International mission reported 'systematic acts of violence' against defenders

As a response to the escalation of murders of human rights and land rights defenders in the country, an international mission visited Guatemala at the end of August 2018. The findings of the mission stated that "the government has not yet been able to protect human rights defenders effectively, and neither has it investigated crimes against this group of people, generating a climate of impunity". In addition, the mission found: 

"[E]vidence of systematic acts of violence taking place against defenders. This chain of violence often starts with the criminalisation of defenders by their defamation in public spaces and the media, hate speech against social leaders, and an improper use of criminal law preventing them from acting. Likewise, it is troubling that public entities charged with protecting the population are oftentimes the source of the criminalisation. The mission also draws attention to the situation of female defenders, who suffer higher levels of violence and aggression given their active role in defending the rights of their communities." 


As reported previously on the Monitor, the environment for human rights defenders in Guatemala continues to be hostile. In a report published on 24th September 2018, Plaza Publica, an online media outlet, describes how human rights defenders were subject to suspicious calls and visits from police officers that wanted to check on their protection measures. Representatives of organisations like UDEFEGUA and Comite de Unidad Campesina (CUC) received these calls in late August 2018, from people who identified themselves as police officers and wanted to interview these activists to obtain their opinion about the protection measures they were receiving. However, these activists said they had not requested or recieved protection measures. These calls and visits are perceived by the HRDs as acts of intimidation rather than real measures taken by the police to protect them.

In a separate incident, the LGBTI organisation Reinas de la Noche (Queens of the Night) reported that one of its affiliates Devora Ramos was murdered on 22nd September 2018. The motives for the assassination have not been established, however, Central America is a region where people from the LGBTI community face constant threats and attacks due to traditional social norms and the rise of religious movements in politics.

Tags: harassment | LGBTI