Alert: Municipal Government of Nebaj Attempts to Evict Ixil Indigenous Authorities from their Office

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GHRC, Protection International, and the Human Rights Defenders Project joint statement condemning actions of aggression against the Ixil Authorities in their office in Nebaj English Translation Below August 31, 2022 On the afternoon of August 31, the Ixil Indigenous Authorities … Continue reading

GHRC, LAWG, and 16 Other Organizations Urge US Development Finance Corporation to Reconsider Investments in Guatemala

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Today a group of human rights, foreign policy, immigrant rights, faith-based and refugee organizations joined a letter to the Development Finance Corporation (DFC) to express concern about the rapid deterioration of the rule of law in Guatemala and urging the … Continue reading

GHRC Congratulates the Peaceful Resistance of La Puya

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Protest outside of the Ministry of Mines and Energy (GHRC, 2016)

Ten years ago today, the Peaceful Resistance of La Puya was born in defense of community water, life, and health and against an illegal mine. On March 2, 2012, the communities of San José de Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc united and established a protest camp outside of the entrance of the mine, which had been imposed without their free, prior, and informed consent. For ten long years, the resistance has struggled in the face of threats, intimidation, an attempted assassination, and a violent eviction. Due to the tenacity and determination of the Peace Resistance of La Puya, which included taking the case to the highest court, the mining license of the project was provisionally suspended in 2016, when the Supreme Court ruled that the affected communities were never consulted on the project and directly violated their rights, as established in the International Labor Organization Treaty’s Convention 169.  Guatemala’s Constitutional Court confirmed this ruling in 2017 and ordered a consultation..

Police and mining security violently evict and repress protesters (photo by GHRC, 2014)

The Progreso VII Derivada project–also known as the El Tambor Mine–is a gold and silver mine owned by US mining company Kappes, Cassiday & Associates (KCA). After illegally obtaining the mining permits, with the knowledge that the mine was contaminating community water sources with arsenic, KCA fought against the community resistance, using violence and criminalization in an effort to silence opponents of the mine. Now, under the terms of the Central American Free Trade Agreement, KCA is suing the government of Guatemala for $400 million dollars before the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes.

GHRC is honored to have accompanied La Puya since its inception, awarding the Peaceful Resistance of La Puya the 2012 Alice Zachmann Human Rights Defender Award. GHRC’s Guatemala staff observed the 2014 violent eviction of resistance members and helped negotiate and support the safety of members of La Puya. 

In a letter of solidarity we signed, together with more than 50 organizations, we commend today the Peaceful Resistance of La Puya for its valiant, persistent defense of fundamental rights.

We congratulate the resistance for 10 years of commitment to defending their territories and we stand in solidarity with their nonviolent struggle. 

Our accompaniment of movements like La Puya has been made possible by generous contributions from supporters like you. Your donations allow us to continue on-the-ground support of defenders and provide key advocacy in Washington, DC.  Will you make a gift here to help us continue our work?

¡Que viva La Puya!

Second anniversary celebration of La Puya

Judicial Persecution of Anti-Corruption Prosecutors Increases

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Six Prosecutors Investigating High-Level Corruption Arrested

Since February 10, the Guatemalan Public Ministry has issued seven arrests warrants for attorneys  connected to the former International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) who work or have worked with the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity (FECI). Six such prosecutors have been arrested and await trial. Attorney Leyli Indira Santizo Rodas, former President of the International Commission Against Impunity (CICIG), and Eva Xiomara Sosa, former prosecutor with FECI, were arrested on February 10; Willy Roberto Racanac Lopez, an assistant prosecutor with FECI, was  arrested on February 16, along with Paola Escobar, also an assistant prosecutor with FECI. Aliss Moran, a former assistant prosecutor with FECI who resigned in January, had her house raided on February 16 and was arrested, after presenting herself voluntarily, on February 17; and Rudy Manolo Herrera Lemus, a former FECI prosecutor, has an arrest warrant pending but is no longer in Guatemala. The female prosecutors/former prosecutors are awaiting their trials in prison, where they fear for their safety. Racanac Lopez, due to medical concerns, is awaiting trial under house arrest. 

The latter four persecuted prosecutors mentioned above are linked to the 2020 Parallel Commissions case, in which prosecutors uncovered a corruption plot between lawyers, politicians, and businessmen to elect judges.

On February 23, Virginia Laparra, the head of FECI’s Quetzaltenango office, was arrested on charges of providing false testimony, abuse of authority, and encroachment of functions. She apparently fainted as she was informed of the arrest and was taken to a health clinic before being turned over to the court.

Five prosecutors working on corruption cases have resigned due to pressure during the month of February. Carlos Antonio Videz Nava, who as a prosecutor with FECI oversaw important cases involving money laundering and wrongdoing by government officials, announced on February 20 that he is now in exile. He stated that he feared for his life and feared unjust persecution. He had participated in the questioning of Witness A, who has accused Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei of receiving bribes (see more about this case below). Three additional prosecutors with FECI resigned on February 21, and the resignation of one more assistant prosecutor became public on February 23. On February 25, former FECI prosecutor Lorenzo Alberto Bolaños Sanchez announced that he had gone into exile, as he feared for his life and his freedom.

The UN Rapporteur on judicial independence in a February 13 statement denounced the acts of persecution against judges, prosecutors, and lawyers, as did the European Union in a February 11 statement, expressing “its utmost concern over the ongoing deteriorating of the rule of law in Guatemala, where the Supreme Court of Justice and the Prosecutor-General have initiated legal action against independent judges, lawyers and prosecutors, resulting in arrests and loss of judicial immunity.” The US Department of State in a February 16 statement expressed deep concern about “the Guatemalan Public Ministry’s unacceptable mistreatment and persistent abuse of current and former independent prosecutors” and said “the Public Ministry used searches and arrests based on sealed indictments and selectively leaked case information with the apparent intent to single out and punish Guatemalans who are combatting impunity and promoting transparency and accountability.”  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on February 22 called for the “cessation of any interference against the independence of the Judiciary in order to guarantee independent and impartial justice” and expressed concern that these incidents were occurring “in a context of severe setbacks in the fight against impunity and corruption in Guatemala.” The IACHR reminded the Guatemalan government of its “obligation to protect justice operators from attacks, acts of intimidation, threats, and harassment, and to investigate and effectively punish those who commit violations of their rights.” National and international nongovernmental organizations also condemned these recent acts of criminalization. According to the Unit for Human Rights Defenders in Guatemala, the persecution of the prosecutors “puts at risk the freedom to practice law and the right to defend human rights.” 

Witness Testimony Indicates Giammattei Financed Campaign through Bribes

Evidence has surfaced implicating Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei in illegal campaign financing. According to the testimony of a protected witness, Giammattei agreed to receive $2.6 million in bribes from construction companies to finance his 2019 presidential campaign. Reports first published in the Salvadoran daily El Faro indicate that the witness said a deal was struck between Giammattei and close associates Giorgio Bruni, then the Secretary General of former President Morales’ political party, Vamos, and José Luis Benito, the Minister of Communication, Infrastructure, and Housing under Morales administration. According to the testimony of the witness, who says he was present at a July 2019 meeting where the deal was discussed, Benito–in exchange for being allowed to retain his position as minister of communications in the new administration–arranged $2.6 million in contributions to the Giammattei campaign from construction companies, who in turn benefitted by receiving additional contracts and advance payments. A second source within the Giammattei administration reportedly confirmed to El Faro the existence of this deal. Although Benito was not kept on as minister in Giammattei’s administration, a number of these construction projects that allegedly formed part of the corruption scheme are in progress. Twelve highway construction projects worth more than $191 million are allegedly linked to this pact. According to El Faro, official documents show that eleven of them are underway and the last is accepting proposals.

Potential corruption in infrastructure projects of this sort is particularly relevant in light of international investment in infrastructure projects in Guatemala. In February 2019, the Inter-American Development Bank provided the Guatemalan government a $150 million loan for the building of roads.

The evidence gathered from the sealed testimony of Witness A was recorded in May 2021 as part of an ongoing investigation opened by FECI in response to the discovery in October 2020 of suitcases full of cash amounting to nearly $16 million, stashed in a house in Antigua, Guatemala rented by Benito. Benito, after a period on the run, was arrested on January 21, 2022, in connection with the case, pursuant to an arrest warrant issued in October 2020 for money laundering after the suitcases were discovered.

The testimony of the witness is in the care of Judge Erika Aifán, of High Risk Court “D.” Aifán has been subjected to intense pressure from the Attorney General’s Office but has refused to turn over the testimony or reveal the identity of the witness. In a written response to the Attorney General’s Office, Aifán explained her refusal to turn over the information, noting that the testimony is already part of a judicial process beyond the attorney general’s control, and the recording and the identity of the witness are now evidence in the court’s custody. 

As the El Faro article points out, the New York Times referenced the existence of Witness A last October in an article that revealed that another witness told FECI in July that he had delivered to Giammattei’s house a rug rolled with cash inside. The cash was allegedly part of a bribe by a Russian-backed mining company for the rights to operate part of a Guatemalan port in Izabal. When former leading anti-corruption prosecutor Juan Francisco Sandoval left Guatemala to go into exile in July 2021, he told El Faroin an exclusive interview that one of the reasons for his removal was that the investigation of the money found in a house in Antigua led back to Giammattei and to “payments from contractors” to finance a political campaign.

As the El Faro article points out, the New York Times referenced the existence of Witness A last October in an article that revealed that another witness told FECI in July that he had delivered to Giammattei’s house a rug rolled with cash inside. The cash was allegedly part of a bribe by a Russian-backed mining company for the rights to operate part of a Guatemalan port in Izabal. When former leading anti-corruption prosecutor Juan Francisco Sandoval left Guatemala to go into exile in July 2021, he told El Faro in an exclusive interview that one of the reasons for his removal was that the investigation of the money found in a house in Antigua led back to Giammattei and to “payments from contractors” to finance a political campaign.

According to El Faro, both the US State Department and the FBI have had a copy of Witness A’s testimony for months, as international transactions between the individuals or companies involved may have passed through US banking institutions. According to reports, one construction magnate implicated has been cooperating with US authorities. 

Attorney General Consuelo Porras Seeks Re-Election.

The call for applications for the upcoming Attorney General election closed on February 21. From this list, the Nominating Commission will choose six candidates to present to President Alejandro Giammattei, who will select the new Attorney General in mid-May. This week, the commission released a preliminary list of  26 candidates for consideration, including current Attorney General Maria Consuelo Porras.  

As the current head of the Public Ministry, Consuelo Porras has been criticized in recent weeks both nationally and internationally for her persecution of anti-corruption prosecutors. The United States removed her visa and placed her on the Engel List in September 2021 for her “obstruction of justice” in cases of high-level corruption in Guatemala. Former Attorney General Thelma Aldana tweeted, “The candidates for attorney general of Guatemala included on the Engel List for corrupt and anti-democratic actions and linked to organized crime should not receive votes from the Commission,” arguing that they are “unfit at the national and international level.” Porras’ candidacy was accepted by the Nominating Commission on February 23. The outcome of this election holds significant implications in the fight against corruption and US-Guatemala relations.    

A number of potentially strong candidates, such as independent judges, were excluded from the Nominating Commission’s list after a decision was made by the Constitutional Court not to count the years a judge has spent in service of the law in the tally of requisite years as a lawyer stipulated for eligibility for the attorney general position. International organizations, including GHRC, issued a statement of concern about a number of circumstances affecting the conditions of impartiality and transparency that must be guaranteed in the process.

Judge Pablo Xitumul at Risk for Arrest after CSJ Removes his Immunity

On February 9, the Guatemalan Supreme Court ruled to remove the judicial immunity of Judge Pablo Xitumul.  The International Observatory for Human Rights in Guatemala denounced the decision by the Supreme Court, condemning it as a “grave attack on his independence and an unacceptable action that seeks to frighten and intimidate justice operators in the country.” Judge Xitumul told the Associated Press that those he has sentenced are seeking revenge. The High Risk Court “C” judge–known for his decisions in favor of victims in transitional justice cases–can now be removed from his position and forced to face charges related to a 2019 incident in which a National Police officer demanded to search Xitumul’s car. Xitumul’s vehicle was not moving at the time; Xitumul was sitting in the car with his family. Judge Xitumul asked the reason for the search and the officer refused to give a reason. An altercation ensued, and the officer, José Cuxaj, grabbed the judge by the neck. Judge Xitumul filed charges against the officer, who answered with a lawsuit against the judge for “abuse of authority.”

Judge Xitumul is one of several high-court judges who has faced consistent harassment and suffered surveillance and other forms of intimidation. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted Xitumul precautionary measures in 2013 after he began recieving threats related to his work overseeing the Rios Montt genocide trial. In September of 2021, the IACHR expressed concern over the weakening of the  judicial system, reminding the state of Guatemala “of its duty to protect those who work in the field of justice from attacks, intimidation, threats, and harassment.” The removal of Judge Xitumul’s immunity, according to international NGOs, forms “part of a systematic pattern that has been worsening and that has as a common denominator the use of the criminal justice and disciplinary systems to undermine the independence of judges and prosecutors.”

CODECA Leader Murdered in Jalapa .

Human rights defender Álvaro Marco Román was fatally shot while returning home to Tierra Blanca, Santa María Xalapán, Jalapa early in the morning on February 6th. Román–who dedicated his life to the struggle for community land rights–served as the president of his community board and a leader within the Campesino Development Committee (CODECA). In a public statement CODECA demanded that “the Public Ministry and national and international human rights organizations seriously investigate this repression against CODECA leaders.” The Human Rights Ombudsman also called for a prompt investigation to identify and prosecute all parties responsible for Román’s murder. Earlier this year, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and other UN experts released a joint letter sent to the Guatemala government denouncing the harassment, death threats, armed attacks, and assassinations of CODECA leaders and demanding the government address the “systemic repression against members of CODECA.” His death marks the 23rd assasination of a CODECA member since 2018. 

Remembering Dianna Ortiz

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A year ago today Dianna Ortiz parted ways with her body. The gifts she has left remain: a center for torture survivors that she founded and ran, TASSC International; the contributions she made to the last place she worked, Pax Christi, where she was Deputy Director; the memories and legacy she left with us here at the Guatemala Human Rights Commission, where for many years she was a staff and later a board member; and, of course, the painful witness she gave to the atrocities of the Guatemalan army, carried out in collaboration with the US government.

By way of giving a window into that collaboration: the US Ambassador in a 1991 cable referred blithely to “numerous contacts we have made over the past few years, including with members of a death squad.” He outlined in the cable how the Guatemalan death squads operated. In all likelihood, using this knowledge, he sent someone to rescue Dianna twenty-four hours into her torture. Dianna asked the American sent to take her out of the clandestine torture center, which she later identified as the Escuela Politecnica, what would happen to the others who remained there under torture, the others she saw, the others she heard screaming? The man said, “Don’t concern yourself with them.”

For decades, not concerning themselves was the modus operandi of the US government, which at best turned a blind eye to the atrocities occurring in Guatemala and at worst actively assisted the most brutal army in the hemisphere as it carried out acts amounting to genocide.

Dianna was fierce. She spoke the truth. She blazed a trail that we do our best to follow.

She was also gentle, and as well as leaving a testimony of pain, she left a witness of love. She calls us to heal ourselves, reach out to one another, and fight for the rights of the most defenseless. That call to (the gentle) arms of courage, community, and action is essential today. Guatemala is weltering in a maelstrom of injustice. In the past week, five prosecutors and former prosecutors investigating high-level corruption were arrested on baseless charges and await trial. Four of those detained are women. Like Dianna, in spite of suffering intimidation, threats, and harassment, they are not backing off of the truths they’ve discovered, no matter who those truths implicate and what the truths cost.

In the years after escaping from the American who brought her out of the torture center—only to threaten her when she said she would not remain silent—Dianna felt she had to speak for the people she saw dying in that basement prison; for the people she saw already dead and thrown into a pit. She spoke in spite of the pain it caused her, in spite of the flashbacks, in spite of allegations from US embassy personnel that she must have sneaked out for a lesbian love affair and the 111 cigarette burns on her back were the result of a lesbian love tryst.As Dianna spoke for those who could not speak, we who were her friends and colleagues and walked with her on part of her journey will attempt to guess what she would say, were she here, in response to the intensifying crisis in Guatemala. Dianna would ask–What kind of aid is going from the US government to the Guatemalan military? To the police? What kind of nonhumanitarian aid is going to the government? Cut it off until human rights are respected.

Otherwise, she would say gently—otherwise we are complicit.

Visit our memorial page to see photos and leave a memory or comment. 

Thank you for standing with us as we remember Dianna, and thank you for working for justice for the Guatemalan people.

The Ongoing Criminalization of Human Rights Defender Abelino Chub Caal

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The Guatemalan government, through the Public Prosecutor’s Office, insists on continuing to criminalize Abelino Chub Caal, in the context of land dispossession suffered by the Q’eqchi community of Plan Grande in El Estor, Izabal.

Abelino Chub, an indigenous land rights advocate, spent 813 days unjustly imprisoned previous to his trial, falsely accused of aggravated usurpation, arson, and illicit association. He was finally released on April 22, 2019 after the High-Risk Court A issued an exculpatory sentence, finding him innocent of all charges.

However, the Public Prosecutor’s Office has—inconceivably—decided to file an appeal against the sentence. On February 24, 2021, the Criminal Court of Appeals held a special appeal hearing. Defense attorney Jovita Tzul presented her arguments and Abelino Chub voiced his dismay at the appeal, asking the Court to uphold the sentence in his favor.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office did not even appear at the hearing, opting instead to send its allegations via written form. The court’s resolution of this appeal will be issued on March 10 at 3:00 pm. 

The actions of the Public Prosecutor’s Office appear to be part of a strategy to criminalize human rights defenders and community leaders in Guatemala. Keeping Abelino Chub embroiled in a criminal process literally handcuffs his ability to carry out his work in defense of the Q’eqchi people. This despite the high court’s finding Abelino to be completely innocent.

According to Abelino Chub’s defense, “The sentence issued on April 22, 2019 by the High-Risk Court A, is clear and logically reasoned. It is therefore incomprehensible that the Public Ministry alleges in its appeal that the sentence (2016-00328) is not well founded because it didn’t give sufficient evidentiary value to two of the prosecution’s witnesses—the foreman and the manager of the Murciélago farm, allegedly owned by Cobra Investments and CXI, Inc. (companies with a vested interest in the area and plaintiffs in the case). For this reason, it is clear that this continues to be a case of criminalization and a strategy for dispossession of the Q’eqchi lands.”

It is troubling that the Guatemalan State, via the Public Prosecutor’s Office, continues to criminalize and persecute human rights defenders, while promoting and endorsing the dispossession of indigenous lands. Furthermore, the Public Prosecutor’s Office has clearly disregarded its duty to investigate the serious irregularities that were evidenced during the trial. The High-Risk Court A, in its sentence, ordered “the Public Prosecutor’s Office to conduct an investigation into the irregularities detected in the public land titles that form part of the documentary evidence.” No such investigation has been conducted, however, to our knowledge, and no results announced.

Abelino was captured by the Guatemalan National Civil Police on February 4, 2017, in the department of Alta Verapaz.  The arrest took place in a context of pronounced social conflict provoked by business interests that have systematically stripped the Q’eqchi people of their lands. These companies have produced violence and serious environmental impacts while imposing their economic projects: monoculture plantations, the construction of massive hydroelectric plants, and nickel mining.

These projects have contributed to the increase in poverty and extreme poverty in the region. The Q’eqchi communities that have historically resided in the territory have repeatedly denounced the violence, repression, criminalization and evictions they suffer. However, the Guatemalan justice system has not responded to these complaints. In fact, megaprojects continue to be imposed on community lands, in violation of rights protected by the Constitution of the Republic and international conventions, such as ILO Convention 169, which establishes respect for indigenous lands and the right to prior, free, and informed consultations concerning the use of those lands. 

We, the undersigned organizations, denounce the criminalization of defenders and the dispossession of indigenous lands through the improper application of the law against those defending their legitimate and legal rights. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has expressed its concern regarding the criminalization of human rights defenders and the malicious use of criminal law to limit the exercise of the defense of human rights.   

We urgently call on the Guatemalan State to guarantee the rights of the Q’eqchi indigenous communities, including the right to defend human rights and the right to defend their territory. 

We urgently call on the Public Prosecutor’s Office to desist from continuing to pursue criminal proceedings which criminalize human rights defenders such as Abelino Chub Caal and violate the rights of indigenous communities, such as Plan Grande de El Estor, Izabal. In addition, we call on you to comply with your obligation to investigate objectively and impartially to stop the forced dispossession of Q’eqchi lands.

Signed:

Institutions

Abogado Liberal
ActionAid Guatemala
ALIANZAS, Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington
Asociación Chomija
Center for Gender & Refugee Studies
Centro por la Justicia y el Derecho Internacional-CEJIL
Chomija
CoDevelopment Canada
Colectivo de Mujeres Ix Bahlam
Committee for Human Rights in Latin America (CDHAL)
Denver Justice and Peace Committee
Foro de ONGs Internacionales de Guatemala
Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA
Guatemala Solidarity Project
Hamalali Garinagu
Latin America Working Group (LAWG)
Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network
MiningWatch Canada
Montreal Elders for Environmental Justice
Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA)
New Hampshire-Vermont Guatemala Accompaniment Project
Nicaragua Center for Community Action
Northern Virginians for Peace and Justice
Older Women Live OWL collective – Ckut 90.3 FM
Plataforma Guatemaltecos y Guatemaltecas Exiliados por Terrorismo de Estado
Projet Accompagnement Québec-Guatemala (PAQG)
Todos por Guatemala/All for Guatemala
TROCAIRE

Individuals

Jo-Marie Burt, Senior Fellow WOLA

Suzan Chastain

Roger Soles, Jade Enterprises

Wes Callender

Laila Hamdan

William Mair Russell

Gaillmarie M Goldrick

Bruce D. Rieder

Constance Freeman

Marilyn Baker

Jonathan Moller

John Ellig

William Walls

Sigue la Criminalización en Contra del Defensor Abelino Chub Caal

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El gobierno de Guatemala, a través del Ministerio Público, insiste en seguir criminalizando a Abelino Chub Caal que subyace el despojo de tierras a la comunidad q’eqchi Plan Grande, de El Estor, Izabal. 

Abelino Chub, defensor de la tierra y los derechos de los pueblos indígenas, pasó 813 días injustamente encarcelado, acusado falsamente de usurpación agravada, incendio y asociación ilícita. 

Abelino finalmente fue puesto en libertad el 22 de abril de 2019 después de que el Tribunal de Mayor Riesgo “A” dictó una sentencia exculpatoria, evidenciando su inocencia. 

Pero el Ministerio Público -incomprensiblemente- presentó una apelación contra la sentencia. Por ello, el 24 de febrero de 2021, la Sala de la Corte de Apelaciones del Ramo Penal de Proceso de Mayor Riesgo y Extinción de Dominio llevó a cabo la audiencia de Apelación Especial. La abogada defensora Jovita Tzul presentó sus alegatos y Abelino Chub expuso su desacuerdo a la apelación y pidieron al Corte confirmar la sentencia a su favor. 

El Ministerio Público ni se presentó por haber enviado sus alegatos por escrito. La resolución de esta audiencia será dictada el día 10 de marzo a las 3.00 pm. 

La actuación del Ministerio Público se enmarca dentro de la estrategia de criminalización contra las y los líderes y defensores de los derechos humanos en Guatemala. Seguir manteniendo a Abelino Chub ligado a un proceso penal, es seguir criminalizándole. Ya fue declarado inocente. 

Según la defensa de Abelino Chub, “la sentencia dictada el 22 de abril del 2019 por el Tribunal de Mayor Riesgo A, es clara, con razonamiento lógico, por lo que es incomprensible que el Ministerio Público alegue en su apelación especial que la sentencia 2016-00328 que no se fundamenta al no dar valor probatorio a dos testigos de la empresa acusadora, siendo ellos caporal y gerente de la finca Murciélago, supuesta propiedad de las mismas empresas familiares de COBRA S.A. Y CXI S.A. Por tal motivo se analiza que sigue siendo un caso de criminalización y estrategia de despojos de las tierras q’eqchi.“ 

Es preocupante que el Estado, a través del Ministerio Público, siga persiguiendo y criminalizando a los defensores de los derechos humanos, siga promoviendo y avalando el despojo de las tierras indígenas, descartando su deber de investigar graves irregularidades que se evidenciaron en el proceso. 

Incluso el Tribunal de Mayor Riesgo A, en su sentencia, “ordena al Ministerio Público que realice investigación en relación a las irregularidades detectadas en las escrituras públicas que forma parte de la prueba documental.”

Abelino fue capturado el 4 de febrero de 2017 por la Policía Nacional Civil de Guatemala, en el departamento de Alta Verapaz. La captura se dio en un contexto de alta conflictividad generada por intereses empresariales, que han despojado de forma sistemática la tierra en manos de comunidades q’eqchis. Estas empresas han generado violencia e graves impactos ambientales en imponer sus proyectos económicos: plantaciones de monocultivos, la construcción de hidroeléctricas masivas, y la explotación minera de níquel. 

Dichos proyectos han contribuido al aumento de la pobreza y la extrema pobreza en la región. Las comunidades q’eqchies que ocupan históricamente el territorio han denunciado de manera reiterada la violencia, represión, criminalización y ataques que sufren. Sin embargo, el sistema de justicia guatemalteco no ha dado respuesta alguna a las denuncias. Al contrario, los megaproyectos se imponen por encima de tierras de comunidades violentando derechos amparados en la Constitución Política de la República y en convenios internacionales como el convenio 169 de la OIT que establece el respeto a las tierras indígenas y la consulta de buena fe: previa, libre e informada. 

Las organizaciones que suscribimos el presente pronunciamiento, denunciamos las intenciones de promover la criminalización y la promoción de los despojos, haciendo uso indebido del derecho penal contra defensores de los derechos humanos y comunidades indígenas que defienden sus derechos legítimos y legales. Es de resaltar que La Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH) ha expresado su preocupación respecto a la criminalización de personas defensoras y el uso malicioso del derecho penal para limitar el ejercicio de defensa de derechos humanos. 

Exhortamos al Estado Guatemalteco, de manera urgente, a garantizar los derechos de las comunidades indígenas q’eqchi, así como el derecho a defender los derechos humanos y la defensa de su territorio. 

Solicitamos al Ministerio Público desistir de seguir impulsando recursos penales que tienen como objetivo la criminalización de defensores de los derechos humanos, como Abelino Chub Caal, y la represión contra comunidades indígenas, como la comunidad Plan Grande del Estor, Izabal. Además, pedimos que se cumpla su obligación de investigar de manera objetiva e imparcial para detener el despojo de las tierras q’eqhi.

Firmado: 

Instituciones:

Abogado Liberal
ActionAid Guatemala
ALIANZAS, Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington
Asociación Chomija
Center for Gender & Refugee Studies
Centro por la Justicia y el Derecho Internacional-CEJIL
Chomija
CoDevelopment Canada
Colectivo de Mujeres Ix Bahlam
Committee for Human Rights in Latin America (CDHAL)
Denver Justice and Peace Committee
Foro de ONGs Internacionales de Guatemala
Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA
Guatemala Solidarity Project
Hamalali Garinagu
Latin America Working Group (LAWG)
Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network
MiningWatch Canada
Montreal Elders for Environmental Justice
Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA)
New Hampshire-Vermont Guatemala Accompaniment Project
Nicaragua Center for Community Action
Northern Virginians for Peace and Justice
Older Women Live OWL collective – Ckut 90.3 FM
Plataforma Guatemaltecos y Guatemaltecas Exiliados por Terrorismo de Estado
Projet Accompagnement Québec-Guatemala (PAQG)
Todos por Guatemala/All for Guatemala
TROCAIRE

Individuals

Jo-Marie Burt, Senior Fellow WOLA

Suzan Chastain

Roger Soles, Jade Enterprises

Wes Callender

Laila Hamdan

William Mair Russell

Gaillmarie M Goldrick

Bruce D. Rieder

Constance Freeman

Marilyn Baker

Jonathan Moller

John Ellig

William Walls

Dianna Ortiz, Presente!

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With heavy hearts yet mindful that her work continues in the world we mark the passing today of Sister Dianna Ortiz, OSU. Dianna worked at the Guatemala Human Rights Commission from 1994 to 2002.  A survivor of torture in Guatemala, Dianna bravely pursued her case through the Guatemalan court system in the early 90s, to no avail, and bravely continued fighting for the rights of survivors of torture, founding the Torture Abolition and Survivor’s Support Coalition in 1998, as a project of GHRC. TASSC operated as a project of GHRC until it received its own 501(c)(3) status in 2002. In 1996 Dianna conducted a highly publicized vigil and hunger strike in front of the White House to request the declassification of all US government documents related to cases of human rights abuse in Guatemala since 1954. The State Department made a voluntary release of thousands of pages of documents that illustrated US complicity with the Guatemalan government in its brutal and genocidal campaign against the Mayan indigenous and against armed insurgents, human rights defenders, and others working for change.

Dianna first came to Washington to participate in GHRC’s 1992 conference against torture in Guatemala, giving the keynote speech. GHRC’s founding director, Sister Alice Zachmann, had fought for Dianna’s release when she was abducted in Guatemala in 1989 and was instrumental in connecting her with a torture treatment center in Chicago, the Marjorie Kovler Center. A couple of years later Dianna would join GHRC’s staff of three and play a pivotal role in supporting Jennifer Harbury’s efforts to learn the fate of her husband, Efrain Bamaca Velasquez, efforts that resulted in the disclosure of continued and close US collaboration with and funding of Guatemala’s military death squads.

Dianna was an example of strength, generosity of spirit, and courage. All who knew her were touched by her and all she touched was improved. We are blessed to have had her with us at GHRC and we know she will remain with us in spirit and with all who fight for human rights.

Dianna Ortiz, presente!

(Traduccion por Felipe Elgueta Frontier)

¡DIANNA ORTIZ, PRESENTE!

Con nuestros corazones apesadumbrados pero con la convicción de que su obra continúa en este mundo, hoy anunciamos el fallecimiento de la hermana Dianna Ortiz, OSU. Dianna trabajó en la Guatemala Human Rights Commission (GHRC) desde 1994 hasta 2002. Superviviente de tortura en Guatemala, Dianna llevó adelante su caso con valentía en el sistema judicial guatemalteco a principios de los años 90, sin obtener resultados, y con valentía continuó luchando por los derechos de las y los supervivientes de la tortura, fundando la Torture Abolition and Survivor’s Support Coalition (TASSC) en 1998, como un proyecto de la GHRC. La TASSC funcionó como proyecto de la GHRC hasta que recibió su propio estatus 501(c)(3) en 2002.

En 1996, Dianna llevó a cabo una vigilia y huelga de hambre muy publicitada frente a la Casa Blanca para solicitar la desclasificación de todos los documentos del gobierno estadounidense relacionados con casos de violaciones a los derechos humanos en Guatemala desde 1954. El Departamento de Estado liberó voluntariamente miles de páginas de documentos que ilustraban la complicidad de EE.UU. con el gobierno guatemalteco en su campaña brutal y genocida contra las y los indígenas mayas y contra insurgentes armados, defensores de derechos humanos y otros que trabajaban por el cambio.Dianna vino por primera vez a Washington para participar en la conferencia contra la tortura en Guatemala realizada por la GHRC en 1992, donde fue la oradora principal. La directora fundadora de la GHRC, la hermana Alice Zachmann, había luchado por la liberación de Dianna cuando fue secuestrada en Guatemala en 1989 y fue fundamental para conectarla con un centro de tratamiento de tortura en Chicago, el Centro Marjorie Kovler. Un par de años más tarde, Dianna se unió al equipo de tres personas del GHRC y tuvo un rol fundamental en el apoyo a los esfuerzos de Jennifer Harbury para conocer el destino de su esposo, Efraín Bamaca Velásquez, esfuerzos que revelaron los lazos estrechos y continuados de colaboración y financiamiento entre EE.UU. y los escuadrones militares de la muerte de Guatemala.

Dianna fue un ejemplo de generosidad de espíritu, fortaleza y valentía. Todos los que la conocieron fueron tocados por ella, y todo lo que ella tocó, mejoró. Fue una bendición de tenerla con nosotros en el GHRC y sabemos que seguirá con nosotros en espíritu y con todos los que luchan por los derechos humanos.

Supreme Electoral Tribunal Blocks Registration of Progressive Presidential Ticket 

On January 28, in a resolution, the Registry of Citizens of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) rejected the Presidential Ticket of Thelma Cabrera and Jordan Rodas for the People’s Liberation Movement Party (MLP). Claiming that the registration of former Ombudsman and Vice Presidential hopeful Jordan Rodas was not valid, the TSE argued that Rodas cannot run for Vice President because he currently faces legal complaints and charges. The party was given three days to challenge the resolution.

MLP party leadership filed an appeal to annul the resolution on January 30, rejecting the decision to block its presidential nomination. The legal team was joined by a crowd carrying signs and who chanted in protest of the decision as the team delivered the appeal to the TSE headquarters. Rodas responded on  twitter, stating, “Democracy in Guatemala has taken another step backwards; they fear the people and their sovereign decisions.” “With that decision that they made, they are demonstrating electoral fraud. The decision  is not against him [Rodas] but against the participation of the people,” Cabrera said.

Meanwhile, presidential tickets from ten other parties were authorized, including the nomination of Zury Ríos for the VALOR-Unionista party. Ríos is the daughter of former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, who ruled from 1982 to 1983 and was convicted of genocide in 2013. 

Judges Rules to Close Case Against Criminalizing Chicoyoguito Defenders

The trial against the Chicoyogüito defenders began on January 24 at the Second Sentencing Court of Cobán, Alta Verapaz. Criminalized for defending their ancestral territory, 21 Indigenous Q’eqchi community members faced charges of “usurpation related to a demonstration” in which they demanded the restitution of land that was stolen from their community in the 1960s to create a military encampment. Judge Walter Chen, after listening to the arguments from both parties, ruled to close the case in favor of the defenders with the requirement that they adhere to 

the “Opportunity Criterion” presented by the Public Ministry (MP).

“Opportunity Criterion”–as defined in Guatemalan Law–is a power held by the MP that allows it to refrain from initiating new criminal procedures or to close ongoing proceedings. In it, the parties agree that in order not to go to trial or prison, the accused persons must carry out some form of restitution to society for their alleged crimes. As recommended by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Food, the 21 defenders must carry out four days of community service and release a public communication.  

One Year Post-Victory, Achi Women Press State to Carry Out Reparations 

On the one-year anniversary of their victory over their abusers, survivors from the Mujeres Achí, or “Achi Women,” case demanded compliance with the last year’s sentence. On January 24, 2022, High Risk Court “A” ruled in favor of the Achi Women, sentencing the five former Civil Defense Patrolers (PAC) to 30 years in prison for crimes against humanity in the form of sexual violence. The sentence–delivered by Judge Yasmin Barrios–also included a list of reparation measures to benefit the survivors, their communities, and Guatemala more broadly. Represented by the Rabinal Legal Clinic (ABJPR), the women filed a request to resolve pending appeals and carry out the reparation measures.

Organized into the four categories of economic compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction, and guarantee of non-repetition, the reparations include provisions to not only assist the direct victims, but future generations. In addition to compensation, the reparations measures call for the installation of health centers in the communities of the survivors, training programs on human rights and violence and women, and training for state security forces. According to survivor and leader Maxima Valey, however, the reparations “have not been realized in our communities.” In March, the Attorney General’s Office denied responsibility for carrying  them out, claiming that many of the measures are already addressed in the 1996 Peace Accords. The women rejected its decision, urging that “the public institutions that were identified as responsible for fulfilling the reparation measures assume an active role and initiate the necessary actions to implement each measure.” 

Last September, the women shared their demands with policymakers and government officials in Washington, DC. After accepting one of the Washington Office on Latin America’s (WOLA) 2022 Human Rights Awards, Valey exposed the lack of compliance by the Guatemalan government in a series of meetings arranged by GHRC. She told our team that while she feels an immeasurable pride in having won the case, “That was just the beginning.” She continued, “We will keep fighting until the last reparation is carried out.”  

Expanded Attacks on Anti-Corruption Advocates Expose Judicial Crisis in Guatemala, Spark International Condemnation  

Public Ministry Releases New Warrants and Opens Investigation into Colombia’s Defense Minister  
On January 16, Rafael Curruchiche–current head of the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity (FECI)–announced via the social media pages of the Public Ministry (MP) the release of new arrest warrants of former attorney general Thelma Aldana, the former secretary of the MP Mayra Véliz, former investigator at the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) and current member of Transparency International Guatemala David Gaitán, and private attorney Juan Pablo Carrasco for the crimes of obstruction of justice, conspiracy and abuse of authority in relation to their work on the Odebrecht case. In 2018, the CICIG opened an investigation into bribes accepted by Guatemalan officials from Odebrecht–a Brazilian construction company that admitted to distributing nearly $800 million in bribes across Latin America.  

The MP also announced that it “will undertake corresponding legal actions” against Iván Velásquez, a Colombian national who led the CICIG between 2013 and 2018. Last year he was appointed as Colombia’s Minister of Defense and has served in the position since August. In his tenure with CICIG, Velásquez prosecuted many high-profile Guatemalans for corruption, including former president Otto Pérez Molina, who was convicted last December of fraud and racketeering and sentenced to 16 years in prison. Velásquez also worked on cases against the heads of Guatemala’s central bank, customs and tax officials, legislators and political party leaders, making himself an enemy of those seeking to preserve impunity in Guatemala. In 2019, the Guatemalan government dismantled the CICIG, claiming that it abused its authority and violated the constitution. Former President Jimmy Morales ordered the removal of all CICIG staff from the country, including Velásquez. 

In the wake of the announcement from the MP, tensions have run high between Guatemala and Colombia. Colombian President Gustavo Petro responded, stating “I will never accept an arrest warrant for our minister.” According to President Giammattei, however, no charges have been filed against Velásquez, the MP has just opened investigations. On Monday, Colombia’s Foreign Ministry recalled its ambassador to Guatemala with Guatemala following suit soon after. 

Beyond Colombia, the reaction from the international community has also been strong. Deputy director for the Americas at Human Rights Watch Juan Pappier reacted to the news, stating, “it is not about Iván Velásquez. It’s about Guatemala, where corruption is sweeping away human rights.” Echoing Pappier, Assistant secretary for the Western Hemisphere at the State Department Brian Nichols tweeted, “I am disturbed by the arrest warrants for individuals who worked to ensure accountability for corruption in the Odebrecht case in Guatemala. These actions undermine the rule of law and trust in the Guatemalan judicial system.” The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk expressed his concern over “the attacks against those trying to combat one of the worst viruses to afflict any society: corruption.” He added, ““It is dramatic, given Guatemala’s history, that those fighting for accountability for gross human rights violations are the ones now being persecuted.”

Virginia Laparra Faces Even More Charges

Less than a month after her conviction for “abuse of authority,” former head of the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity (FECI) in Quetzaltenango Virginia Laparra will face a second case against her. On January 3, Laparra was transferred from the Matamoros prison–where she is currently being held–to the Criminal Court of First Instance in Quetzaltenango and was forced to sit through a 15-hour initial hearing for new charges made against her. Judge Carmen Lucía Acú ruled to open the case for which Laparra is accused of “revealing confidential information,” and ordered that she be kept in pretrial detention pending the intermediate phase hearing, scheduled for April 21, 2023. Laparra has been detained since February 2022. 

Given the lack of notice, Laparra requested to suspend the hearing to allow her defense time to prepare. Her request, however, was denied. In fact, her defense was expelled from the courtroom along with the press and human rights observers with the Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (UDEFEGUA). UDEFEGUA and the World Organization Against Torture, in a joint statement, identified the events as “a groteque exercise of judicial bias,” stating, “the judicial system is merciless against Virginia Laparra.”

On January 18, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a statement condemning criminalization of judicial workers in Guatemala, stating that, “There has been a steady increase in the number of cases of harassment and criminal charges against its [Guatemala’s] former officials, and prosecutors.” Between 2021 and 2022, the OHCHR recorded more than 70 percent increase in the number of justice officials facing intimidation and criminal charges for their work on corruption or human rights violations.  

GHRC Travels to Colombia to Participate in International Conference Addressing Regional Human Rights Issues 

In the midst of authoritarian backsliding across Latin America, a conference shone a ray of hope, connecting hundreds of human rights advocates to develop a regional strategy to common challenges. From November 29-30, the Inaugural RegionaR Conference took place in Bogota, Colombia where human rights representatives from across the region, shared their experiences and strategies for defending human rights. This “invitation only” event brought together many human rights workers, including: Indigenous land defenders, LGBT+ organizations, feminist activists, Afro-Latino movement leaders, disability rights advocates, and more. GHRC Advocacy Director Corie Welch was also in attendance. 

The RegionaR 2022 Regional Conference on Human Rights served as the inaugural event of the RegionaR Regional Forum on Human Rights Initiatives. The conference united representatives from civil society organizations all dedicated to the defense of human rights in Latin America with the purpose of providing space to analyze the common factors that threaten human rights, rule of law, and democracy in the region. For two packed days, over 150 human rights advocates participated in a series of lectures, panels, dialogue, and plenary sessions with the purpose of learning from each others’ experiences and developing regional strategies to combat threats against human rights more broadly. 

Prior to the conference, participants were asked to submit questionnaires, which were compiled into the context analysis. Drawing from their responses, the major challenges facing the region were identified as: pillars of inequality–corporate capture of the State; weakening of the rule of law; aggravation of risks and negative impacts for the rural population and indigenous peoples; closure of civic space and political violence; gender based violence; and more. (Read the full list and analysis here.) Culminating in a call to action, the participants released a statement, inviting, “civil society to join efforts in the defense of human, collective and natural rights and fundamental freedoms from an intersectional, inclusive, full, effective and multicultural perspective.” It also called on governments, corporations, and international financing mechanisms to respect human rights and the environment. 

Reflecting on her experience, Advocacy Director Corie Welch shared that she came away from the conference feeling uplifted and hopeful for the future of human rights work. “It’s been a tough year to work on human rights in Guatemala, but learning about the commonalities between the struggles of other countries and communities was energizing.” She continued, “Being able to hear the experiences from other defenders and share space with them was helpful in thinking about GHRC’s advocacy strategy. I felt inspired knowing that even in the face of major challenges across the region, we are united in the fight to protect human rights.” In the face of a regional trend backwards in human rights, the coalition was formed, “convinced that there are opportunities to build a new reality.”

State Security Forces Open Fire on Q’eqchi’ Community in El Estor and Other Updates

In the early morning of December 6, hundreds of Guatemalan police and military forces attacked the Q’eqchi’ community of Chapín Abajo in El Estor, Izabal. The group arrived via boat, working alongside what witnesses have reported as local paramilitary groups, and entered the community by force. These State security forces were acting on behalf of the major land holder and African palm oil company, Naturaceites that filed an eviction notice, accusing the community of “usurpation of land.” 

Video evidence reveals excessive force was used against the community. The forces opened fire, launched teargas, and beat community members. So far, two have been reported injured, including one minor who has been hospitalized from gunshot wounds and remains in critical condition. Dozens of community members, including children, were exposed to unsafe levels of tear gas. Five have been detained, including two minors. Local Q’eqchi’ Ancestral Councils have asked for an official observation mission from the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office (PDH) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to visit the area to verify the situation.

Both national and international groups came forward, denouncing the attack. The Forum of International Organizations in Guatemala (FONGI) condemned the excessive use of force and called upon the State of Guatemala to “comply with its human rights obligations.” In an alert published on December 7, GHRC expressed concerns for “the safety and well-being of indigenous communities in El Estor and throughout Guatemala, as cases of violent evictions by state security forces in collaboration with paramilitary groups have increased this year.” 

Human Rights Defender Murdered in Jalapa 

The body of Tereso Carcamo Flores was found, riddled with bullets on December 5, some 600 meters from his home in Santa María Xalapán, Jalapa. Flores was returning home from a wake in El Volcán, when he was attacked by armed men and killed. According to Flores’ family, he had been receiving threats for months, related to his involvement with the Campesino Development Committee (CODECA) and his work supporting Indigenous communities’ struggle for land in the area. 

He had been a member of CODECA for over nine years. According to another of the organization’s leaders, Leiria Vay, these attacks are commonplace and in line with a pattern of violence against CODECA and human rights defenders in the region. “There are groups in alliance with mafias and hitmen that want to maintain power, they always act in the same way,” he explained. Flores’ death marks the 25th murder of members of CODECA since 2018, all of which remain in impunity. 

Judge Rules to Send World-Renowned Journalist to Trial

José Rubén Zamora–president of media outlet El Periodico and investigative journalist–will stand trial on charges of blackmail, influence peddling, and money laundering. On December 8 in the Tribunal trials in Guatemala City, Judge Freddy Orellana ruled that there was sufficient evidence to send Zamora to trial. Arrested in late July, Zamora has spent the last five months in pretrial detention in the Mariscal Zavala military prison in spite of international outcry demanding his release. 

At the tribunals, President of the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) Michael Greenspan accompanied the hearing, lending his public support for the criminalized journalist. In its latest report on press freedom in Guatemala, the IAPA documented  an “environment of hostility against the press,” denouncing that, “journalists and media outlets are being systematically attacked if they do not bow to the interests of the government.” As an investigative journalist, Zamora has worked over 30 years investigating corruption and has served as one of President Giammattei’s largest critics; human rights groups have denounced his arrest as retaliation.  According to Zamora, “My best scenario is to get out [of prison] Jan. 14, 2024, when Giammattei leaves the presidency. I have patience and the truth on my side.”

Former President’s Sentence Leaves Much to be Desired in Fight Against Impunity 

On December 7, former President Otto Pérez Molina and his vice-president Roxana Baldetti were sentenced to 16 years in prison on the charges of illicit association and customs fraud. Seven years prior, the two resigned from their positions following massive country-wide protests that erupted after the Public Prosecutor’s Office (MP) and the International Commission Against Impunity (CICIG) uncovered extensive corruption in Guatemala’s tax system. 

Former head of the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity Juan Francisco Sandoval–one of the dozens of judges and prosecutors that has been forced into exile during the Giammattei administration–welcomed the verdict stating, “It is a vindication of the work carried out by [those who worked with] CICIG and the public prosecutor’s office.” For many, however, the sentence was not enough. The court ruled to absolve the two of “illicit enrichment,” citing a lack of evidence.  According to Edie Cux, a lawyer with the Guatemalan anti-corruption organization Acción Ciudadana,“It sends a message of institutional weakness regarding cases dealing with corruption.” 

GHRC Statement Condemning Attack in El Estor, December 2022

Yesterday morning, hundreds of Guatemalan security forces arrived to evict the Indigenous Q’eqchi community of Chapín Abajo in El Estor, Izabal. Acting on behalf of the large-scale African Palm producer, NaturAceites, the police used excessive force to remove the community which has been accused by the company of “usurping the land.” The forces opened fire, beat community members, and fired teargas at women and children. Several have been reported injured. Read our statement below. (translation underneath)

ALERT | We condemn the attack against the Q’eqchi community in Chapín Abajo, El Estor

December 7, 2022 

Yesterday morning, hundreds of Guatemalan security forces arrived to evict the community of Chapín Abajo in El Estor, Izabal. Along with what appeared to be paramilitary groups, who arrived via boats, they used force and terror to enter the community, raiding the homes of families and stealing their food and belongings. When community members resisted, the group opened fire and fired tear gas. Several people have been injured. One is hospitalized and is currently fearful for his life, as police arrived to look for him at the hospital last night. 

State forces were used to carry out the eviction in favor of the company Naturaceites, which controls extensive palm plantations throughout Izabal. The company was established on Q’eqchi’ community lands. The company has accused the community of usurping the land and has sent police to evict families four times in the last year. This latest attack is part of a pattern of State violence against Q’eqchi’ communities in the area on behalf of large corporate interests.    

A delegation made up of the four Mayan Q’eqchi’ ancestral councils and journalists from the independent press traveled that same day to verify the situation. The group confirmed that a 17-year-old was seriously wounded and is in critical condition, and that another young man is missing. Two men suffered gunshot wounds and several women were beaten and sustained injuries to both face and body. Dozens of community members, including children, were exposed to unsafe levels of tear gas.

We condemn this latest attack and the excessive use of force against community members by state forces. We are increasingly concerned for the safety and well-being of indigenous communities in El Estor and throughout Guatemala, as cases of violent evictions by state security forces in collaboration with paramilitary groups have increased this year. In El Estor in particular, communities face threats from several fronts with the expansion of African palm plantations, hydroelectric megaprojects and mining in their ancestral territories. As the rule of law continues to disappear in Guatemala, human rights defenders and indigenous communities face the brunt of the violence as human safeguards are removed and institutions openly prioritize corporate and corrupt interests.

We call on the Guatemalan State to put an immediate end to this violence. We demand that: 

  • Immediately cancel all eviction orders; 
  • Immediately release all community members detained during yesterday’s altercation and that they guarantee the physical safety of all members of the Chapín Abajo community;  
  • Allow the entry of a verification mission from the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office (PDH) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

October/November Human Rights Update

Summary: 

In yet another concerning two months, the situation in Guatemala continues to worsen. After months of defamation and threats, Judge Miguel Ángel Gálvez Gálvez was forced to resign and joined the 30 other judicial sector workers in exile. Irregularities abounded in the Guatemalan judicial system, as the trial against criminalized former prosecutor Virginia Laparra began and the fate of the Death Squad Dossier case hangs in the balance now overseen by infamous pro-military judge Claudette Domínguez. Violence against defenders and Indigenous communities has soared, with a violent attack on defenders in El Estor and another violent eviction in Baja Verapaz by Guatemala security forces. Meanwhile, the US Department of Defense handed over 95 tactical vehicles to the Guatemalan military outside of the Mariscal Zavala military base, incidentally where world renowned journalist Ruben Zamorra has been held since July.   

US – Guatemala Relations 

  • US Congressional Offices Introduce Resolution on Guatemala 

On November 16, responding to the constant deterioration of rule of law and human rights conditions in Guatemala, Representatives Norma Torres (D-CA), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, James P. McGovern (D-MA), and Joaquin Castro (D-TX) introduced the “Restoring Human Rights and the Rule of Law in Guatemala” resolution (H.Res 1481) in the House of Representatives. The resolution condemns the kleptocratic takeover of Guatemala’s institutions, illustrating an unprecedented situation in Guatemala since the signing of the Peace Accords. Citing attacks on judicial sector workers, rising violence against human rights defenders, and the complete breakdown of rule of law, it calls on the US to take stronger action.   

“Alarm bells have been going off in Guatemala for quite some time,” said Rep. McGovern, continuing, “This resolution lays out a series of steps that should be taken immediately before corruption takes over completely.” The resolution calls for the suspension of military aid to Guatemala; safeguards to ensure that investments are not arriving to benefit corrupt elites; the investigation and freezing financial assets of corrupt Guatemalan individuals in the US banks; and stronger support from the US to Guatemalan human rights defenders, justice operators, and those increasingly at risk for their work. 

Dozens of human rights organizations, including GHRC,  welcomed the resolution, expressing concern over “the dramatic closure of civic space that affects Guatemalan Indigenous leaders, human rights defenders, and journalists.” According to GHRC Advocacy Director Corie Welch, “The United States has an obligation to support human rights in Guatemala and this resolution serves as an important first step to holding those responsible for the worrisome backsliding in Guatemala accountable.” 

  • US Donates $4.4 million Worth of Equipment to Guatemalan Military

On October 13, amidst a crackdown on human rights defenders, journalists, and judicial sector workers in Guatemala, the US Embassy donated $4.4 million worth of equipment to the Guatemalan military. In a very public ceremony held at the Mariscal Zavala base–incidentally where prominent journalist José Rubén Zamora and the financial director of his newspaper El Periodico Flora Silva are being held on baseless charges–Ambassador William Popp shook hands with military officials to finalize the hand over of 95 tactical vehicles. According to the Embassy’s press release, the donation, which comes from the Department of Defense, “concludes the US Fiscal Year 2019 proposal to donate equipment to support border security efforts in Guatemala.”

Within the last five years, vehicles from the US have been used against human rights defenders and anti-corruption advocates. In 2018, as then President Jimmy Morales began his campaign to expel the International Commission Against Impunity (CICIG), Guatemalan armed forces circled its offices, the US Embassy, and the homes of prominent human rights defenders in donated military jeeps from the US. More recently, the jeeps were used to intimidate Indigenous human rights defenders from El Estor last October. President Giammattei declared martial law following a protest against an illegal mine that continues to harm the environment and local communities. Eye witnesses claim that several of these US J8 jeeps arrived with the other hundreds of police and military vehicles that occupied their town during the state of siege. 

Civil society organizations responded in a statement, expressing their “profound dismay at the extraordinarily counterproductive decision by the Defense Department to reward the Guatemalan military.” The group argued that the donation directly undercuts US policy objectives to support rule of law in Guatemala, pointing to the US State Department decision not to certify Guatemala under the State, Foreign Operations Law for the 2022 Fiscal Year. This decision will freeze at least 50% of aid from the United States given Guatemala’s failure to maintain standards on rule of law and human rights. The group stated, “The failure of the USG [United States Government] to maintain a consistent, principled stance against the corrupt takeover of the Guatemalan state is confounding, counterproductive—and wrong.” According to Director of the Center for Human Rights Legal Action Hector Reyes, “The US cannot continue prioritizing stopping migration over human rights.” 

Justice System, Criminalization, and Transitional Justice Cases  

  • Attacks Against Judge Miguel Ángel Gálvez Reach Tipping Point Forcing him to Resign

In a press conference on November 15, Judge Miguel Ángel Gálvez announced his resignation. As a judge for high risk court “B,” with over twenty years of experience and international recognition for his work as an independent judge, Gálvez oversaw a myriad of important cases like the Ixil Genocide Case, among others. In spite of international support, including from the US State Department, Gálvez was forced to flee in the face of an increasingly hostile campaign against him that could have resulted in imprisonment or death. 

This year, after ruling to send nine former military officers to trial in the “Death Squad Dossier Case,” Gálvez began to face serious instances of defamation, harassment, intimidation, and even death threats. Members of the Foundation Against Terrorism–an far-right, pro-military group behind the vast majority of spurious legal proceses mounted against honest judges and prosecutors–threatened Gálvez publicly on their social media accounts, promising to oust and exile him. According to transitional justice experts Jo-Marie Burt and Paulo Estrada, “Corrupt officials and war criminals alike seek to make an example out of High-Risk Judge Miguel Ángel Gálvez,” continuing, “They tolerate no obstacles in their efforts to restore total impunity in Guatemala.”

Galvez is currently in Costa Rica, where he has been since November 4. According to sources, he is unable to return to Guatemala and is now exiled. He joins 30 other judicial sector workers forced into exile under the Giammattei administration.  

  • Death Squad Dossier Case Assigned New Judge, Irregularities Abound 

Following the resignation of Judge Angel Galvez on November 15, the Death Squad Dossier case was temporarily assigned to Judge Claudette Domínguez. Until a new judge is assigned to replace Judge Galvez, Domínguez will oversee the trial against nine former military and police officials, accused of being responsible for the illegal detention, torture, forced disappearance, homicide and sexual violence against at least 195 people during the de facto government of General Óscar Mejía Víctores, between 1983 and 1985. 

In the short time since her assignment, human rights groups have condemned irregularities and blatant attempts to sabotage access to justice for the victims in the case. First, in a resolution issued on November 28, Judge Domínguez granted substitutive measures in favor of the defendant Toribio Acevedo, on the grounds that he suffers from serious health problems. Acevedo, who was a fugitive for almost a year until his arrest in Panama in May of this year, was indicted by Judge Galvez for crimes against humanity, forced disappearance, murder and attempted murder. According to Guatemalan law, however, those accused of murder are prohibited from being granted house arrest. 

Second, Judge Domínguez has a history of favoring the military and ruling against victims in transitional justice cases. The International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) accused her of favoring people accused of serious corruption. In both the Creompaz Case and the Achi Women sexual violence case, she dismissed the accusations brought forward by the victims and was eventually recused for lack of impartiality on the case.  

Human rights organizations expressed concerns for the future of the case, stating that “decisions such as those recently issued by Claudette Domínguez and the First Chamber of the Court of Appeals represent a serious setback in the fight against impunity and the rights of the families of the victims, who have waited more than 40 years to find justice.” The group called upon the State of Guatemala to “comply with its international obligations in this regard and request the international community to continue to watch over the rights of the victims to have access to prompt and fulfilled justice.”

  • Amnesty International Declares Virginia Laparra Prisoner of Conscience as Trial Begins

Following eight months in prison, the trial against the former head of the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity (FECI) in Quetzaltenango Virginia Laparra began in Guatemala City. Laparra is accused of an administrative crime for having allegedly abused her authority for denouncing a judge in 2018. According to Laparra’s legal defense, however, her “only mistake was having denounced corruption.” 

The trial opened with the presentation of evidence. Testimony from Juan Francisco Sandoval–former head of the FECI currently exiled in the US–was rejected after the court denied a request from Laparra’s legal team to allow Sandoval to testify via video call. Instead, the court ruled that he must testify at the Guatemalan consulate in Washington, DC. Given his ongoing asylum case in the US, he was unable to testify and was recused as a witness. 

Since Laparra’s arrest in February,  human rights organizations have continued to call for her immediate release. Days after trial began, Amnesty International declared Laparra a “prisoner of conscience,” demanding her freedom. According to  Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International, “We have found serious shortcomings as regards the charges against former prosecutor Virginia Laparra, as well as multiple irregularities in the handling of the case. Not only is there no solid evidence that she has committed any crime, but it is clear that the reasons given by the court for rejecting her requests to be released while proceedings continue are arbitrary.” The trial is set to continue through December. Laparra faces up to nine years in prison if convicted.  

  • MP Releases Additional Arrest Warrants Against Anti-Corruption Attorneys

On October 19, police raided the home of former head of the International Commission Against Impunity (CICIG) Leily Sentizo. Shortly after, Rafael Currichiche–the current head of the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity (FECI)–announced on social media the release of another arrest warrant against the former prosecutor as well as former head of the FECI Juan Francisco Sandoval for alleged “obstruction of criminal action.” The warrants are a result of a criminal complaint filed by the Foundation Against Terrorism related to a phone conversation that was intercepted between Sentizo and Sandoval earlier this year. 

Further details, however, have not been made public by the Public Ministry or overseeing courts. In fact, Sentizo’s defense team denounced that the prosecutors on the case have refused to share the forensic report. Meanwhile, privileged information is surfacing on anonymous social media accounts, some of which before any official announcement was made. In a statement, international human rights groups condemned the acts of criminalization that “have shown a pattern in which the events that will happen, are publicized in advance through social network accounts of private actors that should not have any relationship with institutions such as the Judiciary and the Public Prosecutor’s Office.” According to the Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (UDEFEGUA), “This new case is the criminalization of the practice of law and the right of the accused prosecutors to defend themselves.” 

That same day, while Virginia Laparra was awaiting the start of a hearing to review the measures forcing her to await her trial from prison, the Foundation Against Terrorism and anonymous accounts began to leak information about a new arrest warrant had been issued against her. As former head of the FECI in Quetzaltenango, Laparra was arrested in February as part of a string of arrests made against anti-corruption attorneys. She has been forced to wait her trial from prison, in conditions that have been condemned as inhumane and “torturous.” At the end of the hearing, she received official information that an Urgent Proceedings Judge had ordered her arrest for the alleged crime of “disclosure of reserved information.” She was denied bail once again.

According to the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) these new acts of criminalization against Juan Francisco Sandoval, Leily Santizo and Virginia Laparra “take place in a context of deliberate erosion and weakening of the rule of law in Guatemala, which aims to create a climate of fear, as well as the co-optation of the judicial system to guarantee impunity for the criminal networks that operate in the country.’ 

Violence Against Defenders 

  • Armed Group Attack Defenders in El Estor 

On the morning of October 26, following widespread rumors on social media that police were on their way to El Estor to carry out arrest warrants related to the October 2021 anti-mining protests, thousands of police arrived at the dock of Chapin Abajo. According to community members, they arrived by land, sea, and air. Eye witnesses report that two boats–one official military ship and another owned by the local palm oil company NaturAceite–arrived suddenly at the pier, dropping 2000 officers clad in full riot gear. Three helicopters also circled overhead in what one community member described as like “the times of war.” 

To capture nine indigenous authorities, the police attempted to enter the community, but were blocked by a row of Q’eqchi’ women leaders. According to one Indigenous Authority, in order to enter the community, the police needed to “request permission from the Community Development Councils (COCODES) and from us, the ancestral authorities.” Rather than engage in dialogue, the group of security forces began to taunt the women, demanding they let them pass and calling them racial slurs. The police then began to use force against the women and other community members, firing teargas and, according to witnesses, live rounds into the crowd. No one was reported injured.  

Following the altercation, the police began circulating flyers with pictures and names of the nine authorities they tried to arrest, offering a reward and calling the defenders “fugitives of the law.” The warrants are related to the participation of the defenders in the anti-mining movement in El Estor. Thirteen others, including journalist Carlos Choc, have faced warrants for their arrest related to the state of siege in El Estor last October. This worrisome trend in El Estor reflects a national pattern, where human rights defenders are facing rising criminalization. 

  • Security Forces Carry Out Violent Eviction in Baja Verapaz 

On November 21 in Baja Verapaz, hundreds of Guatemalan security forces–including both military and National Civil Police (PNC)–gathered, preparing to evict several communities in the area. Notified of their intentions and in fear of their lives, community members from Pancoc and Monjon fled their homes, which were subsequently raided by security forces who then proceeded to eat their food and kill their livestock. One community member was reportedly injured in the process. 

This most recent attack by police falls into a worrisome pattern in both Alta and Baja Verapaz, where Indigneous communities have faced increased violence from security forces carrying out eviction orders. The communities of Dos Fuentes and Washington shared their concerns that they could be the next target. In October of 2020, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights granted both communities protective measures, requiring the Guatemalan government to ensure the personal integrity of the Poqomchi’ families, take culturally appropriate measures to improve their living conditions, prevent future attacks from third parties, and investigate attacks  that have been made against them.

Since 2020, however, these two and all Indigneous communities in the Verapaces regions face a higher risk for violence and other forms of repression like criminalization. For example, in 2021, the Guatemalan government established the Observatory on Property Rights–a special prosecutor’s office specifically designed to address crimes of usurpation. As seen across Guatemala and throughout the region, the crime of usurpation is often leveled against Indigneous communities and land defenders in the process of reclaiming their ancestral territories. 

Militarization across the Verapaces and specifically in the Sierra de Las Minas region has expanded, as evidenced by the heavy presence of military and police forces. In July of this year, GHRC’s Emergency Human Rights Delegation documented increased presence from security forces, including hundreds gathered outside of a gas station in Purulha, en route to evict an Indigenous community. In September of this year, the Guatemalan army established its first new military brigade in ten years, to be based in Baja Verapaz. 

Indigenous communities have reported the impact of such militarization on their wellbeing, including both physical and mental health. Community members report that the increased presence of military forces around their communities is reminiscent of terror campaigns used during the internal armed conflict, where hundreds of thousands were brutally killed and/or disappeared. Now, families are unable to move freely to carry out essential tasks for their daily life. In an alert published by GHRC, we called on the state of Guatemala to “guarantee the right to life, safety and security of the community members” and to cancel any pending warrants for evictions that violate human rights and basic international norms and put Indigenous communities at grave risk. 

Civil Society 

  • Far Right Group Targets Prominent Human Rights Organization 

After accompanying criminalized former prosecutor Virginia Laparra to her most recent hearing, the Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (UDEFEGUA) was hit with a new wave of defamation on social media. The prominent human rights organization–recognized internationally for over two decades of exceptional work advocating for human rights defenders in Guatemala–has been accused by the Foundation Against Terrorism of profiting off of international support and donations. 

Human rights groups in Guatemala came to UDEFEGUA’s defense, publishing a series of statements on social media in support of the organization and its essential work. For more than 20 years, UDEFEGUA has been committed to supporting human rights in Guatemala, documenting attacks, accompanying defenders, and advocating for those at risk. According to the Human Rights Convergence, “This situation of open threats against UDEFEGUA, as well as the collusion of judicial authorities to impede its labor, represents an enormous risk to an organization that is fundamental to the exercise of human rights in Guatemala.”  

  • Human Rights Groups Raise Concerns over Regional Slide into Authoritarianism 

From October 10-14, human rights defenders from Central America visited Washington, DC to share their concerns over what they identified as a “regional slide into authoritarianism.” This coalition–consisting of human rights groups from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua–was formed to address common issues and trends in the region. In a packed four days, the group–accompanied by GHRC–met with congressional offices, the State Department, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and several DC- based human rights groups. 

Guatemalan representatives with the Center for Human Rights Legal Action (CALDH) and Indigenous Peoples’ Law Firm highlighted their concerns regarding the dramatic regression in human rights in Guatemala. In particular, they emphasized the lack of protections for human rights and land defenders, as institutions are overtaken by corrupt forces. The group called for stronger action from the US government, including robust support for civil society and human rights defenders, the suspension of security aid to the region, and the re-evaluation of pending loans in order to ensure compliance with human rights standards.  

  • Organizations Form National Resistance Coalition 

In a press conference held on October 2, human rights groups came together to announce the creation of a non-violent coalition dedicated to fighting corruption and resisting what they identified as a mounting dictatorship in Guatemala. Named the “National Resistance Convergence” or CNR, the group has formed to resist and counteract the capture of institutions by elites in Guatemala and democratic backsliding. In the press conference, representatives from CNR called for “unity and organization, for nonviolent participation and resistance so that together we can dream and work for a different Guatemala fighting against corruption, impunity and electoral fraud in 2023.”

The group consists of 52 representatives from 13 social organizations in Guatemala and is led by Cardinal Álvaro Ramazzini. It also announced its commitment to remaining non-violent and non-partisan. The press conference ended with a call to all sectors of civil society, encouraging diverse inclusion in the resistance. 

PLEASE HELP US REACH OUR GOAL ON GIVING TUESDAY

Dear Friends,

Today is the day! During the next 24 hours, people around the world will come together to participate in a global day of giving. At GHRC we have a goal of raising $4,000 to promote human rights in Guatemala and support communities and activists who face threats and violence. Thanks to supporters like you, we believe it’s possible.

Attacks on human rights defenders have skyrocketed in recent months, and we’ve responded. This year, we provided accompaniment and emergency support to over 93 human rights defenders in Guatemala, including women defenders, defenders of Indigenous rights, and environmental defenders. Will you help us support the brave Guatemalans fighting for truth and justice? Please DONATE  and help us help our Guatemalan partners.   Please give whatever you can. Every bit makes a difference.

P.S.  Share on social media and let friends and loved ones know they can make a difference on #GivingTuesday by supporting our work! Please DONATE

THANK YOU!

Army and Police Move to Evict Indigenous Communities in Baja Verapaz

During the night of November 24, according to reports, numerous soldiers, police officers, and heavily armed civilian men are making incursions into the Q’eqchi and Poqomchi communities in the Sierra de las Minas, Baja Verapaz.

Already, for five days now, numerous contingents of soldiers and police officers have been occupying and controlling communities in the area. In the face of the armed and intimidating force of the military, members of the communities of Pancoc and Monjón fled their homes. Members of the army and the National Civil Police then entered and occupied the homes of community members, consumed their foods, killed and consumed their animals, and reportedly seriously injured more than one community member. 

We are deeply concerned that more illegal and arbitrary evictions, including of the Dos Fuentes and Washington communities, will follow. These communities received protective orders from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in October 2020. Their rights must be respected. The Guatemalan government agreed to protect the rights to life and personal integrity of the Poqomchi’ Mayan families of the Washington and Dos Fuentes communities; use culturally appropriate measures to improve their living conditions, nutrition, and access to water; prevent acts of violence by third parties; and investigate the attacks that led to the granting of protective measures.

Instead, your government took action that put Indigenous communities at greater risk, in 2021 creating the Observatory on Property Rights and a special Prosecutors Office for the Crime of Usurpation—usurpation being a charge often leveled against Indigenous communities claiming their ancestral lands. Two months ago, the Guatemalan army inaugurated its first new military brigade in ten years, based in Baja Verapaz.

The entire Sierra de Las Minas area is now militarized, and as a result of the heavy presence of soldiers and police officers, members of Indigenous communities have not been able to freely circulate to carry out essential tasks of daily life. 

Your government has systematically and repeatedly violated  basic standards evictions must meet under international law. Various Poqomchi’ and Q’eqchi communities now fearfully await illegal and arbitrary forced eviction. 

We urge the Guatemalan government to guarantee community members’ rights to life, liberty, and physical safety;

Cancel eviction orders that violate human rights and international standards and place Indigenous communities, including families with children, in grave danger;

Immediately demilitarize the Sierra de Las Minas area and guarantee the safety and free movement of members of these threatened Indigenous communities;

Comply with all obligations in the IACHR precautionary measures for the communities of Dos Fuentes and Washington, as well as obligations of the Guatemalan Constitution and international treaties adopted by Guatemala related to demilitarization and Indigenous rights.

URGENTE

En horas de la noche de hoy 24 de noviembre, numerosos militares, elementos
policiales y hombres civiles fuertemente armados están incursionando en las
comunidades q’eqchi y poqomchi en la Sierra de las Minas, Baja Verapaz.
Ya son 5 días que ocupan y controlan a las comunidades y ante la fuerza armada
e intimidatoria de los militares, miembros de las comunidades de Pancoc y Monjón
huyeron de sus hogares. Miembros del ejército y de la Policía Nacional Civil ingresaron
y ocuparon las viviendas de los comuneros, consumieron sus alimentos, mataron y
consumieron sus animales y, según los informes, hirieron gravemente a miembros de
la comunidad.

Nos preocupa profundamente que el Estado de Guatemala esté realizando desalojos
ilegales y arbitrarios, incluidos los de las comunidades de Dos Fuentes y Washington.
Las comunidades cuentan con medidas de protección de la Comisión Interamericana de
Derechos Humanos dadas en octubre de 2020. El gobierno de Guatemala se obligó
proteger los derechos a la vida e integridad personal de las familias mayas poqomchi’
de las comunidades de Washington y Dos Fuentes; utilizar medidas culturalmente
apropiadas para mejorar sus condiciones de vida, nutrición y acceso al agua; prevenir
actos de violencia por parte de terceros; e investigar las agresiones que dieron lugar al
otorgamiento de medidas de protección.

Instamos al gobierno de Guatemala a garantizar el derechos a la vida, la libertad y la
seguridad física de los miembros de las comunidades; Cancelar las órdenes de desalojo
que violan los derechos humanos y las normas internacionales y ponen en grave
peligro a las comunidades indígenas, incluidas las familias con niños; Desmilitarizar de
inmediato la zona de la Sierra de Las Minas y garantizar la seguridad y libre circulación
de los miembros de estas comunidades indígenas amenazadas; cumplir las
obligaciones de la Constitución política de Guatemala y los tratados internacionales
adoptados por el Estado de Guatemala, relacionados con la desmilitarización y los
derechos indígenas.

GHRC Connects Defenders to Policymakers with Back-to-Back Tours

As the situation continues to devolve in Guatemala, GHRC has remained committed to amplifying the demands of our partners on the front lines of defending human rights. In the last month, our Advocacy Team has been hard at work, leading two tours of Central Americans in Washington, DC to connect human rights defenders with policymakers and government officials. 

GHRC Accompanies Survivors and Transitional Justice Advocates in DC 

From September 20-30, we had the immense honor of accompanying survivors and transitional justice advocates Demesia Yat de Xol, of Sepur Zarco, and Maxima Garcia Valey de Ric, of Rabinal. This year, the Maya Achi women of Rabinal and the Maya Q’eqchi’ women of Sepur Zarco were recipients of human rights awards from the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) for their tireless efforts to bring former civil patrollers and military officers to justice for sexual violence that occurred during the internal armed conflict. Our team arranged several meetings with congressional representatives and other government officials, including Representative Norma Torres. A roundtable with the State Department provided a vital space for the women to share their stories of survival and their fight for justice, and as well as their concerns for the future. 

In spite of achieving convictions against those who perpetrated sexual violence against them during the internal armed conflict, the women explained that reparations measures established in the sentences still have not been carried out. Moreover, in the context of democratic backsliding in Guatemala, they expressed their fears as attacks against transitional justice advocates, attorneys, and even judges overseeing these cases continue to intensify. Finally, given the closure of institutions set up in the framework of the Peace Accords, such as the Secretariat for Agrarian Affairs, the women shared their fears about further violent displacement of their communities.

GHRC Organizes Tour to Raise Concerns over Regional Slide into Authoritarianism 

This week, we led a DC tour for human rights defenders from Central America. This coalition–consisting of human rights groups from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua–was formed to address common concerns and trends in the region. In a packed four days, we met with congressional offices, the State Department, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and several DC- based human rights groups. 

Guatemalan representatives with the Center for Human Rights Legal Action (CALDH) and Indigenous Peoples’ Law Firm highlighted their concerns regarding the dramatic regression in human rights in Guatemala. In particular, they emphasized the lack of protections for human rights and land defenders, as institutions are overtaken by corrupt forces. The group called for stronger action from the US government, including robust support for civil society and human rights defenders, the suspension of security aid to the region, and the re-evaluation of pending loans in order to ensure compliance with human rights standards.   

Support Our Work

For 40 years, GHRC has been committed to supporting the people of Guatemala as they struggle to defend their rights. Our 40th Anniversary Celebration is scheduled for November 3 at the Art Museum of the Americas in Washington, DC. Our founder, Sister Alice Zachmann, will be attending by Zoom. We would love for you to be part of that special evening. 

We will also be honoring the Ixil Authorities and the Chicoyoguito Resistance as the recipients of this year’s Alice Zachmann Human Rights Defender Award. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear from these incredibly brave defenders! Email veronicaserranotama@ghrc-usa.org or fill out this form to register.

In honor of our 40th anniversary, we are encouraging donations in multiples of 40. Donate using this link or send us a check to 3321 12th St NE Washington, DC 20017.  

If you can’t attend but would like to support our work, any amount is appreciated!