Our Voices

Nearly 20 years after murder of Claudina Isabel Velásquez Paiz, Guatemalan government to publicly acknowledge responsibility March 8

On Friday, March 8, Guatemalan President Bernardo Arévalo and members of his government will hold a public act to acknowledge responsibility for the murder of 19-year old Claudina Isabel Velásquez Paiz in 2005 and subsequent impunity.

Here are five key things to know about the case:

1. On August 12, 2005, when Claudina Isabel did not return home from a party, her parents began a desperate search, reaching out to the police who refused to take any action despite being aware of the risk to her life. Claudina Isabel’s murdered body was discovered the next morning with signs of sexual violence.

2. For many years, the Guatemalan government failed to conduct an effective investigation into Claudina Isabel’s murder or to hold her killers accountable – representative of a broader failure of the government to stem the tide of femicide and violence against women in Guatemala.

3. A case was filed before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in July 2014 for Guatemala’s systematic failure to prevent, investigate, and prosecute the perpetrators of Claudina Isabel’s disappearance and subsequent murder. In April 2015, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and the Guatemalan Association of Mayan Attorneys and Notaries presented their oral arguments before the Court.

4. In December 2015, the Court concluded that the government of Guatemala failed to implement the necessary due diligence measures to prevent the murder of Claudina Isabel in a recognized context of violence against women in the country. They also found that the investigation of Claudina Isabel’s murder was plagued with serious irregularities from the very beginning, which were a result of negative gender stereotypes, and which violated Claudina Isabel’s right to equal treatment under the law and her family’s rights to judicial guarantees and protection.

5. In this judgment, among other reparations, the Court ordered the government of Guatemala to:

  • Conduct a serious and thorough investigation of the facts surrounding the murder of Claudina Isabel and sanction the perpetrators;

  • Organize a public act to apologize to the family for the violations committed;

  • Incorporate in the national education system and at all levels a permanent program on the need to eliminate gender discrimination and violence against women;

  • Strengthen the National Institute of Forensic Sciences;

  • Implement comprehensive training programs on international standards for public officials involved in the investigation of women’s homicides and; and

  • Implement a strategy or mechanism for the effective search of disappeared women.

Angelita Baeyens, Vice President of International Advocacy and Litigation at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, noted that nearly a decade has passed since the court’s decision and implementation of these reparations. Still, she expressed hope for change as Arévalo, who campaigned on an anti-corruption platform, begins his term as president.

“This public recognition of responsibility should be the launching pad for Guatemala’s new administration to design and implement a truly comprehensive policy to eradicate violence against women and girls,” Baeyens said.