integrated into state security bodies and private security companies.3
Clandestine and otherwise illegal security groups were active in many parts of the country. In many instances their activities were indistinguishable from organized crime, but some also functioned much like counterinsurgency forces did during the conflict and were implicated in politically-motivated crimes, such as “social cleansing” operations. Some also enjoyed tolerance or participatory support by State agents.4
MINUGUA conducted more investigations into illegal security groups, finding several cases of forces explicitly linked to public officials and other evidence that these groups receive support from Government agents and/or have ties to former CVDC (such as the use of heavy weaponry and sophisticated communication technology). The general lack of law and order in the country gave illegal security groups a pretext continuing their activities unabated.5
- 5. “Tenth Report on Human Rights of the United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala,” United Nations General Assembly (A/54/688), December 21, 1999.
Illegal security forces and clandestine armed groups remained active in the country, with very little Government action to combat them. MINUGUA identified three types of illegal armed groups: (1) those linked to the PNC; (2) those operating at the behest of agro-industrial companies (which were particularly violent); and (3) those tied to military detachments, with local hired assassins carrying out the orders.6 Some demobilized PMA members formed the Association of Former PMA Members, which pressured the Government to give them more compensation. The modified agreement on the timetable for compliance with the Peace Agreements, which extended the ultimate deadline to 2004, included provisions to give additional compensation to ex-PMA members in 2001.7
- 6. “Eleventh Report on Human Rights of the United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala,” United Nations General Assembly (A/55/174), July 26, 2000.
- 7. “Verification Report: Status of the Commitments of the Peace Agreements Relating to the Armed Forces,” United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA), May 2002.
MINUGUA confirmed that former members of the abolished CVDCs, working with municipal authorities, were mainly responsible for the wave of lynchings across the country.8 The Presidential Unit for the Resolution of Conflicts spearheaded negotiations with the Association of Former PMA Members, the outcome of which was increased educational and training opportunities for ex-PMA members.9 The President admitted that clandestine armed groups and organized crime gangs had penetrated the Ministry of the Interior.10
- 8. “Twelfth Report on Human Rights of the United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala,” United Nations General Assembly (A/56/273), August 8, 2001.
- 9. “Verification Report: Status of the Commitments of the Peace Agreements Relating to the Armed Forces,” United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA), May 2002.
- 10. “Thirteenth Report on Human Rights of the United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala,” United Nations General Assembly (A/57/336), August 22, 2002.
The programs for ex-PMA members served 135 persons and concluded in March 2002.11 Former CVDC members protested to demand compensation for their service to the military during the armed conflict, and the Government made preparations to do so (while it made no moves at all to compensate the victims of the egregious crimes carried out by the CVDCs).12
The President's Strategic Analysis Secretariat publicized its plans to root out illegal armed groups from government organs. The Office of the Public Prosecutor and MINUGUA were involved in investigations as well.13
- 11. “Verification Report: Status of the Commitments of the Peace Agreements Relating to the Armed Forces,” United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA), May 2002.
- 12. “Thirteenth Report on Human Rights of the United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala,” United Nations General Assembly (A/57/336), August 22, 2002.
- 13. Ibid.
The Government requested the help of the UN Secretary-General to create the Commission for the Investigation of Illegal Groups and Clandestine Security Operations (CICIACS).14
- 14. “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.
The Constitutional Court overturned legislation passed by Congress that would award 114 million US dollars to 500,000 former members of the paramilitary “civil defense patrols” (PACs).15
- 15. “Guatemala,” Keesing's Record of World Events Volume 50 (December 2004): 46361.
The Constitutional Court reiterated its reversal of Congress's decision to give compensation to former PAC members. The former PAC members threatened mass protests but never followed through.16
- 16. Ibid., 46458.
Congress approved the creation of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) on August 1. With support from the UN and international experts, CICIG was designed to investigate and eliminate illegal armed groups. This move came in the context of widespread political violence since the election campaign season began in May 2007.17
- 17. “Approval of UN-backed commission – Pre-election Violence,” Keesing's Record of World Events Volume 53 (August 2007): 48074.