Statement of the Human Rights Ombudsman (PDH) concerning the attacks, break-ins, and threats against Human Rights defenders.

The Human Rights Ombudsman (PDH), gravely concerned by the recent increase in the number of break-ins, killings, attacks, threats and acts of intimidation against the safety of justice officials, social workers, human rights defenders and against the auxiliary offices of the Human Rights Ombudsman's Office, wishes to make the following statement to the public:


1. According to the latest report recently submitted by the Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders of the National Human Rights Movement, between January and May of this year 68 attacks against human rights defenders have been reported, a number which also includes breaking and entering of the offices of such organizations, attacks against and killings of justice officials, social leaders, members of human rights organizations and communications workers.

2. In the month of May alone 12 attacks have been reported, including eight incidents of breaking and entering. Also worth mentioning are: the death threats against board members of the Co-odinator's Office for Indigenous Women of Quiché; an attempted kidnapping of Francisco Sánchez of the Organization H.I.J.O.S, the breaking and entering into the offices of the Human Rights Movement of Santa Rosa; the breaking and entering into the offices of the National Co-ordinating Committee of Peasant Organizations - CNOC; the attempted breaking and entering into the Institute for Comparative Studies of Criminal Sciences, and of the Guatemalan Confederation of Workers - CGTG; the breaking and entering at the Guatemalan Trade Union Confederation - CUSG ; and of the homes of Mr. Byron Garoz of the CONGCOOP and of Cristina Buczko, co-ordinator of the project "Acompanamiento de Austria - ADA"; a breaking and entering of (and an attempted robbery of the vehicle belonging to) the Guatemalan Lutheran Federation and finally of the offices of the Association H.I.J.O.S in the capital.

3. In the last two months serious attacks against justice officials have intensified: on Monday 25th April José Bautista, the "High Impact " judge of Chiquimula in San Pedro Sacatepéquez, San Marcos was murdered; on 27th April there was an attack against the prosecutor José Antonio Meléndez Sandoval, of Malacatán in the same department; and, on Monday 16th May the Public Ministry prosecutor in Chiquimula, Erick Moisés Gálvez was killed. In the same period 36 judges have received death threats, highlighting the vulnerabilty of those involved in the administration of justice.

4. The Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman (PDH) has also been the object of attacks and legal actions which attempt to impede the fulfilment of its mandate. The auxiliary offices at Santa Rosa and Alta Verapaz have found themselves subject to legal proceedings arising from the performance of their duties; and similarly the offices at Retalhuleu and Coatepeque have been the object of telephoned death threats.

5. At the same time, through April this year there have been eight incidents of death threats and intimidations against community journalists, thereby affecting the right to information and opinion which is guaranteed by the Political Constitution of the Republic.

6. The common denominator in all of the above acts is the effect of intimidation and paralysis produced within the organizations and institutions working in the defence of human rights or in the promotion of social participation and the exercise of all rights. This undermines and creates an obstacle to the existence of the rule of law.

7. The State's response to this serious situation is inadequate, and it has not been able to guarantee the investigation process which would permit the identification of those responsible and the bringing to trial of those who are involved. Despite the fact that all of these acts have been reported to the authorities, initial investigative inquiries generally end without results and this perpetuates the climate of impunity.

8. It is of concern that the break-ins and other attacks against human rights defenders are taking place in a background of intimidation against the social movement and the proliferation of authoritarian measures which limit the free exercise of the rights to expression of opinion and participation.

9. In the face of this situation the Human Rights Ombudsman (PDH) calls for reflection in order to consider special efforts to institute policies which would strengthen a) civilian and democratic security; b) respect for and effective implementation of international mechanisms to protect human rights such as the urgent ratification by the Congress of the Republic for the operation of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; c) the important assistance of the international community to the observation of the human rights situation in Guatemala and , d) the united efforts at the national level to defend such rights.

Guatemala, 24 May 2005.

Tienda de Libros Radio Nizkor On-Line Donations

DDHH en Guatemala
small logoEste documento ha sido publicado el 06jun05 por el Equipo Nizkor y Derechos Human Rights