Vigilantes in Guatemala have been linked to extrajudicial killings

Extrajudicial killings in Guatemala increased by over 50 percent during President Otto Perez's first year in office, according to a new report, illustrating an alarming trend linked to private security firms and citizen security boards.

Reports of extrajudicial killings jumped from 279 in 2011, to 439 in 2012, according to the report by Guatemalan group the Center for Legal Action in Human Rights (CALDH), as Siglo21 reports. However, this still remains a substantial reduction on the numbers registered in 2009 and 2010, when 5,072 cases were investigated.

Between 2005 and 2012, prosecutors investigated a total of 6,805 cases, but only 22 of these -- 0.32 percent -- resulted in convictions. Of the rest, 391 were archived, and the rest remain open.

According to the report, there has been an increase in participation in extrajudicial killings by private security agents, and citizen security boards -- community police groups created with state backing in 1999.

InSight Crime Analysis

Extrajudicial killings and death squads have been a common feature of violence in Guatemala since the country's civil war, which ended in 1996.

In the past, killings were often linked to the shadowy organizations known as Clandestine Security Apparatuses (Cuerpos Ilegales y Aparatos Clandestinos de Seguridad - CIACS) -- current and former members of the security and intelligence forces that were heavily involved in organized crime and wielded significant political influence.

The CIACS are now severely diminished, but the Guatemalan security forces continue to be tied to extrajudicial killings, including one case last year in which the former head of the Guatemalan national police was accused of involvement in the murder of extortionists in 2009.

The fact that private security and citizen security boards are now also being connected with extrajudicial killings is not surprising. Private security firms have been accused of collaborating with CIACS, often at the service of organized crime, while rogue security boards have been linked to a raft of criminal activities, including kidnapping, extortion, drug trafficking, and vigilante justice.

Investigations

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