Weekly News Round-Up, March 6-17

Killing of human rights defender
On March 8, 2013, human rights defender and trade union leader Carlos Hernández Mendoza was killed. He was actively engaged in struggling for the right to free, prior and informed consent for indigenous communities whose lives and livelihoods are affected by large-scale dam construction and other projects in the region.

Ex military commissioner on trial for disappearance of student
On March 11, the High Risk Tribunal B (Tribunal Primero B de Mayor Riesgo) initiated a trial against ex military commissioner Isidro Cardona Osorio for the disappearance of a student in Chiquimula in 1982. He is charged with aggravated unlawful detention, abuse of authority, kidnapping, crimes against humanity and forced disappearance.

Barillas community leader arrested
Arcenio Rubén Herrera Herrera was arrested on March 15, 2013 for “generating unlawful acts” against the operation of the hydroelectric plant in Santa Cruz Barillas. He was charged with 10 crimes, including terrorism. The arrest comes as part of an ongoing pattern of criminalization of land rights defenders, and The Departmental Assembly of Huehuetenango for the Defense of Natural Resources (ADH) made a call to national and international organizations to demonstrate their solidarity against the systematic violation of their rights.

Prosecution Is a Form of Reparation
In a New York Times opinion piece, Rosalina Tuyuc, co-founder of the National Council of Widows of Guatemala and a winner of the 29th Niwano Peace Prize, discusses the impossibility of achieving reconciliation and forgiveness in Guatemala without holding government and military officials accountable for their crimes. “Breaking through the wall of impunity is a hard task,” she says, “but I’m confident that sooner or later the Guatemalan justice system will work not just for the powerful, but also for the poor.”

Movements for truth and recuperation of historic memory have grown across Guatemala in recent years. In Guatemala City, the museum of the “martyrs of the union, student and popular movement of Guatemala,” which opened last year, has served as a testimony of the genocide that took place.

Two year anniversary of Polochic evictions
Two years after families of the Polochic Valley were displaced, they organized a march to demand that the government provide them with land, as agreed in March 2012. The Intern-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) granted precautionary measures in 2011 and asked the government to provide food, health, housing and security to the families. This support lasted only six months, and the families have live in conditions of increasing hunger and malnutrition.

Forced Disappearances in Guatemala, Mexico and Colombia
In a hearing at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), thirty-three human rights organizations denounced the impunity that continues regarding forced disappearances – both past and present –  in Guatemala, Mexico, Colombia and Peru. In Guatemala there has not been a commitment by the State to investigate or search for the disappeared. 

Profiting From Genocide: The World Bank’s Bloody History in Guatemala
A report by Jubilee International documents World Bank (WB) and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) support of genocide in Guatemala and claims they should pay reparations. Barbara Rose Johnston, senior research fellow at the Center for Political Ecology, also concluded that all of the actors involved knew about the violence. These accusations have done little to protect vulnerable communities from the ongoing expansion of mining, oil and other economic interests invading their territories and violating their human rights. Recently, the Inter Press Service (IPS) reported that the WB’s oversight mechanisms include no capability to evaluate whether their loans help or harm local communities and overall development indicators.

Justice by Rios Montt in 1982
This in-depth investigation documents the Special Courts (Tribunales de Fuero Especial) which Efraín Ríos Montt established in 1982. Ríos Montt claimed to guarantee justice for the population by shooting those who committed crimes. The courts judged and sentenced over 500 people for “violating the judicial, political, economic and social institutions of the country.” Fifteen people were sentenced to death.

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