Guatemala: Guarantee a fair trial for detained community leaders and human rights defenders

Publish Date: 
Wednesday, August 19, 2015

On 19 August, ESCR-Net sent a letter to the Government of Guatemala to underscore its concern about the criminalization of a substantial number community leaders and human rights defenders in Huehuetenango, Guatemala. The letter, which was sent in response to a reply received following an earlier communication sent on March 23, 2015, reiterated ESCR-Net’s concern about an apparent pattern of criminalization and legal harassment in cases involving indigenous leaders that have expressed their opposition to natural resource extraction projects. 

It called attention to nine political prisoners arrested this year in connection with social conflicts related to mining activities in Huehuetenango, eight more human rights defenders who have been imprisoned since 2012 on similar charges and the existence of 21 arrest warrants against community leaders who have expressed opposition to mining projects. The letter calls attention to the seriousness of the charges against these human rights defenders and questions the frequent use of preventive or arbitrary detention against them, emphasizing the importance of impartiality and independence of the judicial system.

ESCR-Net called on the Government of Guatemala to:

  1. Guarantee community leaders, who are detained or face charges, a fair trial in accordance with due process established by Guatemalan laws and international standards;
  2. Halt the criminalization of human rights defenders in San Mateo Ixtatan, Barillas, and Santa Eulalia, with respect to their lawful activities to promote and protect the human rights of indigenous communities in Guatemala;
  3. Provide protection to human rights defenders, community leaders, and others from human rights violations by non-State actors, including harassment, intimidation, threats, and acts of violence, and take steps to hold these actors accountable for such violations;
  4. End the militarization of the Mayan territories of Huehuetenango, in particular of the municipalities of San Mateo Ixtatan, Barillas, and Santa Eulalia, and take immediate actions to withdraw the police and army personnel that currently occupy residential areas; and
  5. Respect the rights of the indigenous peoples of Guatemala in accordance with the State’s international obligations regarding human rights, including the right to free, prior, informed consultation and consent with respect to any project that may affect their ancestral lands and the way of life of indigenous people

Please download the letter here