GHRC Stands in Solidarity with the People of Santa Cruz Barillas/GHRC expresa nuestra solidaridad con la población de Santa Cruz Barillas

The Guatemalan Human Rights Commission in Washington, DC (GHRC/USA) wishes to express its deepest concern about the crisis in Santa Cruz Barillas, Huehuetenango and the excessive and arbitrary reaction of the Guatemalan government.

President Otto Pérez Molina in Santa Cruz Barillas from plazapublica.com.gt

We condemn the attack on May 1 in which Andrés Francisco Miguel was murdered and Pablo Antonio Pablo Pablo and Esteban Bernabé were seriously injured, an attack apparently carried out by individuals linked to hydroelectric company Hidro Santa Cruz SA. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to the victims and their families.

In a community meeting held in the town of Barillas on June 23, 2007, the community expressed their opposition to mining activities and other mega projects. From the outset of the proposed project, residents have expressed their rejection of the proposed Canbalam hydroelectric project and have denounced the lack of prior and informed consent.

The government’s decision to declare a state of siege and suspend fundamental rights is ironic given that this conflict arose because of the state’s failure to recognize and respect the collective rights of the community. Far from pacifying and providing a real solution to the conflict, the state of siege only serves to generate more fear, disharmony and insecurity.

We criticize the baseless and defamatory statements of government officials linking social movements to organized crime groups, such as Los Zetas. This attempt to defame and discredit community leaders is a poor pretext to justify the improper use of the armed forces.

We also reject the malicious accusations against international organizations working in Guatemala. We are troubled by this smear campaign because of the negative impact it can have on those who work on behalf of human rights, solidarity, and the development of the country. We ask the media to maintain impartiality in their coverage of the news in order to promote peace among the people.

The actions of military officials and security forces –roundups, home searches, threats, and arrests–repeat a pattern of criminalization of social movements and community leaders who seek respect for their historic rights as indigenous peoples to decide the best use of their land and natural resources.

We are alarmed that the government has given priority to the capture of community leaders over the arrest of those responsible for the murder of Andrés Francisco Miguel.

In addition, we wish to express our concern for the irregular and furtive manner in which 12 community leaders were secretly transferred from Huehuetenango to a high-security prison in Guatemala City. Authorities not only failed to notify family members beforehand, but also refused to answer questions about the detainees’ whereabouts. The community leaders, not convicted of any crime, have been placed in the prison’s general population along with gang members, extortionists, and murderers.

We urge authorities to:

  • Guarantee the safety, welfare, and fully respect the rights of those imprisoned, and to immediately review the charges against them;
  • Investigate the assassination of Andrés Francisco Miguel and prosecute the material and intellectual authors of this deplorable act;
  • Lift the state of siege and demilitarize the response to social conflict;
  • Suspend the Hidro Santa Cruz’s construction license, respecting the community referendum carried out in 2007.

The government has a supreme duty to guarantee the inalienable rights of its citizens. At all times, in peace or in conflict, this obligation must be the guiding force behind every action of the state. The appropriate solution to the conflict in Santa Cruz Barillas can only be found through a respect for the rights of its people, not through the suspension or the violation of those rights.

La Comisión de los Derechos Humanos de Guatemala en Washington (GHRC/USA, por sus siglas en inglés) quiere manifestar su profunda preocupación por la crisis desatada en Villa de Barillas, Huehuetenango y la reacción excesiva y arbitraria del Gobierno de la República de Guatemala.

Estado de sitio en Santa Cruz Barillas, Huehuetenango

Repudiamos el ataque del 1 de mayo en cual fue asesinado el campesino Andrés Francisco Miguel y quedaron gravemente heridos los señores Pablo Antonio Pablo Pablo y Esteban Bernabé, un ataque aparentemente perpetrado por personas ligadas a la empresa Hidro Santa Cruz. Nuestras sinceras condolencias están con las víctimas y sus familias.

En una consulta comunitaria celebrada en el municipio de Barillas el 23 de junio del 2007, la comunidad expresó su rechazo a la minería y otros megaproyectos. Desde el principio del proyecto propuesto, los vecinos han expresado su rechazo total al hidroeléctrico Canbalam y han denunciado la falta de consulta previa e informada.

La aprobación de un Estado de Sitio y la suspensión de los derechos fundamentales, es un acto que resulta hasta irónico dado que este conflicto nace por el no respeto a los derechos colectivos de esta comunidad. Lejos de apaciguar y buscar una solución verdadera a la situación conflictiva, solo ha servido para sembrar más discordia, miedo e inseguridad.

Criticamos las declaraciones sin fundamento de funcionarios del Gobierno vinculando al movimiento social con grupos de crimen organizado, como los Zetas. Este intento de difamar y desprestigiar a los líderes comunitarios es un mal pretexto para justificar el indebido uso de las fuerzas armadas.

De igual forma rechazamos las acusaciones tendenciosas lanzadas en contra de las organizaciones internacionales. Esta campaña negra nos preocupa por las repercusiones que pueda tener para las personas que trabajan en pro de los derechos humanos, la solidaridad y el desarrollo del país. Pedimos a los medios de comunicación la imparcialidad de sus notas con el fin de promover la paz en la población.

Las actuaciones de los funcionarios y las fuerzas armadas—redadas, allanamientos, amenazas y arrestos—replican un patrón de criminalización de movimientos sociales y líderes comunitarios quienes buscan cumplimiento con sus demandas históricas del derecho a la consulta y al territorio ancestral.

Estamos alarmados por la prioridad dada a la captura de líderes comunitarios por encima del arresto de los asesinos responsables por la muerte de Andrés Francisco Miguel.

Además, expresamos nuestra profunda preocupación por la forma en que los 12 líderes fueron trasladados desde Huehuetenango a una cárcel de máxima seguridad en la capital, sin previo aviso y de forma encubierta. Las autoridades no solo no avisaron a los familiares, sino también negaron contestar preguntas acerca del paradero de los detenidos. Los lideres comunitarios, no condenado por ningún delito, fueron colocados en la población general de la cárcel, junto con mareros, extorsionistas y asesinos.

Instamos a las autoridades:

  • Garantizar la seguridad, bienestar y el pleno respeto a los derechos humanos de los detenidos, y inmediatamente revisar las cargos contra ellos;
  • Investigar el asesinato de Andrés Francisco Miguel y llevar a juicio a los responsables materiales e intelectuales de este deplorable hecho;
  • Levantar el estado de sitio y desmilitarizar la respuesta al conflicto social;
  • Suspender la licencia de construcción de la Hidro Santa Cruz respetando la consulta comunitaria que se llevó a cabo en 2007.

El Estado tiene el deber supremo de ser garante de los derechos inalienables de sus ciudadanos. En todo momento, de paz o conflicto, esta obligación debería ser la guía primordial para el actuar de las autoridades. La solución idónea al conflicto de Santa Cruz Barillas solo se encontrará por medio de respeto a los derechos de sus habitantes, y no por la suspensión o violación de ellos.

Advertisements

Urgent Call Campaign: Denounce the Guatemalan military’s assault on justice

From Jennifer Harbury: URGENT CALL CAMPAIGN TO WHITE HOUSE

US Lawyer and human rights activist Jennifer Harbury has been pushing for justice in war crimes cases in Guatemala for over 20 years. She writes from Guatemala, calling for action at this key moment to denounce the Guatemalan military’s attempts to impede the work of Attorney General Claudia Paz and the judicial proceedings underway in key cases.

I have spent the last many days consulting with the human rights groups and attorneys here in Guatemala. We think that within the next few weeks it is very likely that the army officers facing war crimes charges will push through a de facto amnesty, either by removing Claudia Paz, the amazing attorney general, an illegal congressional amnesty (“punto final”), or through a court ruling canceling international human rights law. (Guatemalan law alone does not even recognize the basic principles of Nuremberg.)

If any of these three things happen, then the war crimes cases will come to a very abrupt end. That, of course, is the goal.

I know we are entering the heart of the holiday season this week, but this is precisely why these dates are the most dangerous in Guatemala. This time of year is also prime time for assassinations and disappearances of human rights leaders, since most of the international community is away.

Given this, we are asking EVERYONE to make an emergency call to the White House comment line this week. (See below.) We need Obama to receive some basic information, and to communicate to the Guatemalan government that the US will not support an amnesty. With the collaboration of GHRC and Rights Action, I will continue advocacy with key US congresspersons after January 1, 2012. We will then also send you information about actions we will be taking with the UN, the OAS, and others.

After you make your call, please recruit a minimum of three additional persons to call the White House Comments line starting Monday Dec. 19. We need 30 or 40 calls a day to get the message sent to the President’s desk. This takes work, but the timing is crucial. If you have classrooms or clubs, this is a great way to get calls in. Family members and friends can also jump in with you.

Once you’ve made your call, please let us know by emailing ghrc-usa@ghrc-usa.org so that we can estimate how many calls are going in. We also welcome any comments or feedback from your call.

Thank you,

Jennifer Harbury

***

WHITE HOUSE COMMENTS LINE NUMBER: (202) 456-1111 OR (202) 456-1414

Message Points:

1. As President, Obama has announced he will stand strong in favor of fundamental human rights.

2. We want him to know that the incoming president of Guatemala, former General Otto Perez Molina, is deeply implicated in the past genocide against the Mayan population.

3. For years the people of Guatemala have sought to end the impunity by pressing for Nuremberg trials for the massacres. This year they came very close, thanks to the new attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz.

4. The army is responding by pushing hard for a de facto amnesty, either through the courts or congress, or by removing Claudia Paz from her position. The army has also been presenting bad faith criminal complaints against human rights leaders and journalists.

5. We ask that you take immediate steps to communicate with President Colom and President-elect Otto Perez Molina and make it clear that the United States government will not tolerate any illegal amnesty, direct or indirect, for crimes against humanity, or the bad faith criminalization of human rights leaders.

6. We thank you for attention to this very urgent matter.

***

A petition has also been set up on the White House website to denounce any illegal amnesty that the military tries to push through. You can add your name here.

***

International pressure at this key juncture can make the difference. Thank you for taking action.
In solidarity,

Kelsey Alford-Jones

GHRC Director

GHRC Director interviewed on WBEZ Chicago Radio

During the Fall Speaker’s Tour, GHRC Director Kelsey Alford-Jones stopped in at Chicago Public Radio for an interview about the recent election of former general Otto Pérez Molina and recent increases in violence throughout Guatemala.  Kelsey provides valuable analysis of the incoming president and his controversial past and the challenges Guatemala is currently facing. The second half of the podcast brings in Emiliano Valdes, a curator based in Guatemala City, to discuss a unique artists’ movement arising out of the violence in Guatemala.  Listen to the full podcast over at WBEZ’s website.