Amnesty International (AI) has called upon its network of supporters to help bring an end to violations against children in Guatemala.

The London-based human rights group is deeply concerned about the harassment, threats, attacks, disappearances and extra-judicial executions carried out against the street children of Guatemala City and other urban centers in the Latin American country.

Like many other third world countries, Guatemala is troubled by uncontrolled urbanization, economic decline and a chaotic political situation.  The population of the capital, Guatemala City, has more than doubled in the past decade, swollen by an influx of landless peasants and refuges fleeing the country’s civil war.  This has led to an explosive increase in the number of children, ages 5 to 18, many of them from impoverished Guatemalan families, living on the streets who survive by means of begging, prostitution and petty crime.

Many of them engage in these criminal activities simply to support their addiction to thinners, solvent and glue.  In this situation, poorly trained and incompetent police officers, convinced that the justice system is ineffective, regularly take the law into their own hands.

The July 1990 Amnesty International report attests to widespread incidents of extra-judicial executions, torture and mutilation of street children.

One of the many cases Al brought to light concerns Nahaman Carmona Lopez, 13, kicked into unconsciousness and fatally injured after police broke up a glue-sniffing session.

Threats of retaliation ensure that children and others who have witnessed the abusive behaviour of renegade policemen will not come forward to testify.