Impunity Watch in Guatemala

Impunity Watch originated in 2004 as a response to the calls from Guatemalan human rights groups for greater support in identifying the factors preventing their claims for redress after the civil war. The aim was to respond to these needs and to address the persistence of impunity for serious violations of human rights committed in the past, which prevent the establishment of democratic rule of law.


We began our work by applying our Research Instrument to produce a baseline study of impunity in association with a number of Guatemalan civil society organisations. In 2008, we released our first report "Recognizing the past: challenges to combat impunity in Guatemala."


In unison with this approach, the second strategy was characterised by the empowerment of survivors of the armed conflict and marginalised groups like women and indigenous peoples in order to strengthen local voices. The third strategy, lobby and advocacy brought forward and backed up the demands of victims organisations. This phase also included the periodic monitoring of progress and setbacks in the fight against impunity. The monitoring, carried out with the support of UNDP in Guatemala, produced the report "Hour of Truth?"as well as complementary thematic reports.


In order to establish an independent and capable democracy, which is respectful of human rights, the systems of power that have persisted after the conflict need to be dismantled. In Guatemala this is especially the case, as impunity affects the whole of society, particularly the most vulnerable groups of victims, women and indigenous peoples. For this reason, our office in Guatemala currently operates on three thematic fronts:


  • Victim Participation: prioritise strengthening the capacities of survivors and victims of the armed conflict at both a national and regional level to increase their ability to demand respect for their rights and participate effectively in transitional justice processes.

  • Gender: We promote a gender analysis and perspective in transitional justice. We bolster the participation of women in transitional justice processes and pay attention to the continuum of violence against women post-conflict.

  • Independent Judiciary: We aim to promote and enable the access of victims to justice, to strengthen the independence of the judiciary, and by doing so, empower victims and push forward cases, which are stuck in the judicial system.



Between 1962 and 1996, Guatemala experienced one the most violent and horrific armed conflicts in Latin American history. The scale of the violence and brutality, with thousands of human rights violations committed, has left deep wounds on the victims and survivors, as well as on Guatemalan society as a whole. Redress for these crimes is lacking and impunity persists.