Reparations at risk in Guatemala: the complexities of victim and civil society participation in uncertain times

Presentation by Gretel Mejía at the 15th General Conference of the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) (held virtually).

In July 2020, the Guatemalan government issued several decrees that close down key institutions created to comply with the Peace Accords signed in 1996. One of the decrees permanently closes the Peace Secretariat (SEPAZ), an institution tasked with managing the National Reparations Programme and transfers it to the Ministry of Social Development. These decisions are the latest in a series of actions taken by previous administrations to dismantle the reparations program, which includes budget cuts, understaffing, and substantial changes to its mandate. As a result, the reparations program has proven ineffective in meeting victims’ needs.

The government took these decisions amid the mobility restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and without consulting victims and civil society. However, even in a context where old and new challenges converge, victims’ groups have mobilized to counter these setbacks, for example through advocacy efforts and filing legal actions before the Constitutional Court. Based on my experience drafting an amicus curiae brief that supported one of the legal actions, and interviews with victims and members of civil society, this paper discusses the implications of these decisions on victims’ rights, and on the continuity of the transitional justice process in Guatemala. It also addresses debates on how to achieve meaningful victim participation and analyzes these in light of the current health crisis and growing threats to the peace and human rights agenda.

Date & Time

August 30, 2021



Organized by European Consortium for Political Research