Washington College of Law|
Center For Human Rights and Humanitarian Law
RESOLUTION No 15/84
Cases Nos. 8094, 9038 and 9080 (GUATEMALA)
October 3, 1984
- On September 17, 1982, the following persons were executed
by firing squad in Guatemala, in compliance with a sentence passed
by the Courts of Special Jurisdiction: Marcelino Marroquín, Julio
Hernández Perdomo, Jaime de la Rosa Rodríguez and Julio César
- A second execution by firing squad was carried out on March
3, 1983 at the orders of the abovementioned Courts of Special
Jurisdiction, as a result of which the following persons were killed:
Walter Vinicio Marroquín González, Sergio Roberto Marroquín
Héctor Haroldo Morales L¢pez, Marco Antonio González, Carlos Subuyug
Cuc and Pedro Raxon Tepet.
- On the 22nd day of that same month of March, 1983, the
third execution ordered by said Courts of Special Jurisdiction took
place, killing the following persons: Mario Ramiro Martínez
González, Rony Alfredo Martínez González, Otto Virula Ayala,
Enrique Velásquez Gutierrez and Julio César Herrera Cardona.
- The abovementioned executions took place despite repeated
requests for the suspension and commutation of the death sentence
duly presented by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to
the Government of Guatemala well in advance of same, invoking,
besides humanitarian concerns, the following reasons:
- The lack of guarantees to which the accused were subjected,
a fact that the members of the Commission were personally able to
verify through examination of dossiers of said Courts of Special
Jurisdiction and interviews conducted with some of the detainees
subjected to such proceedings, during the visit in loco they made to
- The innumerable procedural nullities incurred in by the
courts entrusted with such trials, which ranged from a lacks of the
necessary independence and impartiality essential to an organ in
charge of administering justice, to the refusal to grant the
defendants, in the course of their trials, adequate means to prepare
their defense, denying them the right to be duly assisted by a
defense counsel of their choice, the right to communicate freely and
privately with same, to interrogate witnesses or experts and, in many
proven cases, compelling them to declare themselves guilty and
incriminate themselves; they were also denied the right to appeal,
at least in the first trials. They were likewise refused the right
to a public trial and, on the contrary, were subjected to
inquisitorial trials of a secret nature.
- The inapplicability of the death sentence in Guatemala to
persons being tried for crimes that at the time of Guatemala's
ratification of the American Convention on Human Rights were not
punishable by death.
- The thesis of the Government of Guatemala, under the
administration of General Efra§n R§os Montt, that it has the power
to enact laws on the death penalty subsequent to the entry into force
American Convention, to which Guatemala is a Party, and, thus, to
apply the death penalty on the grounds that it made a reservation to
Article 4 paragraph 4 of said Convention, which refers to political
offenses or related common crimes, already contested by the
Commission at the time, was conclusively rejected by the
Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the judicial organ which has
been asked to render an opinion. The unanimous opinion of the Court,
dated September 8, 1983, was as follows:
That the Convention imposes an absolute prohibition on the
extension of the death penalty and that, consequently, the
Government of a State Party cannot apply the death penalty to
crimes for which such a penalty was not previously provided for
under its domestic law, and
That a reservation restricted by its own wording to Article 4
(4) of the Convention does not allow the Government of a State
Party to extend by subsequent legislation the application of the
death penalty to crimes for which this penalty was not
- Although it is true that such Courts were abolished when
General Ríos Montt was overthrown and a full pardon was granted to
all those persons who had been condemned by them and had received
appealable sentences that they were in the process of serving--which
is indeed an important step towards the improvement of the
administration of justice in Guatemala--this in no way makes up for
the grave and irreparable harm caused to those who were executed.
- The deplorable circumstances of these acts justify
consideration of ways of compensating and making reparation for the
irreparable damages caused to the victims and their families.
- None of these cases present any of the conditions of
inadmissibility established by the American Convention on Human
THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS,
- To declare that the establishment of Courts of Special
Jurisdiction in Guatemala and all manner of secret tribunals lacking
independence, autonomy and discretion are contrary to the universally
accepted rules of due process and violate the provisions established
to this end by the American Convention on Human Rights.
- To declare that the actions brought before the Courts of
Special Jurisdiction are arbitrary and lack the minimal legal
- To observe that the sentences passed by such Courts are
invalid and lacking in juridical content and legal effect because
they are not duly based on a verification of the facts, because they impose
penalties that are inapplicable and because they come from judges who
are incapable of conducting a fair trial.
- To condemn the executions carried out in compliance with
the sentences passed by such Courts of Special Jurisdiction as being
acts contrary to justice and law which violate the right to life.
- To recommend just reparation for the relatives of the
victims of such executions.
- To recommend that those persons who have been tried but not
sentenced by such Courts and are still being held, be immediately set
free or else be brought before a competent court to face trial.
- To urge the Government of Guatemala to comply with the
repeated recommendation that it inform the relatives of the victims
of executions ordered by the Courts of Special Tribunals of the exact
place where the bodies of those persons were buried.
- To transmit this Resolution to the Government of the
Republic of Guatemala.
- To include this Resolution in the Annual Report to the
General Assembly of the Organization of American States if the
Government of Guatemala does not implement the above recommendations.