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Guatemala: IAR Carmen Mejía - Nov2012

    Thursday, January 3, 2013 - 00:00

    Carmen Mejía: Threatened with death for defending her community


    Please add your name to Amnesty's petition to the Guatemalan authorities calling on them to respect the rights of Carmen Mejía and other community activists seeking to protect their right to water, land, housing, freedom of expression and cultural identity.

    Carmen's Story

    Carmen Mejía is from a Mayan community in Guatemala. Her life is at risk because she is campaigning against impacts of mining on her community's human rights.

    "You shouldn't defend human rights, or you'll be killed."

    Carmen received this warning several times in June. Carmen works for a development organization that represents members of Indigenous communities seeking to protect their right to water, land, housing, freedom of expression and cultural identity. She has spoken at public meetings about her concerns about the Marlin Mine, which is owned by a subsidiary of Canadian mining company Goldcorp.

    In July, a month after Carmen received death threats, someone shot her fellow grassroots activist, Deodora Hernandez, in the eye at close range. At the time, Deodora was speaking out about the impact of a mine on her community's water supply. She was seriously wounded, but she survived.

    The attempt on Deodora's life is part of a pattern of violent attacks against opponents of Canadian mining projects across Central America, and underscores how seriously we must take the threats made against Carmen Mejía.

    A Pattern of violence

    The threat against Carmen Mejía must be taken seriously in the light of a broader pattern of violence observed by Amnesty International against opponents of Canadian mining projects across Central America.

    December 2009, El Salvador: Dora Alicia Recinos Sorto: On her way back from washing clothes in the river, Dora, a Salvadoran environmental activist, was shot and killed. She had opposed a proposed Canadian gold mine in her province of Cabanas.

    November 2009, Mexico: Mariano Abarca, a vocal opponent of a Canadian barite mine near his community was gunned down in Chiapas.

    September 2009, Guatemala: Adolfo Ich Chaman, a teacher, was attacked with a machete and shot to death, allegedly by private security guards working for a Canadian mining company.

    June 2009, El Salvador: Gustavo Marcelo Rivera a well-known community activist who opposed a Canadian mining project, was kidnapped and killed.

    Concerns about Guatemala

    Amnesty International is seriously concerned about escalating violence that puts Indigenous community activists at risk in south western Guatemala.

    On 16 June, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of Indigenous People visited the municipality of San Miguel Ixtahuacan to investigate whether local Indigenous communities had been adequately consulted about the establishment of a mining operation there.

    During the Special Rapporteur's visit, Carmen Mejía spoke in a public meeting with him about the human rights that the mine is allegedly violating. Carmen works for a development organization known as ADISMI (Asociacion para el Desarrollo Integral de San Miguel Ixtahuacan) that represents members of Indigenous communities seeking to protect their right to water, land, housing, freedom of expression and cultural identity. ADISMI was one of the principal organizations which requested the visit by the Special Rapporteur. On 18 June, Carmen Mejía received a threatening text message.

    This message followed other threatening messages Carmen received on 12 and 15 June, saying that she shouldn't defend human rights and that she would be killed. Eighteen Indigenous Mayan communities in the municipalities of San Miguel Ixtahuacan and Sipacapa, San Marcos department, should already be under protection.

    On 20 May 2010, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights requested that the Guatemalan government take measures to safeguard their lives and safety. The IACHR also requested that the Guatemalan government suspend operation of the Marlin mine, owned by Montana Exploradora de Guatemala, S.A., a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Canadian mining company Goldcorp."