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Contact Admin. The Commission received the visit of a mission from the Government of Guatemala to which we referred in the Introduction E. In this paragraph the aspects of the presentation and of the documents provided during the visit with respect to the Courts of Special Jurisdiction and the death penalty are considered. In this respect, the Government of Guatemala affirmed that the reservation expressed with regard to Article 4, paragraph 4, of the San Jose Pact allows it to regulate and legislate the death penalty for common crimes related to political crimes after the Convention went into effect, imposing the maximum penalty, as it had been doing all along, to crimes which did not carry capital punishment at the time the Convention went into force, maintaining that, otherwise, the reservation would lack any purpose.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights considers the arguments of the Government of Guatemala to be unsatisfactory, since the reservation expressed by that government, being a reservation expressed with regard to a human rights treaty, must always be interpreted to be restrictive. In that sense a reservation can only be interpreted in its most restrictive meaning, and in no other manner.
Thus, contrary to what Guatemala maintains in its position, the scope of its reservation is limited by the very terms of Article 4, paragraph 4, and cannot be extended, as the Guatemalan position intends, to other dispositions contained in Article 4 of the Convention.
Besides, paragraph 4 of Article 4 of the Convention, to which Guatemala expressed reservation, specifically states that: This, and no other, is the meaning of the reservation. In addition, the Commission considers that the determination of a government to impose the death penalty is subject to several conditions which emerge from the text of the Pact of San Jose, given the fact that human rights conventions must be interpreted by their objective which is none other than to primarily protect the rights of human beings, from infractions by the States.
As it has already been established in modern international law the provisions on human rights are jus cogens , that is, imperative law, and its derogation must be duly and precisely founded 12 which does not occur in the case being analyzed here. In that sense, the text of the reservations must be interpreted to mean that Guatemala could—if other conditions are given—impose the death penalty for common crimes related to political ones which already carried that penalty in its laws at the time of ratification of the Convention.