Five Years Later: Celebrating the Life of Adolfo Ich Chamán

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GHRC stands in solidarity with families and community members gathering today in El Estor, Guatemala to commemorate the five-year anniversary of the assassination of Adolfo Ich Chamán. On September 27 of 2009, Adolfo was murdered by private security forces working for … Continue reading

Carta de Solidaridad: Recordando la vida de Adolfo Ich Chamán

Angelica Choc con una foto de su esposo, Adolfo Ich Chamán. Foto por James Rodríguez.

Angelica Choc with a photo of her husband, Adolfo. Photo by James Rodríguez.

Guatemala, 27 de septiembre de 2014

Han pasado cinco años desde aquel día en que cortaron la vida del profesor Adolfo Ich Chamán. Con su asesinato se hizo evidente, una vez más, que en Guatemala siguen corriendo muchos riesgos quienes tienen como opción de vida trabajar en servicio de los demás. Y ese era Adolfo Ich Chaman, el profesor, el padre, el esposo, el vecino, el ser humano que por sus convicciones a favor de los derechos, la justicia y la vida hoy no está con nosotros físicamente, pero que hoy le estamos recordando. Continue reading

Guatemalan News Update: September 22-26

Community Members and Organizations Commemorate 5th Anniversary of Killing of Adolfo Ich

On September 27 of 2009, Adolfo Ich Chamán was murdered by private security forces working for the Fenix nickel mine in El Estor, Guatemala. Adolfo’s death was part of a wave of violence committed by employees of CGN, the Guatemalan subsidiary of Canadian mining company Hudbay Minerals, against anti-mine activists. On the same day that Adolfo was killed, seven others were injured, including German Chub, who was shot and left paralyzed.

Community members in El Estor will commemorate Adolfo’s death, as well as the ongoing community resistance, through ceremonies and events to take place on September 27, 2014. Representatives of GHRC will be present at the commemoration in Guatemala. Today, a memorial in solidarity with those in El Estor will also be held in Toronto in front of Hudbay’s corporate headquarters.

State of Emergency in Guatemala Town After Clashes

On September 22nd, Guatemala declared a “State of Prevention” in San Juan Sacatepéquez, a municipality outside the capital. The emergency measures, which suspend constitutional rights, were allegedly put in place in response to acts of violence committed in the community of Los Pajoques on the 19th and 20th of September. The clash, which killed eleven people, resulted from disagreements over the construction of a cement factory and proposed highway which would cut through the community.

Click here to read GHRC’s statement detailing concerns over the State of Prevention in San Juan Sacatepéquez.

Congress Receives “Acceptable” List for the Supreme Court of Justice

On September 22nd, a list of twenty-six candidates for the Supreme Court of Justice was sent to Congress. Thirteen Supreme Court judges were then elected from the list candidates, amongst suspicions that the final list had already been decided upon prior to the vote. Human rights groups have expressed frustration at the selection proceedings, which have been criticized as being opaque, responding to private interests, and guaranteeing a “pact of impunity.”

New Talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry

On September 23rd, government officials from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras met with Secretary of State John Kerry to present plans to stop the influx of unaccompanied immigrant children into the United States. The plans were the result of a July meeting with President Barack Obama. Chancellor Carlos Raúl Morales, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, said, “The idea is that from these plans, a discussion with the United States will open for two or three months…”

Plans for Immigrant Family Detention Center Draws Criticism

Federal officials are planning the construction of a new detention center near San Antonio to house Central American immigrant children and their parents. This new center could be run by a for-profit prison firm with a history of holding families in deplorable conditions. Advocates warn against the use of detention centers to house families. “It breaks down the structure of families,” said Michelle Brané, director of migrant rights and justice at the Women’s Refugee Commission.

New Instances of Political Repression of “Los q’eqchies”

This article looks at the connection between violence and the exploitation of natural resources in Alta Verapaz, where the construction of a hydroelectric dam is being planned. On August 15th, the National Civil Police violently evicted dozens of families and entered the village of Semococh in order to capture two leaders of Codeca, an organization of peasants and indigenous peoples calling for justice and better living conditions. The conflict ended in a violent clash between the police and villagers, which left three villagers dead.

Martial Law Declared Again in Conflict Over Natural Resources

GHRC expresses concern about the declaration of a “State of Prevention” in the municipality of San Juan Sacatepéquez, allegedly in response to acts of violence committed in the community of Los Pajoques on the 19th and 20th of September. Despite the localized nature of the conflict, the administration of President Otto Pérez Molina made the controversial decision to suspend basic constitutional rights, such as freedom of speech and assembly, throughout the entire municipality for the next 15 days.

sjs-collage-eblastLos Pajoques is one of twelve communities in San Juan Sacatepéquez that have been involved in an ongoing resistance movement to the construction of a cement quarry and processing plant, and recently have opposed the construction of a highway that would cut through the community on its way to the quarry. Their opposition is grounded in concerns about the profound impact that the operations of the cement factory could have on the environment, in an area renown for the cultivation of vegetables and flowers.

The violence, which reportedly left 11 dead, was a tragic manifestation of the division, tension and desperation that has existed in San Juan Sacatepéquez since the arrival of the powerful cement company, Cementos Progreso, in 2006. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: September 8-19

IACHR Declares Guatemala in “Contempt of Court”

The IACHR published its resolution from a May supervisory hearing at the Inter-American Court, in which the Court asked the government of Guatemala to report on the progress it had made in 11 cases, including the Rio Negro and Military Diary cases.

In its resolution, released August 22, the Court stated: “Guatemala did not inform about advances in compliance [...] but instead assumed a radical change in its position intended to question the Court’s decision [...]. For example, Guatemala questioned the ability for the Court to try crimes before 1987, and negated the continuing nature of the crime of forced disappearance.

The Court explicitly stated that Guatemala’s position expressed at the hearing “constitutes a clear act of contempt of court,” and reminded Guatemala of its legal obligations to comply with Court sentences — above and beyond any domestic laws — including amnesties.

Violence Possible in Mining Sector

Amnesty International released a new report about mining in Guatemala, calling attention to the growing social unrest and conflict provoked by these projects. According to the report, the Guatemalan government is exacerbating social conflict and the likelihood of violence by failing to consult with local communities before awarding mining licenses to companies. Despite fierce opposition to mining licenses, the government has awarded at least 240 licenses to businesses so far. The report can be read in full here.

Hundreds Protest over Rural Development Act

On September 18th, hundreds of indigenous and rural citizens protested in front of Guatemala’s Congress to show support for the passage of the Rural Development Law and to repeal a law that would prohibit any obstacles which block roads or limit transportation. The Legislative Branch should consult the indigenous towns before passing laws that directly impact them, yet the government recently passed several laws without the approval of indigenous groups.

The protests caused several road blocks which were maintained for three to four hours. During violent attempts by the police to break up community roadblocks by Ch’orti’ communities in Chiquimula, reporter Norma Sansir was arrested by the police. There have been several other instances of violence against reporters and government actions that contradict the idea of free press.

On September 23, Norma and four others who were arrested were released from jail.

Prior Agreements Shown in Court of Appeals Nomination Process

The process to choose nominees for the Court of Appeals began yesterday (September 17th). As a final list of candidates was compiled, questions arose over whether some names included in the list were already agreed upon, prior to the vote.

Extension of CICIG mandate to be considered

Despite previous recommendations not to extend the mandate of the CICIG — a UN-backed international body charged with helping State institutions investigate serious crime — President Pérez Molina announced that the executive branch will consider an extension of the CICIG in respect to specific sectors that would benefit from its support.

Concerns Over Incitement to Violence Across Guatemala

(Translation of a press release issued by the Human Rights Convergence. The original Spanish version is available below).

END THIS PROVOCATION AND TERROR

Faced with various events that suggest premeditated incitement of social conflict, the Human Rights Convergence states:

1. Over the last week, a number of acts have occurred that illustrate a pattern of incitement to violence with the intention of sparking conflict, in order to then justify repressive action. The following stand out:

• On Wednesday the 17th, during a day of protests organized by movements in defense of territory, a group of masked people tried to convince the community members located at the crossroads of Cubilhuitz-Salaquín to burn down government buildings. When the community members refused, the masked group threw rocks at the office building, provoking the arrival of the National Civilian Police (PNC), who attacked the community.

• On Thursday the 18th, while the National Civilian Police pressured protestors at a point along the highway in Camotán, Chiquimula to end the protest, supposed members of security forces shot at protestors and injured various members of the police. This provoked a reaction by the PNC against the community, to the point that community reporter Norma Sansir was arrested and unjustly charged, along with a lay employee of Nuevo Día, Carlos Juárez, and three other community members, including one person arrested on their own property. Police also launched tear gas inside schools.

• Community leaders from San Juan Sacatepéquez describe how on the afternoon of Friday the 19th, in the hamlet of Los Pajoques, a group of about 15 armed men, employees of the cement company that is attempting to build a factory in the area, arrived and shot into the air. They injured one person in the community who died upon arrival at Roosevelt Hospital. Another person passed away from bullet wounds later that afternoon. The community pursued the armed men and managed to hold four of them prisoner. The rest fled the area after having injured various people, including those who passed away. The community demanded the presence of the PNC, which never arrived on the scene  despite — according to declarations from the head of the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office (PDH) — assurances by the Chief of Police that he himself would arrive. The community members tried to hand over the four people they had detained (those accused of having shot, injured and killed two in the community) to the police.

Nevertheless, hours passed and the PNC never arrived in the community. With the absence of the responsible state authorities, the conflict intensified to such an extreme that unidentified groups set fire to houses and vehicles. Finally, in an equally reputable act, those who had been holding the four suspects prisoner executed them, raising the death toll to six.

2. It is notable that in each case, and particularly in that of San Juan Sacatepéquez on Friday night and early Saturday, the state authorities – absent from the scene of the conflict and without conducting investigations – blame organizations defending their rights to land and territory. This comes without any detailed investigation of the pattern of provocative acts described above.

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GHRC Announces Human Rights Defenders Award Recipient

bufeteGHRC is proud to announce that this year’s Alice Zachmann Human Rights Defenders Award will be presented to the Guatemalan Human Rights Law Firm.

GHRC selected the Human Rights Law Firm for its unparalleled defense and promotion of human rights through its work accompanying victims and challenging injustice. The mission of the firm, founded by Edgar Pérez in 2009, is to provide professional and dignified legal representation and to promote human rights.

Click here to RSVP now!

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