Guatemala News Update: December 7-11

Celebrating International Human Rights Day

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GHRC’s Dania Rodríguez was recognized by Guatemala’s Human Rights Ombudsman at a Dec. 10 event to honor human rights groups working in the country.

Guatemalans participated in a host of actions to commemorate International Human Rights Day, celebrated on December 10.

Guatemala’s Human Rights Ombudsman, Jorge de León Duque, stated in an event he hosted in Guatemala City that this year was marked by a “failure to fulfill fundamental rights,” citing the country’s collapsing health care and education systems. The Ombudsman also gave a special “declaration of protection” to several groups, including to GHRC, for their crucial work promoting human rights.

The Human Rights Office of the Archdiocese of Guatemala also presented its annual award, the Orden Juan José Gerardi, to a group of Ixil women who testified as part of the genocide trial against Efraín Ríos Montt. The award also recognized political prisoners Bernarbé Sagastume, Antonio Velásquez and Saúl Méndez for their work defending their communities’ land and environmental rights.

Many groups issued a statement in honor of Human Rights Day; our partner UDEFEGUA expressed the group’s solidarity with Guatemala’s diverse human rights struggles and movements.

Urgent Action: Denounce Repeated Threats Against Land Rights Defenders

Our partner Amnesty International Canada is circulating an urgent action campaign to denounce threats against Rafael Maldonado of the Center for Environmental and Social Legal Action (CALAS). Last week, Maldonado received a series of death threats via social media — the latest in a continuing pattern of intimidation toward him since 2013. Maldonado serves as the Legal Director for CALAS, an organization that advocates for the collective rights of indigenous peoples in relation to environmental issues. Recently, CALAS has been involved in cases related to mining and African palm production in Guatemala.

Click here to participate in the campaign by writing a letter to Guatemala’s President and Attorney General.

Guatemala court denies appeal of ex-dictator’s genocide trial

This week, Guatemala’s top court refused an injunction requested by the defense team for Efraín Ríos Montt to call off the criminal process against him for genocide and war crimes. The Constitutional Court has confirmed that although Montt was diagnosed in August with “incurable dementia,” a special, closed-door trial will move forward in January 2016. Because Montt has been declared unfit to appear in court, his legal team will represent him during the trial.

Weekly News Round Up Feb. 23-Mar.5

Constitutional Court upholds case closure for Efraín Bámaca’s disappearance
The Constitutional Court (CC) has confirmed the closure of the criminal case involving the forced disappearance of Efraín Bámaca. In March 2011, Bámaca’s widow, Jennifer Harbury, brought a criminal complaint against then presidential candidate Pérez Molina for his role in her husband’s disappearance and death. Bámaca (alias Comandante Everardo) disappeared in 1992. According to the military, he committed suicide, but Harbury says that he was actually detained, tortured and killed. In December 2010, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered the Guatemalan government to re-investigate the case of Bámaca’s forced disappearance. Harbury’s lawyer has indicated that he will take action against Pérez Molina for not fulfilling the IACHR’s demands for a re-investigation of the case.

Constitutional Court rejects legal action filed by Toto indigenous leaders
The Constitutional Court (CC) unanimously rejected the legal action filed by the 48 cantones of Totonicapán against the Mining Law. The court’s decision called on Congress to regulate consultation with indigenous communities as established in ILO Convention number 169. The plaintiffs argue that the Mining Law was issued when there was still a right to consultation under the ILO convention and therefore the law is unconstitutional because it does not respect that right. The trial against the soldiers who fired on the group of protesters in Totonicapán last year is still ongoing. One of the defense lawyers for the accused soldiers says that he will ask for an acquittal. He says that his clients were motivated by “an overwhelming fear”, and thus they are innocent.

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