Press release

Guatemala: Government Should Uphold Human Rights Principles during the State of Siege

The Guatemalan government has issued a 30-day state of siege with troubling human rights implications. 


In response to the temporary state of siege declared by President Jimmy Morales in 22 northeastern municipalities of Guatemala, which was ratified by the Guatemalan Congress on September 7, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“We are concerned about the state of siege’s potential consequences for the exercise of fundamental freedoms in Guatemala, including restrictions on social protest, guarantees of due process, and freedoms of expression, association, and organization,” said Deborah Ullmer, director of Latin America and the Caribbean programs at Freedom House. “This measure will impose severe restrictions on the work of activists, journalists, and community leaders who aim to foster human rights and fight impunity in Guatemala.

“During the state of siege, the Guatemalan government must abide by international human rights standards, complying with the principles of legitimacy, necessity, temporality, and strict proportionality of the measures taken.”


Guatemalan legislators overwhelmingly ratified a 30-day state of siege in 22 municipalities on September 7. The state of siege was declared by President Jimmy Morales on September 4, in response to the killing of three soldiers who were engaged in counternarcotics operations, according to the government. It suspends many constitutional guarantees, including freedoms of movement and assembly, imposes a curfew, and provides authorities with broad powers to arrest and interrogate anyone deemed a suspect.

The measure has sparked widespread condemnation from civil society organizations due to its significant geographic scope. The state of siege affects municipalities with high levels of social conflict, where many indigenous communities were destroyed by the civil war, and where those that remain continue to fight for their land rights.

Guatemala is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2019