U.N. Aids Crime Crackdown in Guatemala.

The United Nations agreed to help Guatemala crack down on spiraling crime Wednesday, a move that gives the world body the authority for the first time to prosecute suspects under a nation's justice system.

The agreement establishes up a U.N.-appointed commission that will investigate criminal groups and clandestine security services, and prosecute suspects accused of attacking human rights activists, journalists or members of the judiciary.

Guatemala has suffered from spiraling crime, especially gang violence, since the end of its 36-year civil war in 1996. In October, the country disbanded a presidential security unit accused of murder and human rights abuses.

The country has also long been a transit point for shipping narcotics to Mexico and the United States. Guatemala's new president, Oscar Berger, has promised to stamp out corruption and reverse rising crime.

United Nations spokesman Fred Eckhard said the deal marks the first time that a member has given the United Nations the power to prosecute under its own national justice system. He called it ``unprecedented.''

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan will appoint the head of the commission. It will also have a staff of prosecutors and defense lawyers experienced in human rights and organized crime work.

The commission will also try to cut any ties between criminal groups and the state. It can prosecute on its own or ask Guatemalan authorities to do so. According to the agreement, it ``shall not accept or seek instructions from any government or any other source'' and must be given unhindered access to all of Guatemala, including prisons and military installations without prior notice.

Guatemala's parliament must now ratify the agreement. It will remain in force for two years and can be extended if Guatemala and the United Nations agree.

Guatemalan Foreign Minister Edgar Gutierrez signed the agreement with the U.N. deputy secretary-general for political affairs, Kieran Prendergast. The new commission is officially called the Commission for the Investigation of Illegal Groups and Clandestine Security Organizations in Guatemala.

Source: NY Times, NY, Usa, 07Jan04

DDHH in Guatemala

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