Guatemala high court abolishes death penalty in civil cases

Guatemala's highest court has issued a ruling abolishing the death penalty for civil cases.

The Constitutional Court announced its decision Thursday. It is final and will take effect once it is published in the government's official gazette.

Until now Guatemalan law has allowed for the death penalty in cases of murders of people younger than 12 or older than 60; kidnappings where the victim is severely hurt or dies; assassination of the president or VP; or in certain crimes related to drug trafficking.

However the Central American nation has not applied a death sentence for some years in line with a regional human rights agreement to which it is a signatory.

The death penalty remains on the books at least nominally for Guatemala's military judicial system.