Police brutality against peaceful protesters. Should the Constitutional Court order the removal of the Interior Ministry?

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On Saturday we saw several Guatemalans took the streets to show their dissatisfaction with the approval of the national budget. Most of the protest unfolded peacefully.

There were some incidents of violence. That was clear when a group of people set the Congress building on fire without apparent opposition or resistance from the security forces that were guarding the main door of the building.

However, there are several facts that show that the security forces did not respond with the proportional use of force. We have seen footage showing that the security forces fired tear gas in an area where a group of people, including children and the elderly, were demonstrating peacefully.

We have seen other images that account for violence against a photojournalist who did nothing more than document what was happening, also another video against a passerby who was taking images and who was leaving his work, and another video where the police beat up a young man in an excessive way without apparent justification. The press reported that nine people who were arrested last night were released for lack of evidence in the prosecution.

There were undoubtedly violent acts that justified the detention of some people and proportional measures to avoid greater consequences. But the facts I listed above illustrate events in which the security forces responded by using excessive force.

The Human Rights Ombudsman (PDH) had filed an amparo before the Constitutional Court (CC) where he requested that the right to assembly and demonstration be guaranteed and, among other things, resolved:

“The public force is ordered to observe the duties that concern it in relation to the maintenance of public order and citizen security; for this purpose, the denounced authorities must immediately abide by what is resolved herein, so as to guarantee the exercise of the right to peaceful demonstration as well as the life and integrity of those who intervene in the related activity ”.

Expediente 4068-2020 .

I emphasize and insist that violence is not defensible and those who acted violently must answer for their crimes and misdemeanors. However, the acts of excessive force against peaceful protesters are despicable, but above all they conflict with what was ordered by the CC.

Article 78 of the Amparo, Personal Exhibition and Constitutionality Law establishes:

Disobedience, delay or opposition to a resolution issued in an amparo process on the part of an official or employee of the State and its decentralized and autonomous institutions is a legal cause of dismissal, in addition to the other sanctions established in the laws.

The foregoing makes it clear that the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman has sufficient elements to request the execution of the amparo and when disobedience is demonstrated, request the removal of the Minister of the Interior.

It would not be the first time. In 2009, the Constitutional Court ordered the removal of the Minister of Education, Bienvenido Argueta, during Álvaro Colom’s administration. Also in 2004, the Constitutional Court ordered the removal of three members of the National Electric Power Commission for disobeying an order of this court. We will see what happens this time, but it is clear that there are many elements to think about this possibility.

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