Black Wednesday in the Defense of Human Rights

The Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders of Guatemala (UDEFEGUA) has issued a communique expressing deep concern about a spate of serious human rights violations. GHRC provides a rough translation below. See the original here.

The Unit for the Protection for Human Rights Defenders-Guatemala expresses deep concern about a series of violent acts committed yesterday, Wednesday, November 9, rarely seen and with little precedent. On that account, UDEFEGUA wishes to express:

  1. On yesterday [Wednesday] alone, union leader Eliseo Villatoro Cardona in Tiquisate was assassinated; illegal, forced entry was made into the Teachers House, where information valuable to STEG [the Union of Guatemalan Education Workers] was stolen; the threat was made to lynch two defenders of a Sololá social auditing organization and five members of COCODE [the Community Development Council] of the same department, whose location we maintain in reserve until the risk is diminished; and one act of sexual violence was committed against a community leader whose name and organization we keep in reserve. Also, reports came to light that a member of CODECA [Committee for Campesino Development] in Cobán was abducted, with the involvement of members of the National Civil Police.
  2. These events are part of a series of acts of violence that affect the capacity to carry out the defense of human rights, such as the assassination of journalist Hamilton Hernández and his wife in Coatepeque last week; threats to three journalists by the group identified as “the Zetas” to stop their coverage in the fight for human rights in Alta Verapaz, El Quiché, and Huehuetenango; violent evictions in El Estor; the illegal arrest of an elder of the Q’anjob’al Nation, as well as the  aggression against another community member in Yxquixix, San Mateo Ixtatán, and the attack on members of UVOC [the Verapaz Union of Campesino Organizations] in El Estor.
  3. These acts of exacerbated violence occur within the framework of permissiveness that the government of Jimmy Morales and the ruling political party (FCN-Nacion) extend to the perpetrators.

    Given the facts expressed above, UDEFEGUA demands:

  1. That the authorities in charge of criminal investigation carry out the pertinent procedures and that they permit the intellectual and material authors of these crimes and serious human rights violations to be identified and condemned.
  2. That the Public Ministry [recognize] the urgent need to carry out a general instruction to permit prosecutors to have greater and more capacity to guarantee an end to impunity.
  3. That COPREDEH take effective steps towards the creation of a Program for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in order to take other preventive measures.

Finally, we wish to send a message of solidarity, support, and accompaniment to the defenders who commit their lives to the defense and promotion of human rights.

Links that may be helpful: El Estor eviction (more here)
Recent communique by UDEFEGUA on other recent acts of violence

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UDEFEGUA calls for the respect for all rights during election process

In a context in which at least 282 municipalities have reported threats of conflict on election day on September 6, UDEFEGUA urges all citizens — whether they choose to vote for a candidate, casta null or blank vote, or abstain from the process entirely —  to exercise their rights peacefully.

La Unidad de Protección a Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos de Guatemala ante el proceso electoral que se realizará el domingo 6 de septiembre de 2015 a la ciudadanía guatemalteca manifiesta lo siguiente:

Guatemala atraviesa una de las crisis institucionales más grandes de su historia democrática. El sistema de corrupción perpetuado utilizando la maquinaria de partidos políticos y aprovechando el voto ciudadano ha instalado a verdaderas corporaciones mafiosas al frente del Estado guatemalteco. En las semanas anteriores al proceso electoral el país ha vivido las movilizaciones ciudadanas más grandes de las últimas décadas, trasladando el reclamo ciudadano por la transparencia hacia el clamor por detener la galopante corrupción del sistema, la dimisión del ciudadano presidente, revisar el proceso electoral y depurar los listados de candidatos de personas cuya honorabilidad está cuestionada por tener procesos penales en curso o por tener pendientes procesos de antejuicio. Todo este contexto, coloca al proceso electoral en un ambiente de fragilidad, en tanto la legitimidad de los mismos está cuestionada por distintos sectores de la sociedad.

En ese marco, hemos observado con preocupación desde el mes de mayo el aumento de agresiones a ciudadanos, defensores y defensoras de derechos humanos, que expresan su opinión ante la podredumbre de la clase política. Dichas agresiones no han sido ni prevenidas ni investigadas por las autoridades responsables, lo que ha permitido que su frecuencia y gravedad aumenten conforme se acercan las elecciones. Continue reading

GHRC Condemns the Assassination of Two Journalists in Mazatenango, Guatemala

The Guatemala Human Rights Commission condemns the March 10, 2015 assassination of journalists Danilo Lopez and Federico Salazar. This attack also left journalist Marvin Túnchez severely injured. GHRC calls on the Guatemalan government to thoroughly investigate this attack and to bring those responsible to justice. We also call on the Guatemalan government to effectively implement a protection program for journalists.

Guatemala has a long history of being known as one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a journalist. At least 342 journalists were killed during Guatemala’s internal armed conflict (1960-1996). The Committee to Protect Journalist stated today that “Guatemala has a troubling pattern of impunity in attacks against journalists. If authorities allow these crimes to remain unsolved, all local journalists will face even more danger.”

The killings were also denounced by the IACHR and the RFK Center, and below you can find the translated statement from human rights group UDEFEGUA:


We Repudiate the Assassinations of Journalist in Mazatenango

Today, March 10, 2015, in an attempt to assassinate three journalists, two were killed and one was seriously injured. The two journalists who were killed were Danilo Zapón López and Federico Salazar, and the injured journalist was Marvin Israel Túnchez. This vile attack is part of a much wider generalized violence against journalists, social commentators, and editors in the country, which has reduced the freedom of expression not only for journalists, but also the general society. Continue reading

Human Rights Group UDEFEGUA: 2014 the “Most Violent Year” for Defenders

According to the annual report from the Guatemalan Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (UDEFEGUA), 2014 was the most violent year for human rights advocates in Guatemala, with an average of 2.2 attacks reported daily. Violence against individuals and organizations that promote human rights has been on the rise since 2013, when those opposed to the genocide trial formed what human rights groups have called ¨an alliance to promote impunity, limit freedom of expression and criminalize defenders.¨ The year also saw a sharp rise in physical attacks against defenders, where in past years, verbal or written threats had been more common.

The majority of attacks (82% of the total) were perpetrated against defenders of land and environmental rights — both against individuals and communities, as well as against reporters covering these events. It is also important to note that women activists and defenders of women’s rights have been among the most vulnerable this year. Women were victim to 54% of overall attacks against defenders, including acts of sexual harassment, an increase over previous years.

Despite the rise of violence, the government’s response has been inefficient and insufficient, and levels of impunity in Guatemala remain high. For these reasons, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights — in the case of Florentín Gudiel et al vs. Guatemala — ordered the creation of an institutionalized Protection Program for Human Rights Defenders, which could serve as a future model for the protection of human rights defenders.


UDEFEGUA 2014 Annual Report

UDEFEGUA-informe12014 was undeniably the most violent year for people and organizations that promote human rights. The wave of violence against them has been increasing since 2013 when opposition to the genocide trial coalesced in an alliance between government actors (including the President’s office), business interests from the agriculture and extractive industries, groups of former members of the military involved in human rights violations, and right-wing extremists. This alliance was strengthened through a series of “pacts of impunity” which included strategies to criminalize public protest and limit freedom of expression. Continue reading

Persecusión Política a Defensores de Derechos Humanos Se Agrava

An update from the Guatemalan Human Rights Protection Unit (UDEFEGUA) on the criminalization of human rights defenders in Guatemala, especially regarding recent actions taken by courts and judges which violate the minimum legal guarantees of the accused.

Comunicado por UDEFEGUA:

La segunda semana de noviembre se tornó en una donde el Sistema de Justicia muestra su participación en la persecución política a defensores y defensoras de derechos humanos.

El día jueves 13 de noviembre, el juez de primera instancia de Villa Nueva decidió enviar a juicio a Oscar Morales, líder de la resistencia en San Rafael Las Flores, por una presunta amenaza realizada al gerente de la empresa minera San Rafael, S.A. subsidiaria de la Tahoe Resources, minera canadiense.  En la audiencia de imputación el juez había mostrado su parcialidad cuando ligó a proceso al defensor sin elementos de investigación.  Ahora al trasladar el proceso vuelve a hacerlo sin que exista elementos de investigación claros, ya que el mismo Ministerio Público había planteado que no podía acusar al defensor.  Fue claro que al trasladar el caso al Tribunal de Sentencia de Villa Nueva para que se procesa al juicio, el juez obedecía intereses privados representados por el abogado del querellante adhesivo.  El día 29 de diciembre está ordenado el inicio del debate oral y público en contra de Oscar Morales.  Continue reading