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Guatemala failing its murdered women: report

Hundreds of murder cases involving Guatemalan women remain unsolved due to a lack of action, according to a scathing report released Tuesday by Amnesty International.

Hundreds of murder cases involving Guatemalan women remain unsolved due to a lack of action and resolve on the part of police and authorities, according to a scathing report released Tuesday by Amnesty International.

The report, titled Guatemala: No protection, no justice: Killings of women, follows a similar one from 2005 that urged authorities in the Central American country to protect the rights of women.

Nearly 70 per cent of murders of women in Guatemala are not investigated, with no arrests made in 97 per cent of cases in recent years, according to Amnesty's latest report.

The number of females killed has increased every year since the turn of the century, it says. Amnesty cites police statistics that indicate 299 women have been reported killed in the first five months of this year.

Amnesty said it was aware of just two convictions out of 665 murder cases involving women in 2005. Guatemala has a population of 14 million.

“Women’s murder rate in Guatemala is on the rise because there is no reason for the murderers to stop: they know that they will get away with it,” said Sebastian Elgueta, Amnesty International's researcher on Guatemala.

Murder remains unsolved

The reportgives the details ofseveral unsolved murders, including the shooting death of 26-year-old Clara Fabiola García.

Garcia was killed after giving testimony that helped secure a conviction against a gang member in the murders of two teenage girls. Despite the defendant threatening her in court, no one has been charged with Garcia's murder.

Police corruption, the presence of gangs and drugs, and a culture of machismo and family violence have been cited as contributing factors.

In an earlier report, Amnestysaid the lawlessness of a decades-long civil war and genocideare factors contributing to the lack of effective police action.

Just last week, arrest warrants were issued by a judge in Spain for several former Guatemalan military and police officials in connection with the deaths and disappearances of tens of thousands of people between 1960 and 1996.

A brutality to women's murders

But Carla Villagran, with the office of Guatemala's human rights ombudsman, said the killings of women have a brutality not seen in the deaths of men.

"It's more personal," said Villagran. "It implicates abuse, sexual abuse also, mutilations."

Potential blood and DNA evidence are rarely collected when a women is murdered, according to Amnesty's report. In many cases, clothing worn by victimsare given back to families by police without having ever been tested.

As well, the period of time before police consider a person missing is 72 hours.

Amnesty has several recommendations in its report, includingmore resources and trainingfor police personnel, better co-ordinationbetween agencies, andstronger protections for witnesses and family members.