3 Years… and Counting

Bernardo Caal Xol

Bernardo Caal Xol, a water and environmental defender, has been in prison for exactly three years. He is an innocent man.

Today, January 30, marks the third anniversary of the unjust detention of Bernardo Caal Xol, a professor and indigenous Mayan Q’eqchi’ human rights defender. The Human Rights Defenders Project wishes to express our grave concern and dismay that the courts continue to delay the judicial review of his case. This despite the overwhelming evidence that Bernardo is innocent of the crimes for which he was accused and sentenced to 7 years and 4 months in prison. We feel that this malicious delay is a perverse way to keep him imprisoned and away from his family, his people, and his work in defense of the environment.

Bernardo has denounced that it was for defending the rights of his community and protecting the Cahabón River –considered sacred for the Q’eqchi’ people– that powerful actors have sought to silence his voice and disrupt his work. He affirms that the OXEC Hydroelectric Company, financed by investors in Spain and Guatemala, has sought to make an example of him for daring to oppose the massive dams and their disruptive environmental impact.

On July 16, 2020, Amnesty International declared the defender Bernardo Caal Xol “a prisoner of conscience.” In a letter to Consuelo Porras, Attorney General of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, Amnesty stated that it had access to the criminal case file and was able to verify serious irregularities, negligence, and lack of grounds in the investigation carried out by the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

We join the various expressions of support, solidarity and above all concern that Bernardo continues to be detained and we demand that the Guatemalan authorities seek to remedy this case of criminalization.

Libertad para Bernardo Caal Xol - Preso de Conciencia

Criminalizing human rights defenders for their work is an affront not only to the defender, but also to his or her people. In fact, it is an affront to humanity as a whole. Today more than ever, during this global pandemic, we are made aware of the essential role of water in guaranteeing our collective health and wellbeing. 

Bernardo Caal Xol is a defender of water and life. We demand his release!

Photo of Bernardo Caal Xol © Héctor Herrera

3 años… y contando

Bernardo Caal Xol

Bernardo Caal Xol, defensor del agua y del medio ambiente, lleva exactamente tres años en prisión. Es un hombre inocente.

Hoy 30 de enero, que se cumplen 3 años de la injusta detención de Bernardo Caal Xol, profesor y defensor indígena maya q’eqchi’ de los derechos humanos, manifestamos nuestra preocupación porque aún las cortes continúan dilatando las acciones de revisión de su caso, sabiendo que los delitos por los que se le acusaron y condenaron a 7 años y 4 meses de prisión no están bien sustentados. Este retardo malicioso es una perversa forma para mantenerlo preso y alejado de su familia, de su pueblo y sus justas demandas.  

Bernardo ha denunciado que es por defender los derechos de su comunidad y proteger el río Cahabón -considerado sagrado para el pueblo Q’eqchi’- que actores poderosos buscan silenciar su voz y anular su trabajo. Afirma que la compañía hidroeléctrica OXEC S.A., financiada por inversionistas de España y Guatemala, ha querido hacer de él el ejemplo de lo que le sucederá a cualquiera que quiera manifestar su oposición a esos grandes megaproyectos.

El 16 de julio de 2020, Amnistía Internacional (AI) ha declarado al defensor Bernardo Caal Xol como preso de conciencia, en carta a Consuelo Porras, Fiscal General del Ministerio Público. AI señala que tuvo acceso al expediente penal y pudo comprobar serias irregularidades, negligencias y faltas de fundamento en la investigación realizada por el MP.

Nos sumamos a las diferentes manifestaciones de apoyo, de solidaridad y sobre todo de preocupación porque Bernardo continúa detenido y demandamos a las autoridades guatemaltecas que se haga justicia en este caso de criminalización.

Libertad para Bernardo Caal Xol - preso de conciencia

Criminalizar a las personas defensoras de derechos humanos, que defienden los bienes naturales, es una afrenta no sólo para el defensor, para su pueblo, es una afrenta a la humanidad entera. Hoy más que nunca, frente a este escenario de pandemia global, en dónde el agua es uno de los bienes fundamentales para combatirla, es un deber exigir que todas aquellas personas que en diferentes partes del mundo son criminalizadas por su defensa sean liberadas. 

¡Bernardo Caal Xol es un defensor de la vida y exigimos su liberación!


La foto de Bernardo fue tomada por Héctor Herrera.

La CC deja en espera las autoridades ancestrales

El 27 de febrero, 2020 se tenía programada una vista pública por una acción de inconstitucionalidad por el Reglamento técnico de bioseguridad para el uso de organismos vivos modificados para uso agropecuario, (impulsado por el MAGA y MINECO) presentada por Municipalidad Indígena de Sololá, en la Corte de Constitucionalidad a las 09:30hrs.

La Corte de Constitucionalidad suspendió la vista pública y notificó en último momento, ochos minutos después de la hora programada, cuando las autoridades de distintas regiones ya nos encontramos presentes.  Lo anterior lo consideramos una falta de respeto hacia: los pueblos indígenas, las autoridades ancestrales, organizaciones del movimiento social y activistas independientes. 

(Leer el comunicado completo abajo.)

comunicado-transgenicos

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).