Another Land Rights Leader Is Criminalized in Guatemala

CUC Coordinator Daniel Pascual at a march in 2012. Photo by James Rodríguez.

CUC Coordinator Daniel Pascual at a march in 2012. Photo by James Rodríguez.

*Summary of an article from the Centro de Medios Independientes (Center for Independent Media) called “Libertad de Expresión en disputa” (Freedom of Expression in dispute)

On July 8, Daniel Pascual, coordinator for the Committee for Campesino Unity (CUC), spoke at a public hearing in Guatemala’s Constitutional Court about the importance of protecting both Freedom of Thought and Freedom of Expression. Around 300 community members, authorities and social leaders from all over Guatemala came to support Pascual and CUC.

Recently, the Third Chamber of the Court of Appeals ruled that individuals who do not practice journalism in any of its forms can be held criminally responsible for their publications. The CUC sees this as a violation of fundamental rights that puts democracy at risk, and for this reason has brought this ruling to the highest court. The action also appears to be a case of criminalization of one of the leading land rights leaders in Guatemala.

In January of 2013, Pascual was accused by Ricardo Méndez Ruíz, of the Foundation Against Terrorism, of claiming that Ruíz was planning his assassination, and is now being charged with defamation, libel and injury.

Pascual says that Ruíz is manipulating statements he made at a press conference in January 2013 regarding aggressions he had faced as a member of CUC. At the press conference, Pascual named Ruíz, among others, as having defamed both the CUC and his own person in newspaper columns, flyers, and online. However, Pascual maintains that he never said Ruíz – or anyone else – was planning to assassinate him.

“What we seek is to prevent freedom of expression from being penalized in Guatemala,” said Pascual. “If the Court rejects this appeal, it would endanger democracy and the freedoms of every human being.”

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