Guatemala: One year after President Giammattei took office, violence against human rights defenders continues to rise

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Geneva-Paris-Guatemala City — The defense of human rights continues to be a high-risk activity in Guatemala, with more than 1000 attacks on defenders in 2020 and a total lack of a public agenda that would guarantee the right to defend human rights, says a briefing published today by the Observatory (OMCT-FIDH).

As the new Executive led by President Alejandro Giammattei completed one year in power on January 14, 2021, the lack of willingness by the Guatemalan State to guarantee that those who defend human rights can do so in freedom and security is glaring. The numbers speak for themselves: 1,004 defenders were assaulted from January to December 15, 2020. Among those, 15 were murdered and 22 survived a murder attempt.

The current government has kept in place a system created by the previous administration of Jimmy Morales, one that aims at dismantling the spaces for the protection of defenders. States of exception decreed under the excuse of the Covid-19 pandemic have only worsened attacks against defenders, in particular those who defend land rights as well as an independent and impartial justice system.

As a result, our new briefing argues that human rights defenders are owed an unpaid debt. This joint publication, by the Observatory and UDEFEGUA, promotes an agenda with concrete recommendations to the Guatemalan authorities asking them to promptly attend to the protection spaces that have been dismantled and promote a public policy that guarantees the protection of human rights defenders.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the FIDH. The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH 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) has provided services to human rights defenders in Guatemala and in countries of the Central American region since 2000, to generate individual and collective risk self-management. UDEFEGUA is a member organisation of the OMCT SOS-Torture Network.

For more information, please contact:
• OMCT: Iolanda Jaquemet: + 41 79 539 41 06
• FIDH: José Carlos Thissen: + 51 95 41 31 650
• UDEFEGUA: Jorge Santos: +502 4297 0094

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