Guatemala: Risk of excessive force against protesters
Photo Credit: via NISGUA
People peacefully protesting against a mining project in Casillas, Guatemala, and by-standers were tear gassed and dispersed by riot police on 22 June. Because police presence continues in the community, there are concerns of further excessive use of force.
According to a community leader and several international organizations, on 22 June, riot police officers, indiscriminately and without warning, shot tear gas at a group of people protesting against a mining project in Casillas, San Rafael Las Flores, Guatemala. Many people, including elders and children, were reported to be intoxicated by tear gas. Four protesters were detained during the operation and released later that day without charges.
Since 8 June, people from nearby communities had been peacefully blocking access to vehicles related to the Escobal mining project, in protest to the constant tremors they believe are the result of mining activities. Police had been present since the beginning of the protest, but on 21 June riot police officers arrived in the area. On 22 June around 1p.m., after the protestors asked the driver of a truck transporting materials for the mine to turn back, riot police officers shot tear gas at the protestors and chased them away. Local civil society organizations state that tear gas was also shot into houses and a medical clinic, where some children were intoxicated and had to be evacuated.
Amnesty International contacted an officer at the Vice Ministry of Security who told the organization that they have not yet received any information regarding the events in Casillas on 22 June.
International organizations and protestors have expressed concern that excessive use of police force may continue, as four police patrols were seen in the community on the afternoon of 23 June.
Please send a letter, email or fax without delay.
* Call on the authorities to respect, protect and guarantee the freedom of assembly and the right to a peaceful demonstration in Casillas.
* Insist that the police act in accordance to the UN Basic Principles of the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.
* Urge the authorities to promptly investigate the allegations of excessive use of force by police officers carrying out the operation.
There is currently no postal service available in Guatemala. Please use the addresses below only to formally address your email message.
Address your messages to:
Minister of Interior
Francisco Manuel Rivas Lara
Ministerio de Gobernación
6 avenida 13-71 zona 1,
Ciudad de Guatemala,
Fax: 011 502 2413 8658
Email: email@example.com or
Salutation: Dear Minister Estimado Señor Ministro
General Director of the National Civil Police:
Nery Ramos Ramos
Ciudad de Guatemala,
Salutation: Dear Director / Estimado Sr. Director
Please send a copy to:
His Excellency Carlos Humberto Jiménez Licona
Ambassador for the Republic of Guatemala
130 Albert Street, Suite 1010
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5G4
Fax: 1 (613) 233-0135
Ambassador Deborah Chastis
Embassy of Canada
Apartado Postal 400,
On 2 May 2013 the government declared a state of emergency in and around San Rafael Las Flores, a town some 90 kilometres from the capital, following a series of violent incidents around the mining operation of Minera San Rafael, a subsidiary of the Canada and US-based Tahoe Resources Inc. In January 2013 unknown armed men attacked the mine site resulting in the deaths of two security guards and another person, presumed to be part of the group attacking the site. For more information, see: Mining in Guatemala: Rights at risk.
According to the civil society organization UDEFEGUA, environmental and land human rights defenders are the main group of activists attacked in Guatemala. According to Amnesty International research, they have been constantly subjected to smear campaigns aimed at stigmatizing and discrediting them in order to force them to stop their legitimate work. This includes being falsely accused and prosecuted as a way of keeping them silent. Although the State of Guatemala has developed guidelines and protection mechanisms for human rights defenders, these have proven to be ineffective. 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.
Download PDF of UA 153/17 Guatemala
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