Front Line Award for Ixquisis

Front Line press conference

Front Line Defenders, the Ireland-based human rights organization, today recognized the communities of Ixquisis, in northern Huehuetenango, for their nonviolent defense of the environment.

Presenting its 2018 Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk in the Americas, Front Line praised the communities’ “collective efforts and peaceful struggle to defend their rights to land and environmental justice.”

Joel Raymundo de Ixquisis“We are in a very difficult struggle, we are growing old, but we want the future generations -our families, our children- to be able to enjoy the blessings that God had given us so that we may live on this earth.”
– Joel Raymundo, Ixquisis defender

Front Line commended the communities’ work “in response to the grave human rights violations committed in the name of ‘economic development’ in Guatemala,” specifically the imposition of hydroelectric projects that are causing environmental damage and social conflict.

The government has authorities destructive mining and hydroelectric mega-projects in the region despite the widespread opposite from the 59 villages and 7 communities in the municipality. Human rights defenders in the Peaceful Resistance risk their lives to defend the territory. In 2017 alone, there were more than 75 reported attacks against defenders in the Peaceful Resistance including killings, shootings, harassment, and defamation campaigns. – Front Line

The Human Rights Defender’s Project congratulates the families of Ixquisis for this important recognition of their valiant struggle to defend their land, water, and environment!

Here is a brief, excellent video about the Ixquisis resistance (with English subtitles):

Nota_Front_Line_Ixquisis

Laguna Larga – Un Año Sin Respuestas

Laguna Larga

El 2 de junio de 2017, alrededor de 150 familias de la comunidad Laguna Larga, ubicada en Laguna del Tigre, del municipio de San Andrés Petén, se vieron obligadas abandonar sus hogares, después de conocer que al día siguiente estaba programado un operativo masivo para desalojarlos de la comunidad donde vivían desde 2003.

Usando el argumento que la zona está designada como una “área protegida,” el Estado organizó un contingente de más de 1500 efectivos de la Policía Nacional Civil y Ejército, acompañado por varias instituciones estatales, para expulsar a las familias del lugar.

Las familias de Laguna Larga se llevaron solo parte de sus pertenencias y se establecieron en el limite fronterizo entre Guatemala y México. Montaron champas con nylon y palos. Las comunidades fronterizas de Chiapas fueron las primeras en manifestar su solidaridad y apoyar a las familias desplazadas, seguidos de organizaciones como la Cruz Roja Internacional y Voces Mesoamericanas. Las alertas por crisis humanitaria se despertaron a nivel nacional e internacional.

Una casa saqueada por el Estado
Las pertencias dejadas por una familia forzada a huir

El 10 de junio de 2017, las organizaciones no gubernamentales de México: Indignación, Promoción y Defensa de los Derechos Humanos A.C., Voces Mesoamericanas, Acción con Pueblos Migrantes A.C., la 72, Hogar Refugio para Personas Migrantes, A.C. y Resistencia Civil de Candelaria, solicitaron ante la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos -CIDH- Medidas Cautelares a favor de la comunidad de Laguna Larga.

Un mes después, el diputado al Congreso de la República, Leocadio Juracán, conformó una Comisión de Verificación e Investigación de las Violaciones a los Derechos Humanos de la comunidad Laguna Larga, integrada por la Comisión Internacional de Juristas, Human Rights Defenders Project y la senadora española Sara Vilá.

Esta Comisión en su informe certificó que la comunidad enfrenta una crisis humanitaria, que puede llegar a convertirse en un desastre humanitario si no se toman las medidas necesarias. Afirmó que el desalojo se irrespetó a los estándares internacionales y a las garantías del debido proceso. Señaló que las autoridades contravinieron una orden del Juez de Paz del municipio de San Benito Petén, quien había prohibido expresamente la destrucción de infraestructura. La Comisión al llegar al lugar en donde estaba la comunidad observó la destrucción de viviendas, saqueo de las iglesias y ocupación de la escuela construida por la comunidad.

Una casa quemada de Laguna Larga
Las cenizas de una casa quemada en la comunidad de Laguna Larga

En la visita in loco que la CIDH hizo a Guatemala en el mes de agosto de 2017, una comisión visitó a la comunidad desplazada y pudo observar la grave situación en la que se encontraba la población. Verificó también los daños y destrucción ocasionados en la comunidad por el ejército y la policía.

El 8 de septiembre la CIDH otorgó las Medidas Cautelares a favor de las familias, solicitando al Estado de Guatemala que tomara las medidas necesarias para proteger los derechos a la vida, la integridad personal de las familias desplazadas, las condiciones sanitarias y de salud, la alimentación y agua potable, así como vestimenta y vivienda adecuada al clima en el que se encuentran. Así también que se garantizara su seguridad. La CIDH instó al Estado continuar con los diálogos y consultas correspondientes con la comunidad para alcanzar una solución duradera para su situación de vulnerabilidad.

Desafortunadamente, los procesos de diálogo con el Estado no han producido resultados favorables para las comunidades. Desde 2016, como contrapropuesta frente a las amenazas constantes de desalojos, las comunidades, Laguna Larga junto con más de 40 comunidades ubicadas en la Sierra Lacandón y Laguna del Tigre, presentaron al Estado una “Propuesta Alternativa de Desarrollo Integral y Sostenible”, que buscaba regular su permanencia en el territorio con el compromiso, entre otros, de ser ellos los protectores de la naturaleza.

Las comunidades presentaron su propuesta en el Congreso de la República y la entregaron a las diferentes instituciones con quienes se buscaba analizarla, discutirla y buscar en conjunto una salida definitiva a la problemática que enfrentan. Se inició entonces un proceso de diálogo, pero sin producir ningún acuerdo. El desalojo de Laguna Larga se da sin que la mesa de dialogo había concluida, demostrando así la falta de voluntad del Estado para buscar soluciones negociadas con las comunidades.

Una víctima inocente de Laguna Larga
¿Que pasarán con las y los niños de Laguna Larga?

A un año del desplazamiento forzado de las familias de Laguna Larga, éstas continúan sin tener respuestas concretas por parte del Estado de Guatemala. El gobierno continúa incumpliendo las Medidas Cautelares otorgadas por la CIDH. Mientras, la situación de las familias se mantiene en situación crítica y de alto riesgo, subsistiendo y sobreviviendo por el apoyo solidario de la sociedad civil de México y Guatemala.

Article: “Milestone judgement” in Guatemala

The Molina Theissen family holds a press conference

GENEVA (24 May 2018) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein today welcomed the ruling issued unanimously by the High Risk “C” Tribunal in Guatemala yesterday against four high-ranking former military officials for crimes against humanity, aggravated sexual violence and enforced disappearance.

“This is a milestone judgement for Guatemala and beyond with regards to the investigation, prosecution and punishment of serious human rights violations committed by senior military officers during an internal armed conflict,” High Commissioner Zeid said.

The High Commissioner said that this ruling, together with the jurisprudential precedents established in other transitional justice cases, such as Sepur Zarco, Dos Erres, Plan de Sánchez and Myrna Mack, sends a clear message that it is possible for Guatemala to advance in the fight against impunity of the past, which in turn, strengthens the fight against the impunity of the present and the consolidation of the rule of law.

“I pay tribute to the Molina Theissen family for their courage and perseverance to fight for over three decades for their right to justice and the truth,” Zeid said.

Emma Guadalupe Molina Theissen was detained at a military checkpoint on 27 September 1981 and transferred to the “Manuel Lisandro Barillas” Military Brigade in Quetzaltenango, where she was held captive, interrogated, subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, as well as sexual violence. She escaped on 5 October 1981.

The following day, her 14-year-old brother Marco Antonio was taken by force from the family’s home in Guatemala City, put into a nylon sack and taken to an unknown destination in a vehicle with an official Government license plate. He has never been found.

Read the entire article on the OHCHR website!

Killings of Human Rights Defenders

Press conference denouncing murder of community defenders

Last week Dania and I attended a somber press conference denouncing the recent murders of three community leaders who were defending the rights of  campesinos (family farmers) and indigenous Mayans in Guatemala.

Increasingly, community leaders, organizers and activists in Guatemala are coming under attack for defending their land, culture, and the environment.

The Guatemalan government, instead of guaranteeing these rights, has placed human rights defenders at greater risk by openly disparaging their work and their organizations.

Here are some additional resources:

U.N. Human Rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani says human rights defenders in the country are operating within a climate of fear, harassment and intimidation.

“We call on the authorities to promptly investigate these murders and other attacks and threats against human rights defenders, and to ensure that those found responsible are held accountable. We also urge the State to adopt all necessary measures to ensure a safe, enabling environment for human rights defenders to be able to carry out their work free from threats and attacks,” she said.

Human Rights Defenders Killed in Guatemala, by Lisa Schlein of the VOA (article, English)

“We call on the Government to address these issues as part of its efforts to strengthen the rule of law, the protection of the rights to freedom of expression and judicial independence, and the fight against impunity and corruption. We trust that the Government will honor its commitment to advance with the adoption of a Public Policy on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, with the participation of civil society at local and national levels. We also reiterate the High Commissioner’s call for the Government to strengthen the inter-institutional Unit on Analysis of patterns of attacks against human rights defenders”.

Press briefing notes on Guatemala, by Ravina Shamdasani – Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (English)

“There is a ongoing policy of repression, intimidation and violence directed at indigenous communities and peasant famers. Illegal, clandestine security groups are being armed and financed by powerful sectors that are fomenting land grabs, impunity and corruption in the region.”

Ante el Desalojo de Dirigentes Comunitarios, by Civil Society organizations (Press release, Español).

 

Criminalizing the LGBTI Community during Guatemala’s Internal Conflict

Criminalizing LGBTI
Report of the AHPN
Report of the AHPN – see link below

On Friday, Dania and I had the privilege of attending the presentation of a groundbreaking report entitled “Criminalization of the LGBTI Population in the Police Records, 1960 – 1990.”

The event was held at the Guatemalan National Police Historical Archive (AHPN), a warehouse where millions of official police documents had been unceremoniously dumped over decades.

Thirteen years ago, this treasure trove of historic documents was rediscovered by the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office and the process of preserving, digitizing, and cataloguing these institutional records began.

The archival work of the AHPN has played an important role in the prosecution of human rights violations and war crimes that occurred during Guatemala’s armed conflict. The information has also been essential in the reconstruction and recovery of Guatemala’s historical memory.

One of the least-discussed aspects of Guatemala’s recent history, however, has been the discrimination, exclusion, and repression of the LGBTI community at the hands of State actors and institutions.

Katia Orantes, one of the lead AHPN investigators, shared some of the chilling documents that revealed how men and women were targeted, arrested, and mistreated by the National Police simply because of their sexual orientation.

Fernando Us
Fernando Us

The director of the Archive, Gustavo Meoño, stated that documents confirm many instances where people were charged with the “crime” of being homosexual, despite the fact that homosexuality isn’t illegal.

Fernando Us, a gay rights activist, spoke eloquently about the challenges of being gay in Guatemala. “I think that reaffirming my cultural identity as a Mayan later helped me to assume my sexual identity… Our LGBTI community also faces discrimination, hate, and exclusion. More than struggling for the right to love who we please, we are fighting for the right to life itself.”

Links:

La criminalización de la población LGBTI en los registros policiales 1960-1990 (this is a very large pdf file, en español. 421 mb)

La persecución a homosexuales y el “álbum del terror” de la Policía, por Javier Estrada Tobar, de Nómada (article, español)

El Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional (website, español)

Digital Archive of the Guatemalan National Police Historical Archive (website, English)