ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

Back to Paper Details

Reparations at risk in Guatemala: the complexities of victim and civil society participation in uncertain times

Civil Society
Democracy
Human Rights
Latin America
Social Movements
NGOs
Activism
Transitional justice
Gretel Mejía Bonifazi
Ghent University
Gretel Mejía Bonifazi
Ghent University

Abstract

In July 2020, the Guatemalan government issued several decrees that closed down key institutions created to comply with the Peace Accords signed in 1996. One of the decrees permanently closed the Peace Secretariat (SEPAZ), an institution tasked with managing the National Reparations Program, and transfers it to the Ministry of Social Development. These decisions are the latest in a series of actions taken by previous administrations to dismantle the reparations program, which includes budget cuts, understaffing, and substantial changes to its mandate. As a result, the reparations program has proven ineffective in meeting victims’ needs. The government took these decisions amid the mobility restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and without consulting victims and civil society. However, even in a context where old and new challenges converge, victims’ groups have mobilized to counter these setbacks, for example through advocacy efforts and filing legal actions before the Constitutional Court. Based on my experience drafting an amicus curiae brief that supported one of the legal actions, and interviews with victims and members of civil society, this paper discusses the implications of these decisions on victims’ rights, and on the continuity of the transitional justice process in Guatemala. It also addresses debates on how to achieve meaningful victim participation and analyzes these in light of the current health crisis and growing threats to the peace and human rights agenda.