Guatemala’s government signed an agreement with the United Nations on Tuesday creating a special commission to identify clandestine Guatemalan security groups and help the government dismantle them.
The new International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala will be led by a commissioner to be named by the U.N. secretary-general and will have an initial two-year mandate.
Guatemala was ravaged for 36 years by a brutal civil war between leftist guerrillas and government forces. More than 200,000 people were killed, many in political slayings and massacres of Mayan Indians by state security forces.
The conflict ended in 1996 through U.N.-brokered peace accords, and a U.N. truth commission report blamed government-backed forces for the bulk of the murders.
A U.N. peacekeeping mission sent in after the peace deal was meant to stay just one year but was repeatedly asked to stay on because of instability fostered by power struggles among the army, the private sector and organized crime.
Guatemala remains an extremely violent country with street gangs and police at war with each other.
Illegal and clandestine armed security groups “seriously threaten human rights as a result of their criminal activities and capacity to act with impunity,” the agreement states.
“With this agreement, the United Nations is standing by Guatemala as it tries to solidify democracy and the rule of law by exposing and dismantling criminal groups that grew out of the armed conflict,” said U.N. Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari, who signed the new agreement on behalf of the United Nations.
Guatemalan Vice President Eduardo Stein signed for the government.