II. Surveillance policy
On August 10, 2006, the Law against Organized Crime was published.1 Article 48 establishes that whenever it is necessary to prevent, interrupt or investigate organized crime (conspiracy, money laundering, terrorism, corruption, drug trafficking, smuggling, financial intermediation, murder, kidnapping, fraud, bankrupt, etc.), law enforcement may intercept, record and reproduce (with the corresponding judicial order) oral, written, telephonic, radiotelephonic, electronic and similar communications that use electromagnetic spectra, as well as any future surveillance technologies.
The Law of the Direction of Civil Intelligence stipulates that in cases where there is evidence of organized crime activities, specially drug trafficking and common delinquency, and where at the same time there is a danger to life, physical integrity, liberty and specific individuals goods, the Public Ministry can request, as an emergency measure, judicial authorization to temporarily intercept telephonic, radio phonic, electronic and other similar communications. It also creates the Counterintelligence division to act in matters related to organized crime with terrorism. The mission of such office is unclear; its mandate is to transform "information" either from the public institutions or from "other sources" into "intelligence." There is no provision authorizing them to disclose the kinds of information that they rely on.2
In October 2006, some students of Law of the Francisco Marroquin University, with the support of their professor, proceeded to challenge before the Constitutional Court (CC) the provisions of the Law of the General Direction of Civil Intelligence and the Law against Organized Crime that authorize the tapping and interception of telephonic and other communications. The Court has not yet pronounced its judgment; therefore, the law is still in force.3
In 2006 the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Ministerio de Gobernación) stated that the purchase of special equipment to perform telephonic interceptions aimed to fight against organized crime would not be done through GuateCompras (open information government purchasing system) due to national security reasons. The Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo (GAM), a human rights NGO published a statement criticizing the lack of transparency in reporting those purchases because those, according to GAM, there "must be oversight and control by the civil organizations that perform this social audit."4
Amnesty International has reported verified attacks against the privacy of human rights advocates and social activists in Guatemala, including illegal phone interceptions.5 Prensa Libre, one of the most important newspapers in Guatemala, published a story that revealed clandestine telephone interceptions, either by members of military intelligence or by particular organized groups.6
In September 2006, the police of the Prison of Pavon, a center for detainees, found 14 pieces of telephonic interception equipment. The prisoners were using the data as tools to extort people outside the prison, either particular groups or people linked to organized crime.7
In January 2007, SEDEM, an institution in charge of monitoring the safety of Human Rights advocates, sent a communication to all the institutions stating that the government was taking measures to spy on the civil population, either by phone or by filtering e-mails.8
- 1. http://www.congreso.gob.gt
- 2. Ley de Direcci√≥n General de Inteligencia Civil, [Law of the General Direction of Intelligence], Decree 71-2005, in force since 2005, available at http://www.cenadoj.gob.gt> (in Spanish).
- 3. http://www.elperiodico.com.gt/es/20070615/opinion/40687/
- 4. http://www.albedrio.org/htm/otrosdocs/comunicados/gam-053.htm
- 5. http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ESLAMR340162006?open&of=ESL-GTM
- 6. http://www.prensalibre.com/pl/2006/noviembre/05/155661.html
- 7. http://www.guatemala.gob.gt/noticia.php?codigo=158&tipo=1
- 8. http://www.albedrio.org/htm/otrosdocs/comunicados/sedem-001.htm