Guatemala must guarantee the right to hold protests

"Traitors of democracy out. Consuelo Porras. Jose Curuchucho. No to corruption". Deccio Serrano / NurPhoto / NurPhoto via AFP

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) rejects the Constitutional Court of Guatemala’s ruling ordering the immediate eviction of peaceful demonstrators. It calls on President Giammatei to address the Guatemalan people’s demands and to guarantee the independence of state institutions as well as a democratic transition of power in accordance with the decision of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.

Paris, October 19, 2023. The 18 October 18 ruling by the Constitutional Court of Guatemala violates international standards acknowledged and endorsed by the State of Guatemala that recognise the right to protest as a human right and a legitimate manifestation of the right to freedom of expression and assembly. Moreover, the Court’s decision jeopardizes the integrity and security of thousands of people by ordering the armed forces, with the support of the national police, to evict demonstrators protesting in front of the Public Prosecutor’s Office building.

For Jimena Reyes, Director of FIDH’s Americas Office, “The population of Guatemala is demanding respect for the rules of democracy, and that the attacks on the sovereignty of the people cease. The Government of Giammatei must guarantee the transition of power on January 14, 2024 and the inauguration of Bernardo Arévalo as President of Guatemala.”

The last two weeks have seen mass demonstrations throughout the country from diverse sectors of the society. Protesters have demanded that the will of the majority be respected, which democratically elected Bernardo Arevalo as president in the recent elections, and have been objecting to the illegal and violent intervention of members of the judiciary and the Attorney General’s Office, which threatens the integrity of the electoral process.

In particular, demonstrators have blamed and called for the resignation of Attorney General María Consuelo Porras, José Rafael Curruchiche, head of the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity (FECI) of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, Prosecutor Cinthia Monterroso and Judge Fredy Orellana. In July 2023, the FIDH condemned the aforementioned individuals for criminally hijacking justice in the country and having been relentless in persecuting journalists, judges and prosecutors, human rights defenders and political opponents. These same individuals are now arbitrarily attempting to invalidate the electoral process, which has been recognized and endorsed both by the international community and by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, Guatemala’s highest electoral body.

The FIDH calls on the executive branch to guarantee Guatemalan citizens’ right to hold protests and to protect demonstrators from attacks or provocations by individuals or institutions. We wholeheartedly condemn the murder of demonstrator Francisco Gonzalo Velásques on October 16, 2023 by armed people in the North of the country who arrived at the protests and opened fire on demonstrators.

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