Editing Office - UN Geneva News
GENEVA (14 January 2019) – Ahead of the demonstrations expected in several Guatemalan cities today and tomorrow, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Monday urged the Guatemalan Government to guarantee freedom of expression and opinion, and the right to peaceful assembly and association
"Freedom of expression, without fear of reprisals and intimidation, is the backbone of democracy," Bachelet said. "A culture of human rights and peace is strengthened when diverse social groups can express themselves in the public space and freely exercise their rights." The demonstrations have been organized by various sectors of civil society to protest on a variety of issues including the Government's decision to unilaterally terminate the agreement with the UN on the establishment and work of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). The High Commissioner also expressed great concern about the apparent further erosion of various State institutions, including the recent attacks on the independence of the Constitutional Court. "I would also like to stress that it is essential to guarantee the rule of law, judicial independence and impartiality and respect for democratic institutions, particularly the Constitutional Court, the judiciary, the National Human Rights Institution, the Public Prosecutor's Office and the Electoral Tribunal," the High Commissioner said. The UN Human Rights Chief stressed that these institutions and their officials play a crucial role in respecting and guaranteeing human rights, the rule of law and democracy. "The proper exercise of their functions is fundamental in the current context and for the general elections to be held in the coming months. Respect for their safety and their physical integrity, as well as that of their families, must be guaranteed by the State of Guatemala in compliance with its international human rights obligations," she said. The High Commissioner said she and her Office in Guatemala are ready to continue to support the State authorities in fulfilling their international human rights obligations and commitments.