Human Rights Defenders
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2011: The Most Violent Year for Human Rights Defenders
UDEFEGUA
1/6/2012

Version en espanol

2011: The Most Violent Year for Human Rights Defenders

The Human Rights Defenders Protection Unit - Guatemala (Unidad de Proteccion a Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos - Guatemala; UDEFEGUA) reports that, according to our records, 2011 was the most violent year so far for human rights defenders. We counted a total of 402 violations of the right to defend human rights. The aggressions were committed against 94 female human rights defenders, representing 23% of the cases; 293 male defenders, corresponding to 73% of the cases, and 4% were committed against institutions. In comparison with 2010, we see a rise of 33% in the number of cases registered. 

During the government of Alvaro Colom UDEFEGUA documented 1,224 acts of aggression, in comparison to 618 during the government of Oscar Berger and 338 during the government of Alfonso Portillo. The gravity of the situation for human rights defenders is directly related to the lack of attention to land conflicts and the repressive policies against communities that object to the use of their resources without previous consultation. The poor management of social conflictivity caused the government of Colom to use States of Exception [similar to Martial Law] as a mechanism of social control, aggravating the situation for human rights defenders in the region. 

During 2011, the government of Alvaro Colom once again used the practice of defamation against human rights defenders and with this opened the door to more threats and criminalization committed by non-State actors. In this regard, the work of journalists has been put at risk during this government.

Despite their commitments before the international community and the signing of the National Accord for the Advancement of Security and Justice, the government of Alvaro Colom has not institutionalized state mechanisms for the protection of human rights defenders. They did not come to a consensus, nor did they approve the Program for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Other Vulnerable Victims. Neither did they institutionalize the Unit for Analysis of Attacks against Human Rights Defenders, which ceased to function on January 9th this year, given that the governmental agreement is awaiting the opinion of the president's office. 

On the other hand, the District Attorney has advanced in some cases regarding crimes committed against human rights defenders; the most emblematic being the cases of Cotzal (2009), Lisandro Guarcax (2010) and Emilia Quan (2010). However, the majority of cases remain in impunity, particularly cases involving journalists and unionists. One important advance is the signing of the Convention for Cooperation signed between the Public Prosecutor's Office, the Ministry of the Interior, and the Presidential Commission for Coordinating Executive Policy in Human Rights (COPREDEH) to support the coordination of penal prosecution and protection for human rights defenders. We hope that the new government will follow up on these changes and allow advances to continue as they formulate a policy on these themes.

We recognize that during this last year the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) advanced in the investigation and penal prosecution of structures that attack human rights defenders; such as in the case of the murder of human rights defender Victor Galvez (2009). As such, we note the investigations undertaken with the Public Prosecutor's Office in various cases in which there are illegal bodies and clandestine security apparatuses functioning.

A contrasting case is that of the Human Rights Ombudsman (Procuraduria de Derechos Humanos, PDH) which, in recent years has deteriorated in its functionality and credibility. The vacuum left by the PDH has generated a very grave situation of vulnerability for human rights defenders acting at the local level, and for the population in general.

We thank the international community, which has assumed an important role in the protection of human rights defenders, not only through the activities of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, but also through the actions of the Embassies, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the system of the United Nations.

As we enter 2012 and the administration of a new government:

  • We call on human rights defenders to remain alert and to continue reporting aggressions in national and international systems.
  • We urge the international community to remain vigilant of aggressions against human rights defenders and to condemn acts of defamation by the State or by non-state actors with the State's consent.
  • We demand that the new government comply with the commitments of the Global Accord on Human Rights, the National Accord for the Advancement of Security and Justice, and the International Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Institutions to Promote and Defend Universally Recognized Human Rights and Freedoms.

FOR THE RIGHT TO DEFEND HUMAN RIGHTS

Human Rights Defenders Protection Unit -UDEFEGUA-


Guatemala, January 6th, 2012



Human Rights Defenders murdered during 2011


Number
Name
Organization
Date


1
Esvin Carol Galvez
SGTSG Filial Hospital Nac. de Retahuleu
05/01/2011

2
Victor Haroldo Leyva Borrayo
Independent Artist
02/02/2011

3
Ramiro Chon
Comision de los 15
08/02/2011

4
Alberto Coc Cal
Community Leader
12/02/2011

5
Sebastian Xuc Coc
12/02/2011

6
Catalina Mucu Maas
Ak'Tenamit
12/02/2011

7
Eddy Caceres Rodriguez
Supreme Court of Justice
15/02/2011

8
Antonio Bec Ac
Peasant Unity Committee (Comite de Unidad Campesina, CUC)
15/03/2011

9
Eduardo Jesus Velasquez Godinez
Commission of the 15 (Comision de los 15)
04/04/2011

10
Oscar Gonzalez
Banana Workers' Union (Sindicato de Trabajadores Bananeros de Izabal, SITRABI)
10/04/2011

11
Oscar Reyes
Actela Cooperative (Cooperativa Actela R.L)
21/05/2011

12
Allan Stoliwsky Vidaurre
District Attorney (Ministerio Publico, Coban, Alta Verapaz)
23/05/2011

13
Idar Joel Hernandez Godoy
SITRABI
26/05/2011

14
Maria Margarita Chub Che
ULAM
03/06/2011

15
Manuel Mucu Choc
Comunidad Playa Pataxte
04/06/2011

16
Marvin Leonel Pop Can
Comunidad Playa Pataxte
02/07/2011

17
Sergio de Leon
Asociacion Brisas del Samala
28/07/2011

18
Byron Aroldo Arreaga Rosales
SITRASEREPRO- 2o. Registro de la Propiedad
13/09/2011

19
Crisanto Maquim
Alianza de Comunidades Indigenas y Campesinas de Guatemala -ACICG-
01/11/2011