Friday, June 03, 2005


With boosting country-level human rights work a major part of the United Nations strategic vision, Secretary-General Kofi Annan and UN human rights chief Louise Arbour today welcomed the Guatemala's endorsement of an agreement to open a new UN rights field office in the Central American country.

Guatemala's Congress yesterday unanimously approved the accord, signed in January by the Government and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish the office to monitor and report on the national human rights situation.

Ms. Arbour said, "We are encouraged to see the endorsement the accord received in Congress and look forward to making a positive contribution to the full mplementation of human rights in Guatemala."

Mr. Annan joined the High Commissioner in welcoming the Guatemalan
legislature's action.

"The office, which is expected to start operation in July, will advise
the Guatemalan Government, state institutions and civil society on all
matters related to the promotion and protection of human rights," Mr. Annan
said in a statement.

UNHCR's presence would continue the work begun by the United Nations
Verification Mission in Guatemala which completed its mandate at the end of 2004, he said.

For about a decade, the UN Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA) verified and expanded human rights observance, and helped the country implement far-reaching 1996 peace accords. The peace pacts ended 36 years of conflict that killed an estimated 200,000 people, most of whom died in massacres of the majority Mayan indigenous villagers.

The new field office would advise the executive branch on defining, streamlining and implementing human rights policies, particularly the Presidential Commission Coordinating the Executive's Policy on Human Rights Matters (COPREDEH), UNHCR said.

It would also advise representatives of civil society and individuals on promoting and protecting human rights, including the use of national and international mechanisms, and would assist current and future national institutions, particularly the Guatemalan Human Rights Procurator, Attorney General and State Procurator.


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