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Guatemala

    September 16, 2020

    Indigenous teacher Bernardo Caal Xol spoke up to protect the river that his communities depend on for survival. He should not be in prison for one more day! © Diario La Hora / José del Águila

    DOWNLOAD THE SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER LIFESAVER HERE

    Bernardo Caal Xol (pronounced Kal Shol) is a teacher and water protector in northern Guatemala. He has committed no crime, yet he has been in jail for over two years. Well that’s not fair, is it?!

    Bernardo is a respected leader of Maya Q’eqchi’ (pronounced ke chi) Indigenous communities. They asked him to take legal action on their behalf to stop the damming of the Cahabón River. 

    September 01, 2020

    Misuse of the justice system to imprison indigenous environment defenders in Guatemala is an all too common practice designed to silence them and paralyze their vital struggles for human rights. This is happening at a time when Guatemala is experiencing devastating impacts of climate change, including water shortages, crop failures and famine.

    Bernardo Caal Xol is a Maya Q’eqchi’ teacher and trade unionist who is in jail, although he has committed no crime. 

    Authorities prosecuted Caal Xol with trumped up charges as he was successfully leading a peaceful struggle by communities seeking to protect the Cahabón River from big dam projects that violate indigenous rights, affect fish stocks and limit Indigenous communities’ access to water. Caal Xol was convicted without evidence. Since then, on six separate occasions, authorities have cancelled scheduled court hearings for an appeal of the wrongful conviction. 

    July 16, 2020

    Bernardo Caal Xol, a Q'eqchi' Maya Indigenous leader and Guatemalan human rights defender, is a prisoner of conscience who has been wrongfully imprisoned for more than two years, Amnesty International said today.  

    Since 2015, Bernardo Caal has defended the rights of the communities of Santa María Cahabón, who have been affected by the construction of the OXEC hydroelectric plant on the Oxec and Cahabón rivers in the northern department of Alta Verapaz. He filed a series of injunctions against the project and in 2017 the high courts acknowledged that the right to free, prior, and informed consultation of the Indigenous communities was violated.

    In retaliation, Bernardo Caal was accused of carrying out alleged acts of violence against employees of NETZONE SA, an OXEC contractor, on 15 October 2015. On 9 November 2018, a court sentenced him to seven years and four months in prison for the crimes of unlawful detention with aggravating circumstances and aggravated robbery. 

    August 23, 2019

    Quelvin Jiménez via Twitter

    DOWNLOAD PDF OF UA 63 HERE

    Quelvin Jiménez has recently received threats to his life. He has been targeted with smear campaigns, intimidation and surveillance for defending the rights to land and territory of the Xinca People in the context of mining activities in the south of Guatemala. 

    The latest threats include phone calls indicating he was to die, the presence of an armed man near his home, and an attempt of intimidation as he approached his house on 6 May. The man seen near his house chased Quelvin on a motorcycle attempting to make his vehicle slow down. In late April, he was alerted to a plan to kill him. The investigations of previous attacks are still pending and the police have yet to enforce security measures ordered by the Public Prosecutor’s office to protect him.

    July 09, 2019

    Guatemala is on the verge of wiping out more than a decade of efforts to strengthen its criminal justice system and access to justice as a result of recent actions by the country’s highest authorities, Amnesty International warned in a new report released today.

    In Last Chance for Justice, the organization exposes the serious setbacks and imminent risks to human rights in Guatemala as a result of measures taken by the Jimmy Morales administration, the Public Prosecutor's Office led by Consuelo Porras, the judiciary, and the national Congress.

    “Access to justice is receiving heavy blows from which Guatemala will not be able to recover unless measures are taken now. The actions being taken by the nation’s highest authorities must be stopped immediately and they must ensure justice for every case of human rights violations,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

    March 27, 2019

    AMR 34/0128/2019

    Amnesty International is concerned that the authorities are continuing to impose unjustified obstacles and restrictions on the work of human rights defenders in Guatemala.

    On 22 March 2019, the authorities made public criminal charges filed by the President of the Judiciary and the Supreme Court of Justice against the human rights defenders Claudia Samayoa, President of the Board of the Unit for the Protection of Human Rights in Guatemala (UDEFEGUA), and José Manuel Martínez Cabrera, a member of the Justicia Ya collective. The two defenders were accused of illegally obtaining a copy of a decision issued by the Court on 9 January. This decision, which was also circulated on social media and in the media, was the basis of a complaint filed on 17 January 2019 by the two defenders against members of the Supreme Court of Justice, including its President.

    February 13, 2019

    The approval of laws 5377 and 5257, which the Congress of the Republic will discuss on Wednesday, February 13, would put the human rights of thousands of people in Guatemala at risk, said Amnesty International today.

    “These legislative initiatives put at risk the progress of the last decade in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for human rights violations in Guatemala. These advances have been possible thanks to the valiant and tireless efforts of the victims, their legal representatives, prosecutors and the people and civil society organizations that defend human rights. These laws would also put in doubt the future of the fight against impunity,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

    The possible approval of law 5257, under discussion for the third time, which proposes amending the Law on Non-Governmental Organizations for Development, constitutes a threat to the rights to freedom of expression and association in Guatemala. It would impose excessive controls and onerous requirements for the registration and operation of NGOs in the country.

    January 08, 2019

    In reaction to the decision of the Guatemalan government to put an end to the agreement with the United Nations on the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG by its initials in Spanish), Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International, said:

    “This decision from the government of Guatemala is the latest blow to the fight against impunity and clearly shows its worrying lack of willingness to work towards an independent justice system that guarantees the human rights of all people in Guatemala, including the right to justice and adequate reparations for victims of human rights violations.”

    “Contrary to the government’s claims, the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala is an unprecedented initiative in the region. The achievements obtained with the help of the Commission show that we can fight against impunity and that even the most high-ranking officials can be brought to justice in emblematic cases of corruption and human rights violations.”

     

    November 28, 2018

    This weekend, CBC-TV will broadcast a special documentary about courageous Guatemalan villagers who are taking a Canadian mining company to court. 
    Watch the 3 minute trailer
     
    Airs: Friday, November 30 at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT) on CBC, the CBC TV streaming app, and https://watch.cbc.ca/. Repeating on News Network Sunday, December 2nd at 8 p.m. ET/PT, and Thursday, December 6th at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

    November 07, 2018

    by Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International

    Guatemala has a historic unsettled debt regarding the quest for justice for crimes under international law and other serious human rights violations committed during the 1960-1996 armed conflict. Today, more than twenty years later, the country faces another major challenge to ensure access to justice and to effectively combat impunity in the country.

    It was recently announced that the activities of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) had ended; that the CICIG Commissioner, Iván Velásquez, was banned from entering the country; and that visas for several CICIG staff members had been denied or revoked, among other measures. These were just the most recent efforts by the Guatemalan authorities to undermine and hinder the work of one of the key institutions in the struggle for truth and justice.

    October 09, 2018
    Jimmy Morales, President of Guatemala

    DOWNLOAD A PDF OF THE LETTER-WRITING ACTION HERE

    President Jimmy Morales is trying to end the fight against impunity in Guatemala by revoking the mandate of the UN Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). The country's Constitutional Court has ordered the President and high-level functionaries to solve the current crisis through political dialogue with the United Nations and to allow the Commission's head, Iván Velásquez, back into the country. In the meantime, this important anti-corruption effort is hanging by a thread. Canada is a major supporter of CICIG, donating millions of dollars to the Commission. Its time to speak up and tell Canada that you are deeply concerned about the political crisis unfolding in Guatemala. 

    September 18, 2018

    Following the ruling of the Guatemalan Constitutional Court ordering President Jimmy Morales and high-ranking immigration officials to allow the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG by its initials in Spanish) entry to the country, Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International, said:

    “The International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala is an unprecedented initiative in the region in the fight against corruption and impunity, which continue to plague the region and lead to human rights violations being committed. In hindering the work of the CICIG the government is putting the sustainability and operations of institutions at all levels at great risk, affecting the state’s ability to fully guarantee the Guatemalan people’s right to exercise their human rights.

    “The Guatemalan Constitutional Court’s order is clear. High-ranking public officials, including the president, must comply with the ruling allowing the re-entry of the CICIG Commissioner, Iván Velásquez. Failure to do so would lead to autocracy and disregard for rule of law in the country.”

    June 12, 2018
    Solidarity image of members of CCDA

    Photo: Solidarity image, with members of CCDA.

    Attacks on defenders in Guatemala are rapidly escalating. In four short weeks seven human rights defenders have been killed. Three men from the Campesino Committee of the Highlands (CCDA) and four men from the Campesino Development Committee (CODECA) were violently murdered.

    It's important we call on authorities to stop this wave of killings - but also at times of crisis, the need to show meaningful solidarity with defenders becomes ever more necessary.

    Steps you can take to show solidarity

    1.      Write a message of solidarity and encouragement to show these brave activists that they are not alone or forgotten. The world is watching! You could make a card or drawing or simply hold up a sign as in the examples below. Take a close-up photo of yourself holding your solidarity message in English or Spanish and share it directly with the CCDA or CODECA:

    June 11, 2018

    Guatemalan authorities must take immediate and effective measures to protect human rights defenders and launch thorough, impartial and independent investigations into all attacks against them, Amnesty International said today, following the killing of seven human rights defenders in the space of a month.

    “Guatemala’s brave human rights defenders are being killed with impunity on a terrifyingly regular basis. The authorities must take urgent action to protect them from these savage and calculated attacks before more lives are lost,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    “Instead of stigmatizing and insulting those who dedicate their lives to the defence of their land and the environment, the authorities must publicly recognize the importance of their work and ensure that those responsible for the attacks against them are brought to justice.”

    The seven people killed in the last four weeks were all involved in defending their communities’ land, territory or the environment, and they were all members of the Campesino Development Committee (CODECA) or the Altiplano Campesino Committee (CCDA).

    June 06, 2018

    Amnesty International is deeply concerned for the safety of land defenders in Guatemala. Six defenders were brutally killed during the last two weeks of May and 12 defenders have lost their lives since January.  It appears that a vicious new wave of attacks against land and water defenders is underway in Guatemala.  

    Heightening our worry is the use of language by Guatemala’s President Jimmy Morales to discredit and put down organizations that are working to protect land and environment, such as the Committee for Campesino Development (CODECA) or the Campesino Committee of the Highlands (CCDA).

    Sister Maudilia Lopez Cardona, a Catholic sister and land defender from San Miguel Ixtahuacán, near Goldcorp’s Marlin mine, reminded Canadians during a delegation to Canada last month that calling human rights activists names, such as ‘anti-development’, ‘eco-terrorists’, or ‘anti-patriotic’ undermines their legitimate concerns and puts them at high risk of attack.

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