Press Release

IACHR Concerned about Excessive Use of Force by Police against LGBTI Persons in Guatemala

August 7, 2019

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is concerned about the possibility that excessive forced may have been used by the police in events that followed the LGBTI Pride Parade in Guatemala. The Commission urges the State to investigate those events, and to establish who may have been responsible for any wrongdoing.

Based on publicly available reports, the National Civilian Police (PNC, by its Spanish acronym) raided the facility known as Casa de la Cultura LGBTIQ 4 de Noviembre in Guatemala City in the early hours of July 21. Officers sought to end private celebrations to mark the 19th Parade for Sexual Diversity and Gender Identity, that brought together approximately 150 people. Police officers used pepper spray to end the party. They also blocked the exit, leaving at least 10 people injured. The PNC spokesperson argued that the police had allegedly received several complaints about noise and about non-compliance with Government Agreement 221–2004, which bans the sale, distribution, and consumption of alcoholic beverages between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m. The Commission was further informed that civil society organizations had filed complaints before the office of Guatemala’s Human Rights Prosecutor (PDH, by his Spanish acronym), in connection with this case and with other acts of alleged intimidation perpetrated at sites where LGBTI persons had gathered in Guatemala City.

The IACHR has repeatedly stressed that security operations aimed at restoring public order need to stick to clear protocols that guarantee adequate, gradual, and proportionate use of non-lethal weapons, and that they must seek to promote prior dialogue. The Commission has also repeatedly expressed its concern about cases of police abuse against LGBTI persons. The IACHR has found that the police and other security forces share the attitudes and prejudice against LGBTI persons that are prevalent more generally in Guatemalan society. The Commission is concerned that using tear gas at a site where more than 100 people were gathered may have been premature and disproportionate, based on prejudice and stereotypes against persons with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.

The IACHR admits that, while it is difficult to establish when acts of violence against LGBTI persons are motivated by prejudice, States must at least thoroughly investigate the causes of any violence, perpetrated by either private or State agents. The IACHR has also stressed the need for States to provide human rights training to officers in the police and other law-enforcement agencies. This training must consider the rights of persons with non-normative sexual orientations and gender identities. “Training police and other law-enforcement officers on matters concerning gender and sexual diversity is one of the most important aspects to eradicate violence based on prejudice against LGBTI persons,” said Commissioner Flávia Piovesan, IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of LGBTI Persons.

The Commission therefore urges the State of Guatemala to investigate these events impartially and without stereotypes concerning people with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. The IACHR also urges the State to act with due diligence to prevent, investigate, prosecute, and punish human rights violations perpetrated by State or private agents against LGBTI persons, and to provide reparations for such violations. The State of Guatemala should take comprehensive measures, including the adoption of specific protocols on the actions of public officials and officers in charge of the administration of justice.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 196/19