The procedure for lodging a complaint with the police for crimes such as assault or attempted murder; whether there are procedures in place to lodge a complaint against the police for misconduct (June 2003) [GTM40963.E]

In telephone interviews of 11 and 12 June 2003 with the Research Directorate, a complaint officer (Oficial de Denuncia) of the Humans Rights Attorney (Procurador de los Derechos Humanos, PDH) stated that the procedure for lodging a complaint with the police after a crime is committed is an "easy" (facil) process (Guatemala). Once a crime is committed, the victim should seek a police officer or go to a police station (comisaria) to file a complaint (denuncia) (Guatemala 11 June 2003). The complaint can be filed orally or in written form, and it is preferable that the complainant present some identification although this is not imperative (ibid.). After the complaint is made, an investigation, according to the law, must begin within 24 hours, and depending on whether there is a case to be made, legal proceedings should be initiated within 30 days (ibid. 12 June 2003).

In a 12 June 2003 telephone interview, the Information, Documentation, and Program Coordinator for the Guatemala Human Rights Commission USA partially corroborated this information by stating that the procedure to report a crime to the police can be done by filing a complaint (denuncia) at a police station. However, the Coordinator added that if the alleged perpetrator knows the victim or complainant, filing a complaint could be dangerous as police protection is not effective in Guatemala (Guatemala Human Rights Commission USA 12 June 2003). Although the Coordinator could not provide further details about police procedures, he did mention that effective police response is hindered by a lack of resources and a heavy workload (ibid.).

Documentary sources reported that the operations of the National Civil Police (Policia Nacional Civil, PNC) had deteriorated in 2002 (MINUGUA 30 Jan. 2003; La Prensa 5 Jan. 2003). The United Nations Human Rights Verification Mission in Guatemala (Mision de Naciones Unidas para la Verificacion de los Derechos Humanos en Guatemala, MINUGUA) stated in its report on public security that a lack of human and logistical resources combined with "corruption that affects every level of the police administration" (corrupcion que afecta todos los niveles de la institucion policial) were responsible for the decline of the PNC (30 Jan. 2003). La Prensa reported that the operations of the PNC had so markedly deteriorated that civil society groups commented that "it looked as if it was done on purpose" (pareciera que fue a propósito) (5 Jan. 2003). Ana Maria de Klein of the group Grieving Mothers (Madres Angustiadas, MA) claimed that the police "used to come occasionally, but in the past year they have almost never come" (ha venido de mas a menos, y este ano de menos a casi nada) (La Prensa 5 Jan. 2003). In an earlier report covering human rights incidents from July 2001 to June 2002, the MINUGUA stated that there was "continuing systematic impunity, noting that the state neglected its obligation to investigate crimes and sanction those responsible, while its own agents often obstructed justice" (22 Aug. 2002).

With regard to police misconduct, the complaint officer at the PDH stated, in his 11 June 2003 telephone interview with the Research Directorate, that the PDH does carry out investigations into police misconduct (Guatemala). A person who wishes to report police misconduct must file a complaint (denuncia) with a local PDH office (Guatemala 11 June 2003). Nevertheless, in a press release of 8 April 2003, Amnesty International reported that "despite being a state institution and having international backing, staff from a number of regional PDH offices have increasingly been targets in what appears to be a systematic pattern of threats and intimidation over the past two years, in reprisal for their work." Moreover, Amnesty International stated that the "Guatemalan government has repeatedly failed to investigate and bring to justice those responsible" for targeting PDH staff (AI 8 Apr. 2003).

Additional documentary information found in Country Reports 2002 reported that:

The ORP [Office of Professional Responsibility] performs internal investigations of misconduct by police officers. Despite greater numbers of police officers on duty throughout the country and less public apprehension about filing complaints against the police, the total number of such complaints remained roughly the same as the previous year. The ORP has a strong corps of investigators and has shown a considerable degree of improvement in professionalism. However, their independence and effectiveness has been hampered to some degree by the lack of support from the PNC leadership. There were isolated cases in which ORP investigators appeared to participate in cover-ups of police misconduct (31 Mar. 2003, Sect. 1c).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Amnesty International (AI). 8 April 2003. "UA 94/03 Fear for Safety." (AMR 34/021/2003). [Accessed 16 June 2003]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2002. 31 March 2003. "Guatemala." U.S. Department of State. Washington, DC. [Accessed 3 June 2003]

Guatemala. 11 and 12 June 2003. Procurador de los Derechos Humanos (PDH). Telephone interviews with a complaint officer.

Guatemala Human Rights Commission USA [Washington]. 12 June 2003. Telephone interview with the Information, Documentation, and Program Coordinator.

La Prensa [Managua]. 5 January 2003. "Violencia callejera arrecia en Guatemala." [Accessed 4 June 2003]

United Nations Human Rights Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA). 30 January 2003. "Hacia una Guatemala Segura: Un Plan Integral para el Fortalecimiento de la Seguridad Publica."ública%2030-01-03.pdf [Accessed 10 June 2003]

____. 22 August 2002. "Report of the UN Verification Mission in Guatemala." [Accessed 6 June 2003]

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB databases


World News Connection (WNC)

Internet sites:

Derechos Human Rights/Equipo Nizkor

International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP)

Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)

Search engine:


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