Ronal David Barillas Díaz was gunned down on January 9th in Guatemala.
Ronal David Barillas Díaz was gunned down on January 9th in Guatemala.
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.
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.
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.
TweetIn a landmark decision for environmental defenders in Peru, a Supreme Court ruling on 3 May 2017 marked an end of the trial for land invasion against human rights defender Máxima Acuña Atalaya.
#MaximaAcuna has prevailed in her struggle against criminalization! https://t.co/WaiaKEc6N7
— Alex Neve (@AlexNeveAmnesty) May 4, 2017What happened?
In August 2011, peasant farmer and human rights defender, Máxima Acuña Atalaya, and members of her family were accused of land invasion.
After almost five years of proceedings in relation to the unfounded criminal charges of land invasion, the Supreme Court of Justice has ruled that there was no reason to pursue the groundless trial of Máxima.
The decision of the Peruvian Supreme Court to postpone the ruling on the case against human rights defender Máxima Acuña is the latest attempt by the authorities to obstruct her legitimate work to defend the environment, said Amnesty International.
The Peruvian Supreme Court was due to issue a decision today on the spurious charges of land invasion against Máxima Acuña Atalaya. The ruling was postponed until 3 May after the tribunal informed that some of the judges had not had enough time to reach a decision.
“The case against Máxima is a cowardly attempt by the authorities in Peru to stop her activism to defend human rights and the environment and send a message to other activists,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International
“Effectively forcing her to travel all the way to Lima at her own expense just to be told that the hearing was postponed looks like yet another trick to continue to punish her and her family.”
“Instead of continuing to harass Máxima and her family with baseless accusations, authorities in Peru must ensure human rights defenders can carry out their work without fear of reprisals.”
Image Courtesy of Pressenza.
Members of the Defence Movement of Earth, Environmental Protection and Access to Water are facing death threats because of their work defending the right to water in Petorca Province, central Chile.
On 28 March, an unidentified person threatened human rights defender Rodrigo Mundaca Cabrera, calling him on the telephone and stating: “We are going to kill you motherfucker, we will kill you”. Rodrigo Mundaca is a member and spokesperson of the Defence Movement of Earth, Environmental Protection and Access to Water (Movimiento de Defensa por el Acceso al Agua, la Tierra y la Protección del Medio Ambiente, MODATIMA) in Petorca Province, Chile.
Photo credit: frontlinedefenders.org
Download PDF of UA 85/17 Guatemala
On the night of 3 April, unidentified people situated in front of human rights defender Rafael Maldonado’s house in Guatemala City, shot at a car nearby. Although he was unharmed, the defender believes the incident was intended to intimidate him and he is concerned for his safety.
Máxima Acuña has a huge fight ahead of her to ensure that the four lagoons near her community are protected from mining contamination. US mining giant Newmont, and its Peruvian partner, Buenaventura, want to use those lagoons for their proposed Conga mine. Currently, development of the mine is on hold because of fierce community opposition. But the companies, through their subsidiary Yanacocha, aren’t giving up.
This December, Amnesty members around the world took action for Máxima Acuña and her family in a campaign called, “Maxima is Not Alone” which called on Peru’s Minister of the Interior to protect Máxima and her family from years of abuse.
Máxima had this message for Amnesty members: “Thank you to everyone around the world who has stood by my side, worried about the risks I face. I ask that you help me find justice so that I can live in peace and tranquility”.
Another way Amnesty members can take action is to call on Canadian investors to use their economic clout to support the important and necessary work of human rights defenders like Máxima.
Released: Monday 27 February 2017, 00:01 GMT
The scandalous lack of an effective investigation to find those responsible for ordering the brutal killing of Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres sends a terrifying message to the hundreds of people who dare to speak out against the powerful, said Amnesty International on the first anniversary of the killing on 2 March.
“Berta’s tragic murder illustrates the woeful state of human rights in Honduras. The message is clear: if your human rights work disturbs those with power, you will be killed,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.
“The scandalously poor investigation into Berta’s murder, which has so far failed to identify those responsible for ordering her killing and the lack of an effective mechanism to protect witnesses and other human rights defenders, shows the Honduran authorities’ lack of interest in securing justice.
Last week, Amnesty International's director for the Americas, Erika Guevara Rosas delivered more than 150,000 solidarity messages to support Peruvian land defender Máxima Acuña.
Activists from Canada, the United Kingdom, Norway, France, Taiwan, Chile, New Zealand, Italy and Peru, among others, wrote to the Peruvian government as part of the global 'Write for Rights' campaign to protect Máxima Acuña and her family from threats of assault and intimidation.
The Minister of Justice and Human Rights, Marisol Pérez Tello was present to receive the 150 thousand signatures and messages that Amnesty International collected in solidarity to tell the Peruvian government that 'Máxima is not alone'.
A toxic smear campaign has put #Honduras' human rights defenders at risk of physical attacks. Act to protect them: https://t.co/nPwn1gxK0D pic.twitter.com/Yg4H1ykl0w
— Urgent Actions (@AmnestyUA) February 15, 2017
International organization Global Witness, along with Honduran organizations MILPAH, COPINH and CEHPRODEC are facing a smear campaign against them for their work defending land, territory and environmental rights in the country. This increasing campaign puts them at risk of further harassment and physical attacks.