Guatemala: Public resistance to the entrenchment of an anti-democratic state

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Photo: OMCT

Geneva-Paris-Guatemala City, 24 June 2022 - The number of attacks on human rights defenders in Guatemala, 156 in the first quarter of the year, shows a marked targeting of judges and prosecutors and community and Indigenous leaders, denounce the Observatory (a partnership of the International Federation for Human Rights-FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture-OMCT) and Unidad de Protección a Defensores y Defensoras de Derechos Humanos de Guatemala (UDEFEGUA), in an updated report published on 24 June 2022, following an international mission carried out between 24 March and 1 April 2022.

The systematic repression and criminalisation of human rights defenders has forced 23 prosecutors and judges, recognised for their independent work to defend a life free of corruption and impunity, into exile since April 2021. The climate of high territorial conflict sponsored by the extractive development model favoured by the Guatemalan government has resulted in 179 attacks against peasants and Indigenous leaders defending land, territory, and the environment in 2021. At least 15 have already been attacked between January and March 2022.

"The situation of institutional capture that we are seeing in Guatemala is very serious because it is aimed at guaranteeing impunity and silencing us as civil society. We are particularly concerned about the case of the former prosecutor Virginia Laparra, who has been arbitrarily deprived of her liberty for more than three months for denouncing acts of corruption by a judge. We call for her immediate release," said Jorge Santos, general coordinator of UDEFEGUA.

Misogynist and discriminatory attacks and harassment against women human rights defenders have increased: 71 between January and March 2022. This is the case of attacks against former judge Érika Aifán, the former head of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), Leyli Santizo, the former prosecutors of the Special Prosecutor’s Office against Impunity (FECI) Xiomara Sosa, Paola Escobar, Aliss Morán, and Virginia Laparra and, most recently, the human rights prosecutor Elena Sut Ren and former attorney general Claudia Paz y Paz.

For this reason, the Observatory and UDEFEGUA publish on June 24, 2022, the report (in spanish only) An Unpaid Debt: Citizens in Resistance, denouncing the persistent non-compliance with international norms and standards for the protection of human rights. It also analyses the patterns of criminalisation against those who defend these rights and calls on the international community to take decisive measures to reverse the human rights crisis in Guatemala. This note updates and follows up on the January 2021 report: Guatemala: An Unpaid Debt. Recommendations for a public agenda that guarantees the right to defend human rights. Unfortunately, the March-April 2022 mission was unable to verify any progress in the recommendations made therein.

Read the new report (in spanish only) on FIDH’s and OMCT’s websites.

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