Page last updated at 10:22 GMT, Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Amnesty urges Guatemala to investigate youth murders

By Emilio San Pedro
BBC News

 in Novembner 2009
Few of Guatemala's murders result in convictions

Guatemala has again been accused of failing to tackle violent crime which claims the lives of thousands of people each year.

Amnesty International said the authorities were not doing enough to investigate the alleged killing of young people by the police.

Amnesty says the violence amounts to a systematic "social cleansing" campaign.

President Alvaro Colom made tackling the culture of impunity and violence a priority when he took office in 2008.

In its report, Amnesty says active and retired police officers are involved in the alleged killings.

The targets, the group says, are young gang members with criminal records and other young people suspected of involvement in crime.

In October, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that the work of a UN-sponsored body to tackle impunity in Guatemala had been hampered by judges who appeared to be subject to external influence.

Mr Colom, Guatemala's centre-left leader, has said tackling violence is a priority.

However, Amnesty and other human rights groups say that far too little has been done to reverse the problem.

Guatemala's decades-long civil war claimed the lives of more than 200,000 people.

Now, more than 13 years since the end of that war, the Amnesty report suggests that the culture of impunity it spawned is still very much a part of daily life in Guatemala.

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