[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 Álvaro 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 Álvaro 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 9ththis 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 Víctor Gálvez (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 (Procuraduría 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
Guatemala, January 6th, 2012
Human Rights Defenders murdered during 2011
Esvin Carol Gálvez
SGTSG Filial Hospital Nac. de Retahuleu
Víctor Haroldo Leyva Borrayo
Comisión de los 15
Alberto Coc Cal
Sebastián Xuc Coc
Catalina Mucú Maas
Eddy Cáceres Rodríguez
Supreme Court of Justice
Antonio Bec Ac
Peasant Unity Committee (Comité de Unidad Campesina, CUC)
Eduardo Jesús Velásquez Godínez
Commission of the 15 (Comisión de los 15)
Banana Workers’ Union (Sindicato de Trabajadores Bananeros de Izabal, SITRABI)
Actéla Cooperative (Cooperativa Actéla R.L)
Allan Stoliwsky Vidaurre
District Attorney (Ministerio Publico, Cobán, Alta Verapaz)
Idar Joel Hernández Godoy
María Margarita Chub Ché
Manuel Mucu Choc
Comunidad Playa Pataxte
Marvin Leonel Pop Can
Comunidad Playa Pataxte
Sergio de León
Asociación Brisas del Samala
Byron Aroldo Arreaga Rosales
SITRASEREPRO- 2o. Registro de la Propiedad
Alianza de Comunidades Indígenas y Campesinas de Guatemala -ACICG-