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Judge Declares State of Guatemala Responsible for Right to Food Violations

16 July 2013 , Heidelberg – A juvenile judge declared the Guatemalan state responsible for breach of economic, social and cultural rights by failing to ensure the right to food of five undernourished children from four families living in the villages of Camotán, Guatemala.

In its judgment, the court ordered the state to implement specific measures necessary to address the structural obstacles faced by rights holders, especially by children affected by chronic malnutrition, and to ensure the enjoyment of their rights, especially the right to adequate food.

The ruling was issued in response to a lawsuit filed by the affected families who were supported by the Campaña Guatemala Sin Hambre (Guatemala Without Hunger Campaign), a coalition of non-governmental organizations dedicated to advocating for the government’s compliance with its obligations to respect, protect, and fulfill the right to adequate food. 

The plaintiffs accused the state of Guatemala of being in violation of child protection laws that require the state to ensure child welfare. The lawsuit stated that the children in these families were suffering from severe malnutrition and were in danger of starvation due to extreme poverty resulting from a lack of employment opportunities and governmental social assistance.

Though the lawsuit was filed against the previous government, the current administration has been ordered to assume responsibility for the sentence through reparations and specific political actions in order to prevent repetition of the violation.

The judgment requires that a total of 25 measures be undertaken by various governmental entities which include specific actions to generate and develop employment opportunities, access to health and education services, public policies that provide communities with basic services and the elaboration of a protocol that clarifies the concerted action of state entities to promote and protect the right to adequate food of children in such circumstances.
FIAN International welcomes this ruling which represents the first time a judge in Latin American has declared the state responsible for the protection of the right to adequate food.
“This is an important step forward in promoting justiciability of the right to adequate food in Guatemala, particularly for children that suffer from chronic hunger. It will serve as an important precedent for other cases that may come up in the country, as well as internationally,” said Martin Wolpold-Bosien, of FIAN International.

FIAN has supported the process of the lawsuit since its inception, providing advice and working with national coalitions such as the Campaña Guatemala Sin Hambre.  FIAN will continue to work with local groups to ensure the full implementation of this unprecedented ruling in favor of the right to adequate food.

Download the press release from Campaña Guatemala Sin Hambre below (Spanish).