Land rights defender Delfino Agustin Vidal murdered

Association

On 21st January 2019, indigenous leader Delfino Agustin Vidal was murdered. Armed individuals shot him dead and burned the bus he was driving while he was still inside. Vidal was part of Comite de Desarrollo Campesino (Campesino Development Committee,CODECA).  This is the 9th leader of this organisation assassinated in 8 months. As reported previously on the CIVICUS Monitor, CODECA has been subjected to criminalisation and a smear campaign over the past years. Vidal was leading a legal process against the energy company ENERGUATE and the State of Guatemala for the political prosecution he was subjected to because of his activism.

The Unidad de Proteccion a Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos de Guatemala (UDEFEGUA) published a preliminary update of the attacks against human rights defenders in 2018. The organisation documented 24 murders of HRDs and 17 attempts of murder. There were 134 acts of criminalisation. Indigenous groups were the main victims. On 4th February  2019, land rights defender Abelino Chub Caal completed two years in detention as multiple due process violations have been documented during his trial since his arrest in 2017. 

In a separate incident, UDEFEGUA expressed its concern for the “imminent” approval of a series of amendments to the NGO law (Law 5257). UDEFEGUA stated that some of the changes include the centralization of the registration process in a unique mechanism that will exclude CSOs from rural and distant communities to obtain legal registration. Also, it narrows the definition of CSO into "closed categories", excluding human rights organisations. 

On 17th January 2019, women HRD Helen Mack, Director of Myrna Mack Foundation was subjected to acts of intimidation. Four men approached Mack and her family in a restaurant and took pictures without their consent. Mack and the organisation she leads have been constantly raising their voice against the attacks against the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).

Peaceful Assembly

During a protest of artists on 16th February 2019,  that rejected the most recent actions of the government of Jimmy Morales, a supposed member of the military attacked two women HRDs. Andrea Ixchiu and Lucia Ixchiu were verbally and physically attacked by a person identified as Leonel Quiñonez.

Expression

On 30th November 2018, the Journalists Association of Guatemala (APG) published a report on the situation of freedom of expression in the country for the period January-October 2018. The report highlights the official intolerance against media for the work that journalists are doing reporting the violations committed by the government of Jimmy Morales. The report registers 37 cases of attacks against freedom of expression, the same than in 2017. The report states that 2019 can be a dangerous year for journalists as it is an electoral year which can potentially raise the number of attacks. 

A defamatory video was published on different media outlets of the country on 7th January 2019 accusing the journalist Briseida Milian of participating in an alleged break-in at La Aurora Airport. This attempt of criminalisation was related to the detention of a member of the CICIG in that airport on 5th and 6th January that triggered a series of protests outside the airport. Journalists who reported the detention are being subjected to this defamation campaign. Other journalists who have been reporting the abuses against CICIG are also being targeted by these defamation campaigns, as the case of Jorge Santos, Ada Valenzuela and Brenda Hernandez.