GHRC published a joint statement with Due Process of Law Foundation, Washington Office on Latin America, and Robert F Kennedy Human Rights Initiative in solidarity with the human rights accompaniment organization ACOGUATE. In recognition of the worsening human rights situation–including attacks on both national and international human rights organizations–GHRC supports open pathways for the investigation and reporting of human rights violations against human rights defenders, communities, and in particular, indigenous communities whose fundamental human rights are being violated.
The intent to criminalize ACOGUATE for its work in international accompaniment is clear. On October 12, two accompaniers observed the “March for Dignity” in Guatemala City. During this activity, unknown persons took photographs of ACOGUATE observers, which subsequently appeared on social networks and were used in a campaign to defame and threaten ACOGUATE and more broadly international accompaniment in Guatemala.
Additionally concerning were the threats made on social media that appeared on government official’s pages, calling for investigations into the organization, as well as by a group called Immortal Guatemala, which published threats, hate speech, and defamation against ACOGUATE on their accounts. On October 18, the same group filed a complaint against the Campesino Unity Committee and ACOGUATE, for alleged crimes of sedition, activities against the internal security of the nation, and depredation of cultural heritage.
GHRC will continue to monitor the situation and support ACOGUATE as it carries out its vital work of providing protective, international accompaniment to human rights defenders who are at risk because of their work in Guatemala. Read the joint statement below. (english underneath)
Increased Risk of Violations Against the Right to Life and Against Human Rights Defenders in Guatemala, including international accompaniment organizations such as ACOGUATE.
The undersigned international organizations regret and condemn the recent attack against the human rights organization, ACOGUATE, that provides international accompaniment to individuals and organizations from the social and human rights movement in Guatemala. ACOGUATE is an organization recognized for its integrity that has been working in the country for more than twenty-one years.
On October 12, 2021, ACOGUATE carried out international observation of an activity called the “March for Dignity.” Subsequently, ACOGUATE has been the target of threats on social networks by private individuals and by some of the country’s authorities, including the Guatemalan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the former Minister of the Interior, as well as the Foundation Against Terrorism, led by Ricardo Méndez Ruiz. Jorge Mario de Jesús Cajas, lawyer for the capital’s municipality, has sought to criminalize ACOGUATE by requesting a judicial investigation of the international organization. In addition, the group Immortal Guatemala filed a lawsuit against ACOGUATE, as well as against the Comité de Unidad Campesina (CUC), and from its web page has directed messages of threats, hatred, and defamation against these organizations.
In light of these events, we, the undersigned international organizations, express our solidarity with ACOGUATE and CUC and demand that the authorities of the State of Guatemala respect fundamental rights, including the right to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful demonstration. We also ask the international community to analyze its support for Guatemala and ensure that it is not financing state institutions or private initiatives that have links to groups that criminalize, threaten, and violate the human rights of indigenous communities, organizations, and human rights defenders.