In July 2012 Guatemala’s Constitutional Court heard a landmark case challenging the constitutionality of the 1997 Mining Law. The legal action, presented by the Western Peoples’ Council (CPO), contends that the current law is unconstitutional because it fails to fulfill national and international mandates that require the State to consult with indigenous people regarding policies that will significantly impact their territories.

Now, almost eight months later, the Court has yet to issue a decision. Earlier this week the CPO held a press conference to denounce this setback in justice and to remind the judges of the Constitutional Court of their responsibility to ensure that judicial processes move forward without bias or “malicious delay”.

Read our translation of the CPO press release below or see the Spanish version here.

Photo via Waqib’ Kej


“For the defense of LIFE and territory”
Re: Action of General Unconstitutionality against Decree 48-97, which contains the Mining Law, file number 1008-2012

Our country is currently experiencing a climate of high instability and social conflict regarding the business activities taking place on our ancestral lands, which have serious impacts on our fundamental rights and that put at risk governability and inclusive economic development.

This social conflict is the result of the implementation of the Mining Law approved in 1997 that “coincidentally” followed the end of the 36-year internal war (1996), and which demonstrates that the signing of the peace was reached in order to facilitate the exploitation of metallic and non-metallic minerals.  According to official sources, from 1997 to the present, under the protection of the aforementioned law, the Ministry of Energy and Mines has granted a total of 117 licenses for mineral exploration and 8 licenses for the mineral exploitation.

This law was issued while the right to prior, free and informed consent was in effect, as regulated by article 6, number 1, subparagraph a), of Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization -ILO- regarding Indigenous Peoples, and is for this reason illegal. As such, on March 12, 2012 the Western Peoples’ Council presented to the Constitutional Court a general Action of Unconstitutionality against the Mining Law, Decree 48-97.

Today, almost one year after this legal action and almost eight months since it was possible for the Constitutional Court to issue a sentence, the decision remains unresolved. The Judges, and their conscience, know the reasons for this delay. However, for Indigenous Peoples this is nothing more than new evidence of the racism that permeates the State and of the historic negation of justice for Indigenous Peoples.

For this reason we remind the Judges of the Constitutional Court that their attitude is the responsibility of the State and that their conduct falls within the crime of “malicious delay”, which is regulated within the Penal Code.

“The current K’atun is the time of the People”
Western Guatemala, February 26, 2013

[i]Coalition of the authorities and institutions of the Maya Peoples in Western Guatemala: Mam Council (San Marcos, Quetzaltenango, Huehuetenango and Retalhuleu), K’iche Council of Quiché, K’iche Council of Quetzaltenango, Board of Directors of the 48 Communities of Totonicapán, Council of Community Authorities of Momostenango, Indigenous Association of San Francisco el Alto, Assembly of the Peoples of Huehuetenango, Indigenous Authorities of Maya Ixil Peoples and Kaqchikel Communities of Chimaltenango.