Guatemala: intimidation against civil society after decision not to renew CICIG

Press release
en es

Geneva-Paris-Guatemala City, September 6, 2018 – Police interventions seeking to locate the leaders of human rights organisations as well as monitoring and surveillance of their offices are examples of the intimidation taking place in Guatemala after President Jimmy Morales’ decision not to renew CICIG’s mandate, the Observatory and UDEFEGUA have denounced.

On August 31, the President of the Republic of Guatemala announced his decision not to renew the mandate of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), which will end in September 2019. The announcement was made in the framework of a press conference in which President Jimmy Morales was surrounded by senior police and military officers and while police and military units were deployed throughout Guatemala City, including near the office of CICIG. The decision has been made by the President of Guatemala while an investigation against him is carried out due to alleged illegal financing of his election campaign.

The Observatory and UDEFEGUA report that since the run-up to the press conference there has been a climate of intimidation and harassment against the main human rights organisations in the country and, specifically, against their leaders.

It has been documented by UDEFEGUA that the National Civilian Police (PNC) tried to track down at least seven human rights organisations leaders in the run-up to and immediately after the announcement that CICIG’s mandate would not be renewed. The list included Mr. Nery Rodenas, Head of Oficina de Derechos Humanos del Arzobispado de Guatemala (ODHAG), Ms. Helen Mack, Executive Director of the Myrna Mack Foundation, Mr. Alfonso Carrillo, human rights lawyer, Mr. Daniel Pascual, leader of Comité de Unidad Campesina (CUC), Ms. Iduvina Hernández, Asociación para el Estudio y la Promoción de la Seguridad en Democracia (SEDEM), Mr. Jorge Alberto Santos, General Coordinator of UDEFEGUA, and Ms. Claudia Virginia Samayoa, President of the Board of UDEFEGUA and member of the Executive Council of OMCT.

According to one person who did speak to the PNC, the police officers stated that they were assessing the effectiveness of the protection measures granted to human rights defenders in Guatemala. However, several facts lead to believe that they were carrying out an intimidation campaign against human rights defenders in the framework of the current political and human rights crisis in Guatemala. Firstly, they arrived at the offices unannounced around the time President Morales’ press conference took place. Moreover, several of these individuals have never been granted protection measures. Secondly, it is important to note that since August 31 several police and military units have been monitoring and surveying the offices of social, popular and human rights organisations, including with armoured and armed vehicles. One example is the fact that an UDEFEGUA building has been permanently and continuously surveyed since August 31.

Therefore, the Observatory and UDEFEGUA urge the Guatemalan authorities to end any acts of intimidation against the Guatemalan civil society and, specifically, against human rights organisations.

Lastly, the Observatory and UDEFEGUA condemn the decision not to renew CICIG’s mandate. This commission has played a paramount role in the fight against impunity and corruption in the country, a key requirement to ensure the respect of human rights and, specifically, to guarantee the full protection of human rights defenders in Guatemala. Furthermore, the Observatory and UDEFEGUA condemn the illegal decision, which opposes the rulings of the Constitutional Court, to bar entry to the Commissioner of CICIG Iván Velásquez and urge the Guatemalan authorities to urgently reverse both decisions [1].

For more information, please contact:
OMCT: Miguel Martín Zumalacárregui / Delphine Reculeau: (+41) 22 809 49 39
FIDH: José Carlos Thissen : +51 95 41 31 650
UDEFEGUA: Jorge Alberto Santos Contraras : (+502) 31 100 753

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

The Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders of Guatemala (UDEFEGUA) is an organization that provides services to human rights defenders in Guatemala and in countries of the Central American region since 2000, for the generation of individual and Collective self-management of risks. UDEFEGUA is a member organization of the SOS-Torture Network of OMCT.

[1] See also yesterday’s Press Release published by FIDH and its member organisation in Guatemala, “Organizaciones rechazan medidas arbitraria y difamatorias contra la CICIG”.

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