Guatemala City – The number of reported lynchings of suspected criminals in Guatemala has increased from 25 in 2004 to 147 in the first 10 months of this year, the national ombud's office said Friday.
The 651 instances of "people's justice" during the last seven years resulted in 216 deaths - 47 of them in 2011 - and left another 911 victims seriously injured, according to the report.
Huehuetenango, a province of mainly indigenous people located on Guatemala's northwestern border with Mexico, has seen 36 lynchings this year, followed by Quetzaltenango, 34; Quiche, 26; and San Marcos, with 23 reported cases.
The Guatemala bureau of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights recently expressed concern about the "alarming" increase in lynchings in the Central American country.
Lynchings are "an atrocious practice that profoundly question the ethical foundations of the society," U.N. officials said.
Vigilante justice as a widespread phenomenon in Guatemala dates from the 1996 signing of peace accords that ended the country's 36-year civil war.
The absence of police in isolated communities and pervasive distrust of the judicial system are the main reasons for the rising number of lynchings in the Central American nation, analysts say.