Constitutional Provisions

Article 3 of the 1985 Constitution of Guatemala (as amended) provides that: "The State guarantees and protects the human life from its conception, as well as the integrity and security of the person." Article 19 prohibits torture and other forms of cruel treatment, but only in custodial settings. 

Article 33 on the Right of Assembly and Demonstration provides as follows:

The right of peaceful assembly and without weapons is recognized.

The rights of assembly and of public demonstration may not be restricted, diminished, or restrained; and the law shall regulate them with the sole purpose of guaranteeing the public order.

The religious manifestations outside of temples are permitted and are regulated by the law.

For the exercise of these rights a prior notification by the organizers before the competent authority will suffice.

The Constitution does not address police use of force. 

Treaty Adherence

Global Treaties

Adherence to Selected Human Rights Treaties
1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) State Party
ICCPR Optional Protocol 1 State Party
1984 Convention against Torture (CAT) State Party
Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints Yes
CAT Optional Protocol 1 State Party
Adherence to International Criminal Law Treaties
1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court State Party

Regional Treaties

Adherence to Regional Human Rights Treaties
1948 Charter of the Organization of American States State Party
1969 Inter-American Convention on Human Rights State Party
Competence of Inter-American Court on Human Rights Yes

National Legislation

Police Use of Force

The National Civilian Police (PNC) is the primary law enforcement agency in Guatemala although the military are also involved in law enforcement tasks. In its report published in March 2018 (discussed below), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights called for the army to be no longer engaged in law enforcement.

The 1997 Law on the National Civilian Police provides that the PNC is a professional armed institution but it does not lay down rules governing the use of force. According to the PNC Disciplinary Regulations, negligence or lack of care in the use of firearms is a serious disciplinary offence.

The Public Order Act exceptionally allows the authorities to disperse using force an unauthorised assembly.

Police Oversight

There is no independent civilian police oversight body in Guatemala, although a human rights ombudsman (defensor del pueblo) exists.



Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies

In its 2018 Concluding Observations on Guatemala, the Human Rights Committee expressed its concern 

about the fact that complaints of police abuse that may amount to torture are addressed by means of disciplinary measures.

In its 2018 Concluding Observations on Guatemala, the Committee against Torture reiterated its concern

regarding allegations of torture and ill-treatment from credible sources, which include asphyxiation with bags impregnated with pepper spray and electric shocks, mainly delivered by police officers, and sexual harassment and violence during detention and within other places of deprivation of liberty.

The Committee called on Guatemala to: "Promote a structural reform of the National Civil Police, including the review of internal investigation mechanisms, in order to increase its effectiveness and ensure its total institutional and hierarchical independence from the persons investigated".


Ruiz Fuentes v. Guatemala (2019)

This case concerned alleged torture and later summary execution by State agents.  

IACHR Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Guatemala

In March 2018, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) released a report on the situation of human rights in Guatemala. The IACHR criticises police violence during protests, including the use of live ammunition, rubber bullets, and tear gas during certain demonstrations. The Commission stated that

police operations organized in the context of protests should be guided, as a general rule, to guarantee the exercise of this right and the protection of protesters and third parties present. In this sense, the Commission has considered that the mere deconcentration of a demonstration does not constitute, in itself, a legitimate end that justifies the use of force by the security forces.

The IACHR has continued to underscore 

the importance for the armed forces to be removed from internal security duties, because the Army and the police are substantively different institutions insofar as the purposes for which they were created and their training and preparation are concerned. Additionally, each entity is legally empowered to fulfill two entirely different duties under their respective jurisdictions

The use of police stations as permanent detention facilities and of military bases to house persons deprived of liberty indefinitely constitutes a special situation of concern to the IACHR. 


1985 Constitution of Guatemala (as amended) (English translation)

Constitución Política de la República de Guatemala

Codigo penal de Guatemala

Ley de Orden Publico

1997 Law on the National Civilian Police

Human Rights Committee Concluding Observations on Guatemala (2018)

Committee against Torture Concluding Observations on Guatemala (2018)

Ruiz Fuentes v. Guatemala (2019)

IACHR Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Guatemala (2018)