Guatemala: Indigenous women celebrate historic ruling on war-time sexual violence
Guatemala's highest court has sentenced five former paramilitaries to 30 years in prison for raping indigenous Maya Achi women during the country's civil war in the 1980s. The case shows the incredible courage and perseverance of the women victims in the face of years of legal obstacles and racial discrimination.
Syrian war criminal jailing “bittersweet” for victims, survivors and families
The guilty verdict for former Syrian intelligence officer Anwar Raslan on 13 January 2022 sends an important message that perpetrators of war crimes will not escape accountability. But as thousands in Syria remain missing and behind bars, this important conviction is just a first step on the long and arduous path toward justice
Guatemala: The Maya Achi women’s struggle for justice
Sexual violence was used widely as a weapon of war in Guatemala's 36-year armed conflict. The Army and the civil self-defence patrols, known as PACs, were the main perpetrators of these crimes. Our new report documents the long road to justice of the Maya indigenous women and girls who experienced sexual violence in the war, and continue to face discrimination, racism and re-victimisation.
INOVAS: Victims and survivors launch global collective for solidarity
Victims and survivors from 10 countries launched the International Network of Victims and Survivors of Serious Human Rights Abuses (INOVAS) in a virtual public event on 8 December 2021, marking a historic step for victim-led struggles for justice and accountability around the world.
Victims and survivors mark 25 years of the signing of the Guatemala peace accords
To mark 25 years since the signing of the peace accords in Guatemala, Impunity Watch and the Platform for Victims of the Internal Armed Conflict have spoken to victims and survivors of the conflict on compliance with the accords. The root causes of the armed conflict have not been addressed, and there are concerns about the recent increase in militarisation and attacks on human rights defenders in Guatemala.
Preventing recurrence: Policy alternatives for transitional justice in the Western Balkans
Dealing with the legacy of the past is still highly relevant in the Western Balkans today. Following the conflict in the 1990s, transitional justice efforts have so far failed to live up to the promise of ‘never again’. Our new report aims to assist policymakers in widening the space for arguments around transitional justice, to give it direction by providing ideas for an alternative framework that links transitional justice to the prevention of recurrence of violence.
DRC: Young people speak up on transitional justice
Young people voiced their views on transitional justice in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the wider African continent in a roundtable in Goma on 14-16 December, with the aim of influencing provincial, national and continental policy on the issue. With about 70% of the African population under the age of 30, young people must have a central role to play in transitional justice processes.
End of year message from our Executive Director Marlies Stappers
As 2021 comes to an end, I want to take a moment to thank you for all your support and solidarity. This year has once again been a challenging one in our struggle for peace, justice and the rule of law. As the world continues to grapple with Covid-19 and other crises, we have seen inequalities widen, social justice undermined and hard-won rights scaled back. This is why I am so grateful for the efforts of the many grassroots activists who are working tirelessly to unearth injustices and show us how democracy should be done. They give us hope, even in the midst of crisis.
Malicious Lawsuits Targeting Iraq's Post-2019 Tishreen Protest Movement - A Policy Brief.
After the outbreak of major protests in Iraq in October 2019, security officers, armed groups, political figures, officials, and members of the judiciary used malicious lawsuits to target participants in the protest movement. These lawsuits have been quite deliberately filed in bad faith with the aim of halting human rights work and activism, critical journalism, or street organising. This policy brief finds that violations define each step of these malicious prosecutions and assesses how they impact young Iraqis’ lives afterwards, before making recommendations to address the issue.
An adapted version of a longer Arabic-language report originally published by the Iraqi research team ‘Think of Others’ (Fakr bi‘Gheyrak), this policy brief is reproduced here in Arabic for the first time in collaboration with Impunity Watch.
The policy brief is available in both English and Arabic.
Lessons Learned From Armed Conflicts In Colombia And Guatemala To Prevent Violence Against Girls And Women - policy brief
Through this policy brief, Impunity Watch analyzes the lessons learned from the experiences of the armed conflicts in Colombia and Guatemala for the prevention of sexual violence and violence against women. It examines the measures implemented by the states and civil society to identify good practices of policies and measures to prevent sexual violence and violence against girls in post-conflict countries, based on the experiences of both countries. These can contribute to the design and implementation of measures to prevent sexual violence. This publication is part of the Americas Regional Initiative for Global Action Against Mass Atrocities Crimes - GAAMAC, led by Impunity Watch in coordination with Humanas Colombia.
The policy brief is available in both English and Spanish.
Guidelines on Transformative Reparations For Survivors of Sexual Violence - A Research Report.
This research report by Impunity Watch was originally produced in 2019 in both English and Spanish. We launch it today in Arabic as well.
The research analyses the international standards with regard to reparations for survivors of sexual violence and serious human rights violations committed during internal armed conflicts. It is primarily addressed to justice operators and prosecutors in legal proceedings. It provides key elements for the design and implementation of transformative reparation measures in cases of sexual violence during armed conflict.
Europe Must Not Abandon Central America In Battle Against Corruption, Crime, Impunity - A Press Release.
The Hague, 11 October 2021: Collective European action is urgently needed to help Central American countries like Guatemala tackle growing impunity, corruption and organised transnational crime, prominent Guatemalan justice activists have said.
The four activists, exiled from Guatemala for their anti-corruption work, are currently meeting European politicians from The Hague, Brussels and Geneva (11-15 October), amidst high-profile cases of expulsions of activists from Guatemalan justice institutions.
NEW ATTEMPT TO GRANT AMNESTY IN GUATEMALA: ANALYSIS OF BILL 5920 - Policy Brief.
In this policy brief we analyze Bill 5920, which proposes a general amnesty for all crimes committed during the internal armed conflict (1960-1996) in Guatemala. On June 8, 2021, the legislative initiative was introduced by representatives of the Valor party of Zury Rios, the daughter of former dictator Rios Montt.
Based on a series of false premises about international law, the bill contravenes the Constitution and international human rights treaties ratified by Guatemala. The bill’s approval represents an imminent danger to the right to justice of victims and survivors of the armed conflict, and would be considered in contempt of the judgments of the Constitutional Court and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
Celebrating World Mental Health Day 2021 By An Interview With Our Team in Burundi Working on Providing MHPSS Support to Conflict Affected Victims.
World Mental Health Day is celebrated every year on October 10, the day is aimed at raising awareness about mental health. This year, Impunity Watch is celebrating the occasion by interviewing our team and implementing partners in Burundi.
An eye-opener interview with our colleague at Impunity Watch Burundi, Project Lead Véra Khelita Mutoni, and Psychologist & Programme Manager Alexis Hatungimana from THARS-Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Services. The interview tackles “Akariho Karavugwa” project which aims to contribute to the reconstruction of the social fabric and to inclusive processes of dealing with the past in Burundi, with a view to strengthening social cohesion. The project is supported by the Belgium government through Impunity Watch and implemented by 3 local organisations: THARS, MIPAREC and DUSHIREHAMWE.
Networking and Victims' Rights Workshops With Partners in Iraq.
In September 2021 and in collaboration with our partners, Impunity Watch resumed face to face workshops in Iraq.
A networking workshop was held in Sulaymaniyah for new Iraqi partners, which aimed at exchanging information about their projects and the challenges facing implementation. Another workshop was held in collaboration with the Iraqi Alamal Association, which aimed at exploring inclusive approaches to memorialisation in Iraq as a means of preventing future violations.
Threats to the Rule of Law in Guatemala Are Getting Serious.
This year, which marks the 25th anniversary of the peace accords that ended decades of civil war in Guatemala, should have been a cause for celebration. Instead, the country is roiled by protests – the largest and most widespread since 2015 – as tens of thousands demand accountability from their government.
Guatemala’s attempts to prosecute corruption and combat impunity may be at risk after the dismissal of a respected prosecutor who was investigating allegations against several government officials, including the president, Alejandro Giammattei.
Guatemala: International Organizations Reject the Removal of Prosecutor Juan Francisco Sandoval from Office.
Impunity Watch joins international condemnation of the dismissal of Guatemala's anti-corruption Prosecutor Juan Francisco Sandoval. On 23 July 2021, in a surprising and arbitrary maneuver, Attorney General Consuelo Porras dismissed the Prosecutor investigating the country’s most important corruption cases; a harsh setback for the justice system and the fight against impunity in the country. We join other organizations that promote human rights in Guatemala in condemning this arbitrary act and calling for the reinstatement of Prosecutor Sandoval. The joint statement is available in English and Spanish.
“Kuvuga Akahise” : Let’s Talk About Our History, a Project About Dealing With the Past in Burundi.
70 young “Peace Brokers” from Muyinga, Burundi were trained on July 13 and 14, 2021 on pedagogical tools designed for use at the community level to advance constructive discussions about past violence, transmission of memories and dealing with the past, using the “I MOSO” book they wrote.
“I MOSO” is a memory book and a compilation of community histories that was researched by 140 youth peer researchers from Muyinga, Bujumbura Rural and Cibitoke. The youth underwent extensive trainings by Impunity Watch on the basics of research including different ethics and methods and were supported to design their own research approaches.
Joint Letter to the Human Rights Council calling for an International Investigative Mission into the Beirut Blast.
Impunity Watch has joined a coalition of 145 Lebanese and international organizations, survivors, and families calling on member states at the United Nation Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to establish an international, independent, and impartial investigative mission into the Beirut port explosion of August 4, 2020.
The absence of accountability illustrates the larger culture of impunity Lebanese officials and those responsible for serious human rights abuses have long enjoyed in Lebanon. It is time for the Human Rights Council to step in, heeding the calls of the families of the victims and the Lebanese people for accountability, the rule of law, and protection of human rights.
Eleven Former Members of the Military Arrested for Crimes against Humanity in the Death Squad Diary Case.
On May 27, 2021, the human rights unit of the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the National Civil Police in Guatemala unexpectedly arrested 11 former members of the military charged with forced disappearance and crimes against humanity committed against 183 people that appear in the military intelligence document known as the Death Squad Diary. The Human Rights Prosecutor’s Office has accused them of forced disappearance, torture, sexual violence, murder, and crimes against humanity. The recent arrests offer important hope to the families of the victims who over the years have never stopped searching for the remains of their loved ones.
Attacks Against Women Justice Defenders Threaten Rule of law in Guatemala.
The latest attacks on the independence of justice and rule of law in Guatemala are driving the country rapidly towards lawlessness. These attacks have serious impacts on the situation of human rights in the country and are undermining the role of civil society in the fight against corruption and impunity. In Guatemala it are predominantly courageous women who fight for independence in the justice system. But they pay a high price for their courage. Already four high profile women justice operators were forced to leave the country as a result of criminalisation. The International Community needs to make a strong stance against these developments and do more to protect justice and human rights defenders.
STRATEGIC LITIGATION IN CASES OF GROSS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN GUATEMALA: IMPACT AND LESSONS LEARNED. Policy Brief.
In this policy brief we analyze the lessons learned from the strategic litigation of emblematic cases of gross human rights violations in Guatemala. The case of genocide against the Maya Ixil people, the case of sexual violence and sexual slavery against the women of the Sepur Zarco community, and the case of crimes against humanity suffered by the Molina Theissen family are especially examined. In the document we explain the objectives and components of strategic litigation and the central role of victims throughout the entire process.
Impunity Watch Holds Two National Forums on Democracy, Rule of Law and Good Governance in Burundi.
Impunity Watch organised two national forums bringing together national-level policymakers in a roundtable format to discuss recommendations and priorities on key themes of democracy, rule of law, and good governance. These forums follow a series of community dialogues, communal forums and provincial forums, all facilitated by a group of thirty young people (‘Artisans de paix’/ Peace Brokers) and thirty women leaders who have been trained on different aspects of civic education, democracy and rule of law.
Attacks Against the Former President of the Constitutional Court of Guatemala.
The Hague, 22 April 2021. Impunity Watch expresses its profound concern over recent developments in Guatemala, which threaten judicial independence and seriously undermine the Rule of Law in the country. On 13 April, Congress refused to swear in judge Gloria Porras for a new five-year term as magistrate of the Constitutional Court, despite being legitimately elected by the University of San Carlos to occupy that position. Porras had served as a magistrate for ten years and was the Court’s president since last year. She is widely known for her independence and commitment to combating impunity and corruption through her decisions.
Impunity Watch receives a €1 million grant from the Dutch Postcode Lottery
The Hague, 09 April 2021, Impunity Watch has been awarded a €1 million grant from the Dutch Postcode Lottery strengthen the cause of justice for victims of human rights violations by building resilience, solidarity, and strong movements for justice through which victims can voice their needs and demands more effectively. Support for victims and survivors is imperative, particularly at a time when human rights activists face new and unprecedented challenges, including the shrinking of space for civil society as well as the impact and repercussions of a global pandemic.
End of year message from our Executive Director Marlies Stappers
As we come close to the end of 2020, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your hard work over the past year and for your commitment to global human rights and social justice. 2020 has been an unusually challenging year for all of us whereby we had to face and adapt to the new reality imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has shown us that such crises do not only affect everyone’s health and security, but also pose a direct risk of increased social injustice and inequality on a global scale; disproportionally subjecting vulnerable and marginalised groups to abuse.
Impunity Watch & partners hold virtual roundtables on sexual and gender-based violence in Iraq.
Impunity Watch releases new policy brief on the relevance of historical archives for truth and justice in Guatemala.
Fifteen years ago, the Historical Archive of the National Police of Guatemala was accidentally discovered. This documentary collection of more than 80 million pages contains relevant information for the clarification of gross human rights violations that occurred in Guatemala during the internal armed conflict (1960-1996) and has served as documentary evidence in several trials against military and police authorities. In this context, Impunity Watch produced a policy brief in which we analyse the importance of military, police and judicial archives for clarifying the truth and guaranteeing the right of victims to justice.
Impunity Watch launches new film on women’s political participation in Burundi.
Marking the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, our team in Burundi launched a mini film-documentary during a public event in Bujumbura on 6 November 2020.
The film follows six Burundi women – Isidora, Scholastique, Calinie, Venantie, Donate, and Jeanne – as they explain how, with the support of Association Dushirehamwe and Impunity Watch, they have broken down barriers and are setting examples for women and girls across Burundi.
Podcast | Militarised Masculinities and Sustaining Peace: Lessons from the Ground.
Impunity Watch and the Master programme in Transitional Justice of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights present this podcast on militarised masculinities and its impact on peace. The topic of militarised masculinities, which refers to an idea of a certain “maleness” that is violent, has received little attention although it is central to elites’ strategies to stay in power. This podcast, hosted by Thomas Unger, provides space for an in-depth debate around this neglected topic with leading expert Brandon Hamber from Northern Ireland and human rights activist Brisna Caxaj from Guatemala.
Shutting down peace institutions in Guatemala puts at risk stability, peace, and victims’ rights: Policy Brief
After more than 20 years since the signing of the peace agreements that ended Guatemala’s internal armed conflict (1960-1996), the Government is seeking to put an end to the institutions in charge of the fulfilment of the Peace Accords and the country’s international human rights obligations. With these dispositions, the Government seeks to omit its obligations with the peace agenda and the rights of the victims of the internal armed conflict.
Impunity Watch launches report examining the implementation of UNSCR 1325 in Guatemala
On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on Women Peace and Security, Impunity Watch launched, on 20 October 2020, a new report examining the resolution’s implementation in Guatemala. The report analyses the progress made and the obstacles facing the implementation of the Resolution’s four pillars: participation, protection, prevention, and relief and recovery. Full report is available in Spanish; summary in English and Spanish.
Policy Brief: End impunity for violations against Iraqi protest movement
On the first anniversary of the Iraqi protest movement, 12 Iraqi organizations along with Impunity Watch and PAX call for accountability for violations against demonstrators and activists and for weapons to be brought under state control in order to safeguard the integrity of early elections in 2021, in a joint policy brief. The policy brief is available in Arabic and English.
Maya Achi women continue their fight for justice; intermediate phase hearings to begin on 24 September
Maya Achi women survivors of sexual violence have been waiting for justice to move forward. Six former patrollers were previously accused and detained in this case for crimes against humanity; however, in 2019 the judge declared the provisional closure in favour of three defendants and the dismissal of the other three and released the six. A new judge has was appointed and another former patroller, Francisco Cuxum was accused and has been detained. The intermediate phase hearings in the case against Cuxum will begin on 24 September 2020. At the end of this phase, the judge will decide if Cuxum must face trial.
Impunity Watch submits amicus curiae to the Guatemalan Constitutional Court
Impunity Watch submitted to the Guatemalan Constitutional Court an amicus curiae on the international human rights standards that prohibit granting amnesty for gross human rights violations. During the last week of July 2020, the Constitutional Court will be ruling on the bill 5377 that seeks to grant a general amnesty for all the crimes committed during Guatemala’s internal armed conflict.
Impunity Watch trains Burundian civil society organisations on leading local efforts to ensure the non-recurrence of violence
Impunity Watch organised a series of training for representatives of 19 Burundian civil organisations working in the field of transitional justice from 16-30 June 2020 in the three provinces of Bujumbura Rural, Cibitoke, and Muyinga. The trainings focused on building the capacity of civil society organisations to lead efforts aimed at ensuring the non-recurrence of violence.
Sexual and Gender Based Violence in Iraq 2013-2018: A Mapping Report
Impunity Watch, Iraqi Al-Amal Association and PAX jointly released on 20 July 2020 a new mapping report on: “Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Iraq 2003-2018” – available in Arabic and English. The report coincides with a national campaign which was launched by Iraqi civil society activists and calls for new legislation that protects women from domestic violence. The Executive summary of the report is available in Arabic and English.
Syrian victims and survivors demand truth and justice at Brussels IV
Syrian victims and survivors of enforced disappearance, kidnapping, arbitrary detention, and forced displacement by the Assad regime, ISIS and other parties to the ongoing conflict demanded truth, justice and redress during an online side event held on 23 June on the margins of the Brussels IV conference Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region. The event was convened by six Syrian victim and survivor-led organisations that have been demanding truth and justice for the crimes that continue to affect their lives.
I fought back and survived
In an effort to break the ‘culture of silence’ and destigmatise victims, Impunity Watch and Iraqi Al-Amal Association created this booklet of survivors’ stories to highlight the sexual and gender-based violence that took place in Iraq during 2003-2018, and that is still ongoing in many parts of the country. The booklet, available in Arabic and English, is based on the testimonies and experiences of Iraqi women, collected by women activists from five Iraqi regions (Baghdad, Basra, Kirkuk, Salah ad-Din and Sinjar). These activists attended trainings by Impunity Watch and Iraqi Al-Amal Association on specific skills to ensure that they conducted these interviews in accordance with the appropriate ethical and humanitarian standards.
Appointing indigenous women in Guatemala’s judiciary enhances access to justice for women victims and helps protect human rights
Impunity Watch, the Alliance of women and indigenous women for access to justice in Guatemala, (AMMI), the Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF) and the Washington Office for Latin American Affairs (WOLA) hosted a webinar on 11 June 2020 via Zoom to discuss the participation of women in the upcoming appointments at the Appeals and Supreme Courts in Guatemala. The webinar contributed to the debate on the role of women and indigenous women in justice, and called for their appointment in these courts.
Online Debate: Coronavirus in Latin America: Implications for Dutch relations with the region
Co-Organisers: Impunity Watch, Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD), CNV International, and CEDLA
Speakers: Achraf Bouali, Barbara Hogenboom, Marit Maij, Marijke Zewuster, and Joost de Vries.
Date: Thursday 4 June 2020 | Time: 16.00 (CEST)
Spoken Language: Dutch
Photo by: Rafael Urdaneta Rojas/ Pixabay
Impunity Watch and partners host webinar on the future of courts in Guatemala
Impunity Watch, Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF) and Alliance for Reforms hosted a webinar on the election process of Guatemala’s Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals on 13 May 2020. The webinar, which was attended by more than 150 participants, aimed to contribute to the national debate over this crucial process within the Guatemalan justice system.
Impunity Watch releases new policy brief on the impact of the report of the Commission for Historical Clarification on victims in Guatemala
Impunity Watch presents its most recent Policy Brief (in English and Spanish) on the impact of the report of the Commission for Historical Clarification on victims and survivors of Guatemala's internal armed conflict. Guatemala’s experience demonstrates the importance of victim participation in establishing facts. This Policy Brief also presents recommendations for the Guatemalan State urging it to revive its commitment to the Peace Accords and the findings of the aforementioned report.
COVID-19: Grassroots voices matter. Why we need an inclusive global response to the pandemic
A message from Impunity Watch Executive Director Marlies Stappers.
As the world struggles to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and its aftermath, civil society is no exception. Civil society organisations across the globe are relentlessly seeking and implementing new modalities to maximise the impact of their work while social distancing and travel bans govern our daily life.
Photo by Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash
Impunity Watch and partners develop a theory of change to support women, peace and security in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo
Impunity Watch co-organised with SOFEPADI and Association Dushirehamwe (Congolese and Burundian organisations respectively) a four-day workshop in Bujumbura from 24-28 February 2020 to develop a “theory of change” that will essentially provide them with a roadmap for supporting the Women, Peace and Security Agenda over the next five years.
Factsheet: Genocide case of the Ixil people during the Lucas García Military Dictatorship
A new criminal process began in October 2019 against three members of the Guatemalan military elite who were in their positions during the dictatorship of Romeo Lucas García (1978-1982). The military officers are charged with genocide, enforced disappearance and crimes against humanity against the Maya Ixil people of Guatemala. This factsheet (available in English and Spanish) provides more details on the case.
Policy Brief: Violations of Housing, Land, and Property Rights: An obstacle to Peace in Syria - What can International Policymakers do?
Impunity Watch and PAX released on 10 March 2020 a policy brief (in Arabic and English) which outlines the systematic undermining of Syrians’ housing, land and property (HLP) rights, mainly but not exclusively by the Assad regime. The latter has enacted since 2011 a raft of measures to consolidate its control by dispossessing groups or communities it considers a threat to its authority.
Reflections and Comparing Notes on the Occasion of International Women’s Day: A Civil Society Perspective
Op-Ed by Marlies Stappers and Thomas Unger.
Yesterday [8 March 2020], we were celebrating International Women’s Day. One day each year that gives us the opportunity to jointly reflect on equality and equal rights for women. Where do we stand? Where do we go?
Guatemala commemorates National Day for Dignification of Victims of the Internal Armed Conflict
On 25 February 2020, victim and human rights organisations in Guatemala commemorated the National Day of ‘Dignification’ of the Victims of the Internal Armed Conflict (1960-1996) and honoured the memory of their loved ones who were killed and disappeared during the 36-year-old conflict.
Victims: Front and Centre
Victims, activists and policy-makers from different countries gathered in The Hague on 17 October 2019 to participate in the international conference Victims: Front and Centre, co-organised by Impunity Watch and REDRESS. Discussions focused on how to engage victims and ensure their meaningful and effective participation in transitional justice processes; particularly in the context of Guatemala and Uganda. Comparative experiences from, among others, Syria and Bosnia were also explored.