Ronal David Barillas Díaz was gunned down on January 9th in Guatemala.
Ronal David Barillas Díaz was gunned down on January 9th in Guatemala.
Ronal David Barillas Díaz, a community leader and human rights defender was killed on the morning of 9 January in Taxisco, Santa Rosa, Guatemala. His attackers got out of a vehicle, walked to the newspaper and food stall where he worked and shot him at least six times, before fleeing the scene.
Amnesty International utterly condemns this attack and urges the Guatemalan authorities to initiate a thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the death of the human rights defender and to put in place, without delay, a comprehensive public policy for the protection of human rights defenders in the country.
Last month, Amnesty International Canada's Tara Scurr and Kathy Price joined a delegation of Amnesty colleagues from Spain, Sweden, Mexico and the United States for a research and solidarity mission to Guatemala and Honduras. Tara reports from their meetings with human rights defenders and officials in Guatemala.
Fortified with strong, sweet coffee after a pre-dawn flight from Honduras to Guatemala, our delegation listened intently as a full room of international and Guatemalan civil society organizations methodically unpacked the situation facing human rights defenders in Guatemala.
By Kathy Price, campaigner responsible for work on human rights defenders in Latin America
From November 5-12, an Amnesty International mission is visiting Guatemala and Honduras to send a clear message: land and water defenders need protection NOW.
My colleague, Tara Scurr, and I will join Amnesty International campaigners from Sweden, Spain, USA and our regional office in Mexico to meet with human rights defenders, victims and government authorities, as well as Embassy staff representing the European Union, Canada and the US.
We'll be handing over more than 40,000 petition signatures from Amnesty supporters across Canada to urgently call on the governments of Honduras and Guatemala to address this crisis. These signatures communicate a strong message of concern from Canada that we hope will have an impact, together with the signatures gathered in other countries.
Guatemala is a country rich in minerals such as gold, silver and iron. Companies both inside and outside the country want those riches.
Sometimes the companies don’t ask permission before they start taking the minerals. Sometimes their operations destroy the forests and farmland, and pollute the rivers.
Defenders of water and land need help to protect their right to a healthy environment.
One person they can count on is Rafael Maldonado. He runs an organization called CALAS (the Centre for Environmental, Social and Legal Action).
But not everyone respects the important work that Rafael and members of CALAS do.
They have been threatened in social media posts and in newspaper articles. The threats said they would be killed if they continue their work.
They have been threatened at work too, and even at home. Last November, someone shot and killed a man who worked at CALAS. And last April, someone fired shots outside Rafael’s house.
By Kathy Price, AI Canada's Honduras campaigner. Follow Kathy on Twitter @KPriceAmnesty
“Admirable, courageous, inspiring”: those were the words we heard over and over again from the Members of Parliament, government officials and Amnesty supporters who heard the testimony of Central American human rights defenders we brought to Ottawa in June.
All have paid dearly for their efforts to defend the rights of vulnerable people seeking to protect the land and water on which their lives depend.
Luis Fernando García Monroy (left) was shot by security guards of a Canadian-owned mine in Santa Rosa, Guatemala during a 2013 protest against its impacts on the environment so vital to the livelihoods and well-being of local inhabitants. Following surgery and reconstruction of his face, Luis Fernando went on to co-found Youth Organized in Defence of Life (known by its Spanish acronym JODVID), to carry on the creative, determined activism of Topacio Reynosa, another young human rights defender who was killed in 2014.
Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland is participating in a high level Central American prosperity and security conference in Miami today.
Amnesty International Canada urges that extreme dangers facing defenders of land, territory and the environment must not be overlooked in discussions she has with her counterparts from the US and Mexico, as well as government official and business leaders from Central America, the United States, Canada and Mexico.
On June 8, Parliament’s Subcommittee on International Human Rights heard disturbing testimony from community leaders from Honduras and Guatemala regarding threats, attacks and assassinations in response to their peaceful efforts to oppose the negative impacts of resource extraction projects proceeding without due diligence.
Maya-K’iche human rights defender Lolita Chavez is known to Canadians for her determined and principled stance on the right of Indigenous peoples to determine what happens in their territories. Lolita has spoken to Canadian leaders, investors and the public about the ways in which the Guatemalan government has failed to protect Indigenous peoples and how this leaves them exposed to abuses by corporate actors, such as mining, hydro-electric or logging interests. Most people in the region rely on subsistence farming for their livelihoods and are concerned that these industrial activities would destroy sources of water needed for irrigation and drinking. Lolita organized a community referendum on resource development in Santa Cruz del Quiche, Quiche department and residents overwhelmingly voted ‘NO’ to any form of industrial development on their lands.
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.”