Take action to support water defenders under dangerous attack in Central America.
Take action to support water defenders under dangerous attack in Central America.
Young activists from Guatemala recently shared with Amnesty International their experiences and motivations for putting their lives on the line to fight for the rights of their communities and the environment.
On April 27, 2013, Luis Fernando Garcia Monroy was shot and seriously injured alongside his father, Adolfo, outside the entrance to Tahoe Resource’s Escobal silver mine. The BC Court of Appeal has just ruled that the case against Tahoe Resources for the shootings can go ahead in Canada. After the attack and in response to the death of a 16 year old activist in their community, Luis Fernando and his friends started a peaceful resistance group to give youth a voice.
Here is their story, in their own words.
Adolfo Garcia (pictured, second from the left), is a quiet, serious middle-aged farmer from Guatemala. Once the Guatemalan government began issuing mining licenses in Santa Rosa, he dedicated his life to protecting the land and water for future generations of farmers and residents of his small town in south-east Guatemala.
Adolfo has since experienced terrible injustice and violence. During a peaceful protest in 2013, Adolfo, his son, and five other men were shot and gravely injured outside a silver mine owned by Canadian company, Tahoe Resources. Adolfo’s then-teenaged son, Luis Fernando, was shot in the face, requiring extensive and painful reconstructive surgeries to enable him to breathe again. Adolfo and his wife nearly lost their family home to pay for the operations.
(Ottawa/Toronto/Vancouver/Reno/Washington/Guatemala) North American organizations are dismayed and deeply troubled bythe execution-style murder of 22 year-old Jeremy Abraham Barrios Lima, assistant to the director of the Guatemalan Centre for Legal, Environmental and Social Action (CALAS), on Saturday in Guatemala City.
A group of Canadian and US legal, environmental and social justice organizations, and solidarity networks publicly express their condolences for the victim’s mother and two young sisters. In addition, they are profoundly worried about the safety and continued work of CALAS and the mining-affected communities that this organization collaborates with. There is no denying the significance of this brutal murder amidst escalating violence against land and environment defenders, journalists and citizens involved in important environmental and social justice struggles in the country and the region.
The trial of Guatemala’s former military ruler, José Efraín Ríos Montt, due to start on 11 January, will be a major test for the country’s justice system and a huge opportunity for Guatemala to show it is committed to human rights, said Amnesty International today.
“Tens of thousands of Guatemalans who fell victim to the heinous crimes committed under Ríos Montt’s rule have been waiting three decades to see justice done – they must not be forced to wait one second longer,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.
“The Guatemalan ‘see no evil, hear no evil’ approach when it comes to dealing with the hundreds of thousands of cases of torture, killings and disappearances that took place during the country’s civil war is shameful and illegal. The only deterrent to the perpetrators of crimes like these is the clear knowledge that they will face justice and the full might of the law.”
By Tara Scurr, Campaigner, Business and Human Rights
One year ago, Alex Neve and I were sitting in the Hotel Continental in Guatemala City, waiting for reporters to turn up for our press conference. We were about to launch a new Amnesty International report on mining and human rights. We’d been warned by our experienced Guatemalan media handler not to expect many reporters to show up. Imagine our delight when our press conference began and we saw that the room was packed with radio, print and TV reporters, NGOs, and human rights defenders from communities affected by mining. It was standing room only.
A Guatemalan court’s decision to try former Guatemalan President Efraín Ríos Montt on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity through a lawyer and behind closed doors opens a new avenue for justice but highlights the deep flaws of the country’s justice system, which has so far failed to bring justice to his victims, said Amnesty International.
The conditions of his trial were decided due to the 89-year-old former president’s fragile health, according to news reports. The trial is due to start in January 2016.
“Today’s ruling clearly shows that when justice is delayed for so long, there is a very high risk that those responsible for crimes such as mass killings and disappearances will be able to get away with it,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.
“If authorities in Guatemala would have dealt with the shocking catalogue of crimes committed under Ríos Montt’s rule as they should have, instead of repeatedly delaying the process, the country would not find itself in this situation.”
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It’s hard to believe, but people in Guatemala’s Quiché province would go to jail for Lolita Chávez.
Lolita is a K’iche Indigenous woman and human rights defender from the highlands of Guatemala. (Indigenous Peoples are groups who have lived in a place for longer than recorded history.)
When Lolita was threatened with arrest because of her human rights work, the K’iche Peoples Council passed a motion. They said that all 15,000 of their members would ask to be arrested and go to jail. They said, “You can’t jail one of us without jailing all of us”. That’s because they believe the work Lolita does to protect the human rights of Indigenous peoples is so important.
A Guatemala City court found Pedro García Arredondo guilty of orchestrating a fire that killed 37 people in the city’s Spanish embassy.© JOHAN ORDONEZ/AFP/Getty Images
The families of 37 people burned to death in an attack on the Spanish embassy in Guatemala City in 1980 finally have some relief as justice has caught up to a former high-ranking police officer for his role in the crimes, Amnesty International said today.
On Monday evening a civilian court in Guatemala City found Pedro García Arredondo, former chief detective of the now-defunct National Police (Policía Nacional), guilty of orchestrating a fire in the city’s Spanish embassy that left only two survivors. After a four-month trial, he has been sentenced to 90 years in prison for murder, attempted murder and crimes against humanity.
by Tara Scurr, Business & Human Rights Campaigner, Amnesty International Canada
- from Guatemala City
Yolanda Oquelí, a leader from San Jose del Golfo in Guatemala, shared those words with me last year, describing her community’s ongoing struggle to compel the Guatemalan government to respect their rights in the context of a Canadian-initiated mining project.
Released 08:30 (CST) 19 September 2014
The Guatemalan government is fuelling the fires of conflict by failing to consult local communities before awarding mining licences to companies, effectively raising the risk of bloodshed and bulldozing over the rights of its people, said Amnesty International today.
Download 'Mining in Guatemala: Rights at risk' here
by Alex Neve, Secretary General, and Tara Scurr, Business and Human Rights Campaigner
Amnesty International Canada
- Guatemala City, Guatemala, 18 September, 2014
What better way to spend the evening before launching our important new report, Mining in Guatemala: Rights at Risk? Over dinner, we were able to catch up with the courageous community leader and human rights defender Yolanda Oquelí. Yolanda has for several years been at the forefront of the campaign to ensure that mining does not go ahead in her community without consultation and consent. She has been a leader of the La Puya protest camp, which blockaded the road leading in to the mining site for over two years.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights’ ruling that Guatemalan authorities failed to investigate the tragic murder of a teenage girl sends a strong message to governments around the world that failure to address violence against women will not be tolerated, said Amnesty International ahead of a press conference on the ruling in Guatemala City today.
The case was brought by the mother of María Isabel Veliz Franco, a 15-year-old girl who had been sexually assaulted, tortured and brutally murdered in Guatemala in 2001. On Monday 28 July, the court found that not only had Guatemalan authorities failed to properly investigate the murder, but that they had failed to address and resolve the ingrained culture of violence and discrimination against women that permeates Guatemalan society, which led to a flawed investigation.
The conviction of Guatemala’s former National Director of Police for a number of murders is a very significant step forward in the fight against impunity that has plagued Guatemala in the past, said Amnesty International today.
Erwin Sperisen was found guilty of the murders of seven men by a Swiss court today, and sentenced to life imprisonment. The decision can be appealed.
The court found that he had been involved in the murder of seven inmates who were killed during a police raid on the El Pavón prison in 2006. In six cases he was indirectly involved, and in one he was found to have directly committed the murder, according to the court.
“Today’s result is a positive step in the fight against a culture of impunity in Guatemala. This verdict strengthens the rule of law and is a wake-up call for all those attempting to hide their crimes behind positions of authority,” said Sebastian Elgueta, Researcher for Guatemala, Amnesty International.
The fight for justice for victims of crimes against humanity and genocide, from Guatemala’s past conflict is being seriously undermined, Amnesty International said today.
A year ago today Guatemala’s Constitutional Court annulled the conviction of former President General Efraín Ríos Montt for crimes against humanity and genocide committed in the 1980s. Since then key judicial figures have been replaced or sanctioned, and resolutions passed that further erode the chances of victims of the past conflict seeing justice.
“Victims of Ríos Montt’s crimes have been fighting for justice for more than three decades and now are again facing numerous obstacles created to deny them that justice,” said Sebastian Elgueta, Guatemala researcher at Amnesty International.
“Guatemala owes a debt of justice to those victims, as well as to the rest of the estimated 200,000 victims of the conflict.”