IACHR Classifies Guatemala with Systematic Violators of Human Rights

In its annual human rights report released last week, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has placed Guatemala in chapter  IV.B, reserved for countries that violate aspects of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Analyzing the human rights situation in 2021 in the Organization of American States’ thirty-five member states, the IACHR has grouped Guatemala with Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. Explaining its decision to include Guatemala in this section, the IACHR cites “structural situations that seriously affect the use and enjoyment of fundamental rights recognized in the American Declaration, the American Convention or other applicable instruments,” including  “systematic noncompliance of the State with its obligation to combat impunity, attributable to a manifest lack of will.”

The IACHR report lists observations of systematic actions that have interfered with the independence of the justice system, which in turn have weakened the work of independent institutions, particularly those that continued to work to combat corruption and impunity since the departure of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). It cites “irregularities in the process to select Constitutional Court judges for the 2021-2026 term; the refusal to swear in a judge who had been selected to serve on the Constitutional Court; the delay by the Congress of the Republic in continuing with the process of selection and nomination to the High Courts; the dismissal of the head of the FECI; and the alleged abuse of motions for impeachment (antejuicio proceedings) to intimidate or eventually remove judges from office.” 

Moreover, the report notes that 2021 was a particularly dangerous year for human rights defenders” due to continuing acts of violence and proceedings to criminalize those who defend human rights in the country.” It mentions the closure of democratic spaces, which “makes it more difficult to exercise the right to defend human rights in Guatemala.” Raising the issue of violence, the IACHR notes the impact of murder of defenders in 2021, particularly of members of the Campesino Development Committee, which has suffered 24 murders in the last four years. According to the report, “When an assault is committed in reprisal for a human rights defender’s actions, it produces a chilling effect on those connected to the defense and promotion of human rights,” especially in indigenous communities where the killing of a leader has “a serious impact on [the community’s] cultural integrity and breaks down the sense of community that binds them together in their struggle to defend their human rights.”  

The report warns that “the systematic interference in the independence of the judiciary, the weakening of human rights institutions, and the increasingly evident setbacks in the fight against corruption and impunity have an impact, in turn, on democratic stability and the very exercise of human rights by the Guatemalan people.” 

CODECA Leader Assassinated in Izabal

Human rights and environmental defender Pablo Ramos was killed in Navojoa, Morales, Izabal. According to witnesses, he was shot by two individuals on a motorcycle in the afternoon of June 7, while in the general store he owned. Ramos reportedly had received multiple threats from members of the Manchame family, who live in the same community, with whom community members have had a dispute over land. According to his family members, on June 6, Ramos had attended a conciliation hearing at the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Morales, Izabal, where he had been summoned by the Manchame family.

Ramos had been a member of the Campesino Development Committee (CODECA) for 12 years, working to recover and defend the land of his community. CODECA condemned “this systematic, lethal violence that today annihlated the life of our brother and comrade” and demanded justice.  Twenty-four members of CODECA have been murdered since 2018. 

Judge Rules that Former Special Prosecutor Must Continue to Await her Trial from Prison

The hearing for Virginia Laparra Rivas–former head of Quetzaltenango’s branch of Guatemala’s Special Prosecutor’s Office against Impunity (FECI)–-took place on June 7. Laparra’s legal team filed a request for “substitutive measures” which would allow her to await her trial under house arrest. The request, however, was denied by Judge Sergio Mena, who ruled to move Laparra to the Matamoros prison, where she will stay until her trial. Her hearing has been suspended, and a new date has not been set. 

Prior to Laparra’s hearing, demonstrators gathered outside of the courthouse in solidarity with Laparra, demanding her release. She was accompanied by the Unit for Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Guatemala (UDEFEGUA). Judge Mena, however, barred the media and UDEFEGUA from entering the courtroom and allowed authorities to block courtroom windows with paper. 

Laparra will now stand trial for the charge of breach of duty. The charge stems from her presentation of legal complaints related to the misconduct of former high risk judge Lesther Castellanos. National and international organizations have denounced the charges against her as criminalization, stating that the Guatemalan government has begun “the systematic persecution of those who confronted corruption, assembling spurious cases in order to carry out political vengeance.” As a direct result of arbitrary delays in the legal process, Laparra spent over 100 days in Mariscal Zavala prison in pretrial detention, under conditions that she denounced as disproportionately extreme for her charges. Clinical psychologists identified her treatment by authorities as psychological torture. 

In addition to her pretrial detention, Laparra has faced threats on social media from the Foundation Against Terrorism and its supporters. In respect to Laparra’s continuing persecution, the advocacy organization Justicia Ya condemned “the revenge of defenders of corruption” in a judicial process that is “opaque” and “full of irregularities.” 

CC Gives Human Rights Commission 48 Hours to Submit Evidence Against Human Rights Ombudsman 

On June 8, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court (CC) processed Human Rights Ombudsman Jordan Rodas’ appeal and required that the Human Rights Commission of the Guatemalan Congress supply corresponding records or a circumstantial report within 48 hours. Rodas’s request came following the Commission’s May 31 attempt to remove him from office, the seventh such removal attempt he has faced throughout his almost five years in the position.  He is accused of campaigning for the position of rector of the University of San Carlos during working hours, a charge he claims lacks legal merit. He also asserts that the legal process violates his right to defense, as his summons occurred while he was in Ecuador attending the IV Ibero-American Migration Summit. 

In light of the removal attempt, Rodas has faced increasing blatant threats and ridicule, especially from leaders within Foundation against Terrorism (FCT). Video footage reveals FCT lawyer Raul Falla threatening Rodas when the men crossed paths at Virginia Laparra’s hearing on June 8. However, various human rights organizations—including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights—have expressed concern over the recent treatment of Rodas. Jorge Santos, director of UDEFEGUA, also expressed support for Rodas and denounced the removal process as an attempt to achieve “the absolute capture of state” so “those who hold power can commit acts of corruption and violence without receiving sanctions.”  

US State Department Reports Backsliding on Human Rights in 2021

Reporting on the human rights situation in Guatemala, the US State Department illustrated worsening conditions and highlighted the role that corruption and impunity have played in the last year. The 2021 Human Rights Report–released on April 12–summarizes and provides examples of what the State Department deems “significant human rights issues” in Guatemala, including the following: unlawful and arbitrary killings; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; restrictions on freedom of expression, including threats and violence against journalists; interference with freedom of association and organization; and significant corruption. 

The State Department emphasizes a concerted effort from corrupt actors aimed at “undermining anti-corruption institutions and the judiciary” which in turn makes “meaningful investigation and prosecution of crimes, including corruption involving public officials difficult.” The report mentions the arbitrary removal of Juan Francisco Sandoval in July of 2021 and subsequent charges filed against him for abuse of authority, as well as attempts to remove the immunity of independent judges like Erika Aifán. Both Sandoval and Aifán have since fled Guatemala in fear of their lives. 

In addition to attacks on judicial sector workers, the report mentions attacks on defenders and journalists, including defamation, surveillance, threats, criminalization, and murders. Citing UDEFEGUA, the report mentioned that ten defenders were killed between January and November 2021 and that unfounded judicial cases filed against human rights defenders have doubled since 2020. But according to the State Department, while “the government, fringe groups, and private entities used threats of legal action as a form of intimidation,” the Guatemalan government, “took little action to protect these individuals.” 

Moreover, the State Department  highlighted threats to freedom of assembly, which worsened over the last year. In particular, the NGO Law–passed last May–poses a serious threat to human rights organizations and indigenous movements. Mentioning the case of El Estor, the report illustrates the use of state security forces to silence dissent, infringing upon freedom of expression. It also mentions that the consultation that took place on the Fénix Project was conducted during a state of siege in which freedom of movement was restricted. In terms of compliance with ILO 169, the report states,“The government did not always consult with all affected parties and indigenous leaders, and activists regularly reported being harassed and threatened for their work.”

The State Department report echoes concerns from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR), which recently gave Guatemala a ‘C’ rating for its progress on human rights. Back in March, the UNHCR expressed concern over the lack of measures and political will to implement policies to protect human rights, specifically noting how the forced evictions of indigenous peoples were not in line with international standards. 

Former Prosecutor Suffers Psychological Torture in Pretrial Detention 

The former head of the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity (FECI) in Quetzaltenango, Virginia Laparra, has suffered almost two months in pretrial detention. “I see the sunlight once a day, I was torn away from my land, my beautiful, beloved and incomparable Quetzaltenango. They took me away from my home, my family, my friends, they left me without work and took away my freedom,” Laparra explained in an open letter to the people of Guatemala that was given to Human Rights Ombudsman Jordan Rodas during a visit. Rodas traveled to Mariscal Zavala prison on April 2 to verify her conditions and found that her emotional and physical wellbeing were at risk. 

Laparra–who suffers from claustrophobia–is currently being held in solitary confinement. Authorities allege this is for her protection, according to clinical psychologist Vania Morales, however, “By keeping her locked up, they are re-traumatizing her and that is psychological torture.” Her cell–which is essentially a small metal box with a door–was described by an official from Disabilities Rights International as “somewhere between Willowbrook and a Concentration Camp.” According to former Attorney General Thelma Aldana,“Her life is the responsibility of Consuelo Porras who is persecuting her.” 

According to Laparra, the case mounted against her constitutes “selective and malevolent discrimination and criminalization.” Attorney General Consuelo Porras–who was added to the US State Department’s list of corrupt actors in Central America in September–issued a warrant for Laparra’s arrest on February 24 for the alleged crimes of giving false testimony, abuse of authority, and encroachment of functions. As one of the anti-corruption attorneys detained following a string of arrests in February, Laparra is the last to remain in prison. On April 18, her intermediate hearing was suspended once again, further extending her time in pretrial detention. 

Journalist Flees Guatemala  

Juan Luis Font announced on twitter that he has left Guatemala, stating, “In this moment of tension, caused by spurious accusations, I have decided to take some distance.” Font has worked as a journalist in Guatemala for over 25 years; he founded news outlet El Periodico and currently works as a host on the political analysis show Con Criterio

Font fled Guatemala after charges were filed against him for illegal association. The Committee to Protect Journalists decried the persecution of Font and said Guatemalan authorities should immediately dismiss criminal proceedings against him and allow him to work freely without fear of reprisal.

Attorney General Consuelo Porras ruled to open investigations into Font in December of last year related to allegations brought forward by former Minister of Communications Alejandro Sinibaldi. Sinibaldi–who is now in prison awaiting trial–claims that Font accepted over $200,000 in bribes from him between 2012 and 2014. On March 22, Sinibaldi brought forward another complaint against Font, this time claiming he colluded with former High Risk Court Judge Erika Aifán. Font, however, has denied the accusations. According to former Attorney General Thelma Aldana, “It is part of the revenge process of the ‘Pact of Corruption’ to attack and criminalize independent journalists who are committed to the fight against corruption and impunity.”

Organizations Demand Transparency in Upcoming Attorney General Elections 

From April 5 through 7, protestors gathered outside the Palace of Justice in Guatemala City and in the Q’eqchi and Poqomchi region to demand a Public Ministry (MP) free of corrupt actors. Popular opposition to current Attorney General Consuelo Porras and her bid for reelection inspired a new wave of protests across the country. Several national and international organizations called on the Attorney General Nomination Committee to abstain from voting for candidates “linked to President Giammattei and the now widely known criminal structures” in Guatemala. The Social and Popular Assembly of Guatemala (ASP) denounced candidates they identified as associated with the “Pact of Corruption,” including María Consuelo Porras, current Attorney General, who is named on the US State Department’s Engel List; Jorge Luis Donado, current head of the Attorney General’s Office; José Enrique Urrutia Estrada, lawyer for the Foundation against Terrorism; Henry Alejandro Elías, magistrate for the Chamber of the Court of Appeals on Femicide and Crimes Against Women; Óscar Dávila, Director of the Presidential Commission against Corruption; and Gloria Dalila Suchité, acting High Risk Court judge.  

The process of electing a new Attorney General began on January 31, when the 15-member Nomination Committee–composed of law schools deans and other legal field professionals, and led by President of the Supreme Court Silvia Patricia Valdez–began reviewing a list of 26 applicants to select the final list of six candidates, from which President Giammattei will choose the next Attorney General. The commission plans to submit their final 6 candidates by Wednesday, April 20.

The International Observatory on Human Rights in Guatemala denounced that under Consuelo Porras, “the MP has been used to persecute agents of justice, journalists, and human rights defenders committed to the fight against corruption and the defense of human rights.” According to human rights groups, the outcome of this election is crucial for the future of rule of law in Guatemala.  

Chicoyogüito Defenders Sent to Trial in Cobán

On March 30th, Judge Úrsula Teyul ruled to send 21 human rights defenders from Chicoyogüito to trial for “aggravated usurpation,” a charge they supposedly incurred during a peaceful protest in June 2021. Chicoyogüito land defenders initiated the peaceful demonstration to demand that the state return their ancestral land. The National Civil Police responded to the protests with force, injuring Chicoyogüito members and arresting 21 defenders.

The decades-long struggle to recover their ancestral land began in 1968, when the Guatemalan Army forcibly evicted Chicoyogüito community members to establish an army base. In addition to human rights violations associated with the forced displacement of the community, the base was used during the internal armed conflict for torture, forced disappearences, and political assassinations. As one of Latin America’s largest clandestine cemeteries, the base contains human remains that are evidence in two transitional justice cases.

Organizations raised concerns over the transparency of the hearings. During one of the hearings, UDEFEGUA and the press were removed from the courtroom. The next hearing is scheduled for April 21. 

GHRC Accompanies Prosecution in the Death Squad Dossier Case 

The GHRC Guatemala Team accompanied the prosecution team in the intermediate stage of the Death Squad Dossier (Diario Militar) case. After previous delays, intermediate hearings for the Death Squad Dossier case began on April 5. The prosecution presented evidence against defendants, which included images from the dossier and witness testimony. The hearings were suspended and continued on April 18. Once intermediate hearings conclude, presiding Judge Miguel Ángel Gálvez will determine if the defendants will stand trial for their purported crimes.

Leaked in 1999, the Death Squad Dossier is a military archive that details the crimes committed against 183 presumed enemies of the state–including children–from 1983 to 1985, during Guatemala’s internal armed conflict. The 11 former soldiers implicated in the crimes face charges of numerous forced disappearances; kidnappings; illegal detentions; murders and attempted murders; acts of sexual violence; and crimes against humanity. 

Although the crimes took place nearly 40 years ago, the trial of those involved is an essential step in bringing justice to the victims and their families. GHRC continues to support the prosecution team, which has faced threats for its work, as well as the families of the victims in their search for justice.  

GHRC Supports Defenders Facing New Wave of Criminalization in El Estor

Authorities in El Estor have mounted a case against 12 people who were present at an anti-mining protest in October 2021. Community members became aware of the case against them when the son of one of the defenders active in the anti-mining resistance was arrested on March 22. Authorities mentioned a list of pending arrest warrants against defenders and local journalists, including Carlos Choc of Prensa Comunitaria. The warrants, dated January 14, are reported to have been ordered by Judge Arteaga López for the alleged charge of “incitement to commit a crime.” While video evidence reveals the excessive use of force against the protesters by police during the demonstration, no investigations of police actions are underway.

The Committee to Protect Journalists lent their support to Choc, demanding that the charges be dropped immediately. According to Natalie Southwick, CPJ’s Latin America and the Caribbean Program Coordinator, “Guatemalan authorities must immediately drop the absurd charges against Choc, stop treating community journalists like criminals for doing their job, and put an end to their campaign to intimidate and threaten the press.” The Association of Guatemala Journalists denounced the criminalization in a statement, explaining, “The spurious prosecution of this journalist corresponds directly to his work of visibilizing the problems generated by the Guatemalan Nickel Company and the resistance by population in that area.” Choc has previously faced criminal charges and persecution by local authorities and dam personnel, including in 2017 after documenting the death of a protester at the hands of police. 

This newest wave of criminalization comes on the heels of a massive data leak which revealed the mining company Solway and its local subsidiaries manipulated the consultation process on the Fénix Project that began in October 2021. Not only did company employees hand pick which communities would be allowed to participate in the consultation; company records show payments were made to local police and judges, and defenders and  journalists were closely surveilled. “Knowing that I am being photographed is very worrying,” Choc explained. “[The] mining company controls not only the population of El Estor with its actions, but also the lives of the defenders and especially mine as a journalist.” Only one person has been arrested so far, however, defenders reported to GHRC during their visit in January following and harassing them about the forthcoming warrants. The situation for these defenders will likely get even worse in the coming weeks.   

GHRC’s Commitment to the Defenders in El Estor

GHRC Advocacy Director Awards the El Estor Resistance the Alice Zachmann Human Rights Award, January 2022

In the ongoing peaceful struggle in El Estor, GHRC–along with other organizations working in the region–has played an important role. GHRC, along with the Amaq’ Institute, requested and was granted a hearing before the Inter-American Commission to talk about the effects of specific, damaging effects of the Fenix mine on women human rights defenders in El Estor. In November, GHRC helped two families at risk of persecution and violence because of their leadership in El Estor’s peaceful resistance to the mine. During the November state of siege, when thousands of police and military flooded the community and resistance members faced serious attacks and repression by security forces, GHRC not only worked to document and denounce the violence, traveling to El Estor and taking testimonies, but ensured the safety of these families.   

One family took refuge in the mountains, fleeing without clothes, shoes, or the medicine they needed. When the family tried to return to their home, they found the police had their house surrounded. GHRC worked with contacts in the region and in Guatemala City to find them shelter, renting houses for them to stay in until the state of siege was over and returning home was safe. We helped out with food for the families and ensured they got needed medical check-ups, medicine, and other essentials. 

A young man who was in poor health from inhaling tear gas that state security forces fired at the peaceful resistance in El Estor needed urgent medical attention. GHRC managed to arrange care for him. 

We’re now working to support the defenders in El Estor as they face potential arrest and spurious prosecution. We will continue to support their right to defend their resources and their land, both threatened by the illegal mine. Your contributions allow us to provide critical support to defenders at risk and advocate for human rights justice, both in Washington, DC, and in Guatemala. Will you join us? Please donate today. 

The Fight for Justice Continues: Updates on Transitional Justice Cases

Despite the recent attacks on Guatemala’s anti-corruption prosecutors and judges, the prosecution of many transitional justice cases has continued. The Rancho Bejuco case implicating eleven former Civil Defense Patrollers in the 1982 massacre continues under Judge Edwin Ramírez after Judge Erika Aífan’s recent resignation; the prosecution of Luis Enrique Mendoz García, one of the former military officials implicated in the Genocidio Ixil case, will move into the evidentiary phase in May; the intermediate hearing for former soldiers and police officers accused of forced disappearances, murder, attempted murder, and kidnappings during the Guatemalan internal armed conflict described in the Diario Militar continues; and José Manuel Castañeda Aparicio was recently sentenced to 45 years in prison for his role in the disappearance of three social leaders in 1983. 

Justice for the victims and their families of the crimes committed during the Guatemalan internal armed conflict is arriving decades too late, but serves to support truth and historic memory for Guatemala. GHRC continues to demand justice for the crimes perpetrated during the conflict and stands in solidarity with the victims and their families. 

Rancho Bejuco

The Rancho Bejuco case–originally presided over by Judge Erika Aífan in High Risk Court D– was transferred to Judge Edwin Ramírez and began its preliminary hearing on March 22. Judge Ramírez restricted press access to the hearing, claiming it would “distract” from the trial. Delegates of the Guatemalan Human Rights Ombudsman were present to “verify respect for human rights and due process,” but the Association of Guatemalan Journalists called the restrictions on journalists “a threat to the liberty of expression.” The preliminary hearing for nine former Civil Defense Patrollers, arrested between January 22 and February 2, has been delayed multiple times, for reasons including an absent defense attorney, health concerns of a defendant, and a lack of hearing aids for another defendant. 

The Rancho Bejuco case implicates eleven former Civil Defense Patrollers, two of which remain at-large, in participating in the massacre on July 29, 1982 in Rancho Bejuco, Santa Cruz el Chol, in the department of Baja Verapaz. As a paramilitary group established during the internal armed conflict, the Civil Defense Patrollers were used by the military to control the civilian population. Patrollers have been implicated in human rights violations, five of which were convicted for crimes against humanity in the Achi Women case earlier this year. The massacre killed 25 people, 17 of which were children. The preliminary hearing will continue on April 18.

Genocidio Ixil

The case against Luis Enrique Mendoza García, the former director of military operations under Ríos Montt during the Guatemalan internal armed conflict, is set to continue. He faces charges of genocide and crimes against humanity for his approval of military counterinsurgency operations against non-combatant Ixil populations during 1982. On February 15, Judge Silvia de León ruled that there was sufficient evidence against Mendoza García and sent the case to trial. The case against Mendoza García will continue in High Risk Court A, under Judge Yassmín Barrios, the 2015 recipient of the Civil Courage Prize for her work in prosecuting high-profile cases of corruption and crimes against human rights. The evidentiary hearing was set for March 14, but was delayed to May 3 & 4 due to an absent defense attorney. In response to the delays, Antonio Caba Caba, spokesman for The Association of Justice and Reconciliation, an organization that has supported the prosecution of this case, stated, “It’s unfortunate that justice is like this, we know that they only play with us to buy time.”

The Genocidio Ixil case has evidence of over 1,000 death certificates, military documents, and forensic reports corroborating 31 massacres, 23 devastated villages, and numerous cases of sexual violence and forced disapparences. Former head of General Staff of the Army, Benedicto Lucas García, and former head of the Intelligence section of the General Staff of the Army, Manuel Antonio Callejas, who are also implicated in the systematic violence carried out against the Ixil people between 1981-1983, had the evidentiary phase of their trial during the end of 2021. 

On March 22, Lucas García and Callejas filed a complaint against the prosecutor, Hilda Pineda, for investigating their purported crimes against humanity. Peneda has received numerous complaints from those she is investigating for crimes against humanity and was a prosecutor that helped lead to convictions for both the Sepur Zarco and Ríos Montt cases. In October of 2021, Attorney General Consuelo Porras transferred Pineda from her position as head of the Special Prosecutor’s Office on Human Rights to the Prosecutor’s Office for Crimes Against Tourists. Impunity Watch stated her transfer “put at risk the investigation of emblematic cases of serious human rights violations.” The actions against Pineda emphasize the ongoing trend of attacking and persecuting human rights prosecutors and judges.

Death Squad Dossier

The intermediate hearing for eleven former soldiers and police officers in the Diario Militar was held on March 28 and 29. International observers, including GHRC, were originally denied access to the courtroom by court security, but were later allowed to enter.  

Diario Militar is a case based upon a 74-page notebook, or “death squad dossier” discovered in 1999 detailing forced disappearances, torture and inhumane treatment, as well as extrajudicial executions of 183 purported enemies of the Guatemalan government between 1983-1985. The accused former soldiers face charges including forced disappearance, crimes against humanity, murder, attempted murder, and extrajudicial execution. During the intermediate hearing, the Public Ministry presented charges and evidence against the defendants for Judge Miguel Ángel Gálvez to rule if each defendant will be sent to a sentencing tribunal for a public trial. 

Two defense attorneys attempted to delay the judicial process by resigning from the case after the hearing began on the 28th. Judge Gálvez delayed the hearings of the two defendants without attorneys and will report the attorneys  to the Court of Honor of the College of Lawyers and Notaries of Guatemala for defense abandonment. 

Alix Leonel Barillas Soto, former first sergeant and intelligence specialist in the Guatemalan Army from 1973-1989–also implicated in the Diario Militar case–had his preliminary hearing on March 2 and 3. Charges against Barillas Soto include crimes against the duties of humanity, as well as the forced disappearance of Rubén Amílcar Farfán in 1984. Judge Gálvez ruled that Barillas Soto will remain in pretrial detention until the intermediate hearing in four months.

The continued investigation into and prosecution of the crimes detailed in the “death squad dossier” is an important step in justice and reconciliation for the families of victims. “We’re not seeking vengeance, we’re seeking justice,” stated the wife of a victim prior to the start of the trial last year.

Caso Tactic

On February 24, former second chief of military commissioners in the Tactic municipality, José Manuel Casteñeda Aparicio, was sentenced to 45 years in prison for his role in the kidnapping and forced disappearance of Jacobo López, Francisco Guerrero López, and Rodolfo López Quej from Tampo Village, Tactic, Alta Verapaz in 1983, in the case known as Caso Tactic. The three victims were “social leaders that worked to improve living conditions.” Aparicio was part of the Civil Defense Patrollers under former General Ríos Montt’s de facto government and worked closely with the Guatemalan Army during the internal armed conflict, providing civilian surveillance and carrying out the persecution, torture, and extrajudicial executions of alleged enemies of the state. 

This is the second trial against Aparicio, after his acquittal for the forced disappearance of the three leaders in 2014. The discovery of the skeletal remains of Jacobo López Ac, along with at least 500 other peoples’ remains, in 2016 in the former Military Zone 21, Cobán Alta Verapaz, also known as CREOMPAZ, overturned his previous acquittal. This trial has been closely followed by Mutual Support Group, who called the conviction “satisfactory” but noted it arrived after 40 years of demanding justice. The court also ordered The Ministry of the Interior to provide a reward for anyone who can present information on others involved in the case. The sentencing will be translated into Achi and Poqomchi languages for dissemination.

ALERTA | Miembro de la Comunidad Q’eqchi de El Estor Fue Detenido por la Policía 

23 de marzo de 2022

Julio Toc Mucu fue capturado este 22 de marzo al mediodía por la policía cuando se dirigía a almorzar a su casa del Estor Izabal. Ahora, está bajo custodia policial en El Estor, acusado del delito de instigación del delinquir. De acuerdo a la policía, la orden de captura fue girada el 14 de febrero de 2022 desde el juzgado en Puerto Barrios. Supuestamente su captura es parte de un caso montado contra 12 defensores en conexión de la protesta que fue reprimida violentamente el 21 de octubre de 2021.. Ha sido trasladado a la prisión de Puerto Barrios sin que se haya tenido una audiencia de primera de primera declaración   y no se ha fijado una fecha . Según los informes que hemos recibido,está siendo golpeado durante su detención y le exigen una suma alta de dinero 

Toc es hijo de Julio Ancelmo Toc, que forma parte de la Gremial de Pescadores y del Consejo Indígena Ancestral de El Estor. Estamos preocupados por su seguridad, dado que los miembros del gremio y las autoridades ancestrales indígenas de El Estor han sido perseguidos por las autoridades gubernamentales desde octubre del año pasado, cuando se impuso el estado de sitio en El Estor. Según un informe de “Historias Prohibidas”, en una fuga masiva de datos relacionados con la mina Fénix, que fue analizada por una coalición de periodistas, se encontraron pruebas de la cooperación entre el Grupo Solway, sus filiales en Guatemala y las autoridades gubernamentales de El Estor y Ciudad de Guatemala. Una de las pruebas eran los pagos realizados a las autoridades locales, incluidos los regalos hechos a los jueces que desde entonces se han puesto del lado de la empresa en los casos montados contra los defensores. 

Condenamos cualquier intento de criminalizar pueblos indígenas que tienen el derecho a defender su tierra y su vida. Demandamos a la policía de El Estor y los juzgados que liberen a Toc Mucu y se detenga la persecución contra defensores y pueblos indígenas.