The Congress of Guatemala passed the Law on Early Alert System to locate and protect missing or abducted
The initiative AlbaKeneth Alert will activate the protection systems on cases of kidnapping, disappearance and trafficking of children and adolescents.
Guatemala, 11 August 2010 - Yesterday, in a historic session, the Congress of Guatemala approved, as a national urgency, the Law on AlbaKeneth Alert System for the search, location and immediate safeguarding of stolen or missing children and adolescents.
The proposal was presented to Congresswoman Zury Ríos, yesterday at noon, by Ms. Norma Cruz, Director of Fundación Sobrevivientes (Survivor´s Foundation) and Mr. Adriano González-Regueral, Representative of UNICEF in Guatemala. Six hours later, the Chamber of Deputies unanimously passed this initiative, as a matter of national urgency, "in a single discussion and approval session”.
The proposal was strongly supported by various Legislative work Commissions, as well as by all political parties, even though Congress builds a major pending legislative package for review and approval in terms of national security urgency and fight against violence.
"This is another step toward the arduous task of the Guatemalan society to combat violence and impunity for crimes committed against children. We can congratulate ourselves, but now is the time to make further advancements in its effective implementation at national and local levels, as well as to prevent and combat violence against children in many other fronts." said Adriano González-Regueral, Representative of UNICEF.
The AlbaKeneth Alert is inspired by the Amber Alert which was created in the United States in 1996, following the disappearance of Amber Hagerman, a nine-year-old girl who was kidnapped and brutally murdered near her home in Arlington, Texas.
The objective of the AlbaKeneth Alert is to mobilize, during the first hours of the kidnapping, the search platform and state-level protection, private and social, which may allow to locate the child or adolescent alive.
Moreover, it also seeks to move the entire community and to have millions of extra eyes and ears to see, hear and help with the safe return of the child or adolescent and the capture of the suspect.
Norma Cruz, Director of Fundación Sobrevivientes, awarded in 2009 the International Women of Courage Award (IWOC), given by the U.S. Department of State every year, stated that this law will save the lives of many children and adolescents.
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Violence against children in Guatemala
Guatemala has one of the highest rates of violence in the American continent. There is an average of 46 deaths of children and adolescents each month.
Approximately 75% of the illegal acts are not reported. Most victims do not file complaints due to fear of reprisals and they do not trust the authorities nor the justice system.
Between 2008 and 2009, a total of 53 764 minors were injured due to crimes against them. As of July 2010, the violent death of 312 children has been recorded.
88% of crimes against 18 year olds remains unpunished.
Before the approval of the Law on the AlbaKeneth Alert System in Guatemala the malpractice by State institutions was to allow a 36 to 72 hour wait prior to declaring a child disappeared and to begin search.
In the current violence context, this has implied to give an advantage to traffickers and human traffickers, since they easily draw their victims outside of the national territory who are given new identities or in the worst cases they are killed, making impossible their recovery.
The initiative AlbaKeneth Alert
This initiative, approved unanimously by the Congress of Guatemala, is inspired by the Amber Alert created in the United States in 1996, following the disappearance of Amber Hagerman.
In Guatemala it was named the AlbaKeneth Alert in homage to two children who were kidnapped and brutally murdered.
Alba España was eight years old and lived in the city of Camotán, Department of Chiquimula. She disappeared on 14 June 2007 and her body was found 24 hours after. Two men confessed that they had been offered 19,000 Quetzales (approximately US$ 2,375) for the child. Both men were sentenced to 50 years in prison.
Keneth López was a native of Jalapa, and was four years old. He disappeared on 16 December 2009 and his body was found beheaded and buried in the backyard of a house on Christmas Eve, 23 December. Two people await trial in jail. They confessed they had been offered 10,000 Quetzales (around U.S. $ 1,250) for a boy.
In both cases the State system did not react in search of them. It was established that they were murdered in the first hours of their capture and that they struggled for their lives, which implies that the perpetrators used force and brutality to silence them.
UNICEF and the fight against violence and impunity
One of the main lines of work for UNICEF in Guatemala is the fight against violence and impunity, along with the fight against malnutrition.
Within this framework, UNICEF promotes legislative reforms and the creation of new laws to allow for the prevention and protection of children and adolescents against violence and all forms of abuse and exploitation.
UNICEF also works parallel with government, civil society, United Nations System and international community to strengthen the protection systems at local and national level.
As a result of this joint work, the ratification of the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoptions, the Law on Adoptions, the Law against Sexual Violence, Exploitation and People Trafficking have been promoted; and, most recently the Law on AlbaKeneth Alert System which upon approval was assigned as Decree 1928-2010.
In addition, UNICEF Guatemala has signed important cooperation agreements with various organizations and bodies to enhance the fight against violence and impunity. Among them are the agreements signed with the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), the Embassy of Sweden and Fundación Sobrevivientes.
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For more information:
Parisa Nabili, firstname.lastname@example.org, UNICEF Guatemala
Tamar Hahn, email@example.com, UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean
UNICEF works in more than 155 countries and territories to help guarantee to children the rights to survive and develop from infancy to adolescence. UNICEF is the largest provider of vaccines in developing countries, works to improve health and nutrition from infancy, provide quality water supply and sanitation, basic quality education for all children, and protection of children against violence, exploitation, and HIV/AIDS. UNICEF is financed entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations, and governments.
Fundación Sobrevivientes (Survivors Foundation)
This is a social non-profit service agency, without political or religious interests. It is integrated by women survivors of violence to support other women who are or have been victims of violence.
The foundation has closely followed the cases of Alba and Keneth, among many others, giving legal and psychological assistance to their families.