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Guatemala: NGOs and human rights defenders at risk

    Wednesday, February 27, 2019 - 14:15


    Proposed legislative reform, Bill 5257, would impose undue restrictions, controls and sanctions on non-governmental organizations (NGOs), threatening the rights to freedom of expression and association in the country. The reforms are due to be voted upon and adopted within the coming weeks. 

    Congress must refrain from debating and passing Bill 5257 to ensure that human rights defenders can continue their activities. Otherwise, the reform would impose excessive controls and burdensome requirements for the registration and operation of NGOs in the country. It would also grant broad powers to the government to permanently suspend the activities of an NGO for reasons such as “disturbance of public order”. The interpretation of this ambiguous expression could lead to the arbitrary closure of civil society organizations and the imposition of criminal sanctions against the human rights defenders that work in them, as an attempt to silence and harass them.

    Please send a tweet or email without delay. (The postal system is unreliable.)

    • Start with Dear Mr Arzú and a sentence about yourself to make your message unique.
    • Express concern that Congress is considering Bill 5257 which aims to amend Guatemala’s “Law on Non-Governmental Organizations for Development”. Impress on the authorities the fact that placing excessive bureaucratic obstacles on NGOs hurts the society they’re meant to protect. 
    • Urge Congress to refrain from debating and passing Bill 5257 into law in order to respect the rights to freedom of expression and association in Guatemala and ensure that human rights defenders can continue to their legitimate activities in defense of human rights.

    Write to

    President of Congress Álvaro Enrique Arzú Escobar
    Email: *
    Twitter:     @AlvaroArzuE and @CongresoGuate

    Please copy

    His Excellency Carlos Humberto Jiménez Licona 
    Ambassador for the Republic of Guatemala
    130 Albert Street, Suite 1010
    Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5G4
    Fax:         613 233 0135
    Phone:        613 233 7237

    Additional information

    Human rights defenders in Guatemala carry out their activities in an extremely hostile environment, particularly those working on rights related to land, territory and the environment. They face continuous threats, intimidation and attacks. The Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Guatemala (UDEFEGUA) reported 26 human rights defenders were killed in 2018.

    Defenders also face stigmatization and smear campaigns by private actors and the Guatemalan authorities. The criminal justice system is regularly misused to criminalize them in an attempt to break up movements and organizations, wear down the defenders and remove them from the public arena. 

    For more information, see the Amnesty International report “We are defending the land with our blood”: Defenders of the land, territory and environment in Honduras and Guatemala” and “Americas: State Protection Mechanisms for Human Rights Defenders”.

    Amnesty International recently cited Bill 5257 in its briefing “Laws Designed to Silence: the Global Crackdown on Civil Society Organizations” as an example of a global trend towards using legislation to repress NGOs and human rights defenders.

    * If your email bounces back, route it instead to the First Vice President of the Board:  /  Twitter @FelipeAlejos

    If you wish to receive updates on this case, email In the subject line, write “Keep me updated on Bill 5257”.