We condemn the ongoing criminalization of human rights defenders in Guatemala

Civil society organizations condemn the ongoing criminalization of human rights defenders Claudia Samayoa and José Martínez

We the undersigned organizations are gravelly alarmed by the ongoing, targeted criminalization of human rights defenders in Guatemala including the recent judicial harassment of defenders Mrs. Claudia Virginia Samayoa Pineda and Mr. José Manuel Martínez Cabrera. The targeted judicial harassment of Ms. Samayoa Pineda and Mr. Martinez Cabrera is illustrative of the authorities’ growing intolerance of independent dissent, including defenders working on land and environmental defense.

Mrs. Samayoa Pineda is President of the Board of Directors of UDEFEGUA, an organization which works to support human rights defenders in Central America, and member of the OMCT Executive Committee; while Mr. José Manuel Martínez Cabrera is a member of the Justicia Ya Collective, a citizen movement which opposes corruption and impunity. Both human rights defenders are being subjected to a criminal complaint by Mr. Nester Mauricio Vásquez Pimentel, in his capacity as President of the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) and representing the CSJ, on spurious charges of illegally obtaining a court document and influence peddling. It is broadly acknowledged that civil society groups, including UDEFEGUA and the Justicia Ya collective, have been instrumental in the fight against impunity and public corruption in the country.

The criminal case against both defenders is a direct response to a complaint the defenders filed on January 17, 2019 requesting the withdrawal of the privilege of immunity from 11 judges of the CSJ. The complaint contends that the 11 judges breached the Constitution of Guatemala and committed judicial prevarication by allowing criminal proceedings against three judges from the Constitutional Court (CC). Along with the complaint presented to CSJ on January 17, 2019, Ms. Samayoa Pineda and Mr. Martínez Cabrera annexed a copy of the CSJ decision which allows the criminal proceedings against the CC judges to continue. Despite the fact that this document had been widely circulated in the national press and on social media, the President of the CSJ is accusing these two human rights defenders of illegally obtaining it.

The criminalization of both defenders is yet another example of the targeted reprisals leveled against civil society organisations and human rights defenders that have mobilised against a series of attacks on Guatemala's democratic institutional framework. Among other worrying attempts to undermine democratic norms and the rule of law in Guatemala, the authorities have sought to delegitimize the judges of the Constitutional Court and unilaterally cancel an agreement with the UN ending the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).

In the framework of our commitment to justice and human rights, we make a public call to the Guatemalan Government to:

  1. End all acts of harassment, misuse of criminal law and criminalization against individuals and communities that defend human rights in Guatemala, including Ms. Claudia Virginia Samayoa Pineda and Mr. José Manuel Martínez Cabrera. In particular, we ask the Public Ministry to dismiss the criminal complaint against both human rights defenders.

  2. Adopt the most appropriate measures to guarantee the safety and physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Claudia Virginia Samayoa Pineda and Mr. José Manuel Martínez Cabrera and of all human rights defenders in Guatemala.

  3. Protect, respect and guarantee the realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms in all regions of Guatemala, as well as the validity of a democratic State.

Signing organizations:

  • 350.org
  • Action Aid, Guatemala
  • African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS), Sudan
  • Alianza Frente a la Criminalización (AFC), Guatemala
  • Asamblea socioambiental de General Roca . Argentina
  • Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC)
  • Asociación Ambiente y Sociedad - Colombia
  • Asociación COMUNICARTE, Guatemala
  • Asociación de Mujeres de Guatemala AMG, España
  • Asociación de Trabajadoras del Hogar a Domicilio y de Maquila ATRAHDOM
  • Asociación Interamericana para la Defensa del Ambiente (AIDA), Colombia
  • Asociación para una Ciudadanía Participativa (ACI PARTICIPA) – Honduras
  • Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE), Ethiopia
  • AWID (Association for Women’s Rights in Development)
  • Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), India
  • Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), Cambodia
  • Carea e.V., Alemania
  • Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL)
  • Central General de Trabajadores de Guatemala
  • Centro de Incidencia Ambiental de Panamá (CIAM)
  • Civil Society Organizations Network for Development (RESOCIDE), Burkina Faso
  • Colectivo CADEHO, Alemania
  • Collectif Guatemala, Francia,
  • Comité de Familiares de las Víctimas de los Sucesos de Febrero-Marzo de 1989 (COFAVIC) – Venezuela
  • Comité de Solidaridad con los Presos Políticos (CSPP) – Colombia
  • Comite Noruego de solidaridad con America Latina, Noruega
  • Committee Against Torture, Russian Federation
  • Comunidades en Resistencia Pacífica de La Puya, Guatemala
  • Confederación Unitaria de Trabajadores de Honduras
  • Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, US Provinces
  • Consorcio para el diálogo parlamentario y la equidad Oaxaca A.C .- México
  • Coordinadora Civil-Nicaragua
  • Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CNDDHH) - Perú
  • CUTH
  • Derecho Ambiente y Recursos Naturales DAR (Perú)
  • Dienst fuer Mission, Oekumene und Entwicklung der Evangelischen Landeskirche Stuttgart, Alemania
  • DKA Austria
  • Federación Guatemalteca de Escuelas Radiofónicas (FGER), Guatemala
  • Festivales Solidarios, Guatemala
  • Foro de Organizaciones No Gubernamentales Internacionales en Guatemala (FONGI)
  • Front Line Defenders
  • Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (FARN)
  • Fundación Ciudadanía Inteligente
  • Fundación de Estudios para la Aplicación del Derecho (FESPAD)
  • Fundación Karmel Juyup’, Guatemala
  • Fundación para el Debido Proceso (DPLF)
  • German Zepeda, Solidarity Center
  • Global Witness
  • Guatemala-Netz Zürich
  • HondurasDelegation, Alemania
  • Human Rights Defenders Network- SL
  • Iglesia Luterana ILUGUA de Guatemala, Guatemala
  • Impunity Watch, Países Bajos
  • International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)-Kenya, Kenya
  • International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF)
  • International Land Coalition (ILC) - América Latina y el Caribe
  • International Land Coalition (ILC) - Secretariat
  • JASS (Just Associates)
  • Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights, Philippines
  • Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law (KIBHRL), Kazakhstan
  • KM207 Guatemala-Suisse
  • Latin America Working Group
  • Ligue Burundaise des droits de l’homme Iteka, Burundi
  • Maryknoll Affiliates
  • Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
  • Metro Center, Journalists Rights & Advocacy
  • Movimiento por la Paz (MPDL)
  • Mugen Gainetik, del País Vasco, España
  • Oekumenische Initiative Mittelamerika e.V., Alemania
  • Organización Mundial Contra la Tortura (OMCT) – Internacional
  • Oxfam America
  • Peace Watch Switzerland (PWS), Suiza
  • People in Need
  • Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), Philippines
  • Plataforma Internacional contra la Impunidad
  • Presbyterian Church (USA)
  • Presbyterian Peace Fellowship
  • Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI), India
  • Project on Organizing, Development, Education and Research (PODER)
  • Protection International Mesoamérica
  • Public Association “Spravedlivost” Jalal-Abad Human Rights Organization, Kyrgyzstan
  • Public Verdict Foundation, Russian Federation
  • Reacción Climática, Bolivia
  • Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe por la Democracia
  • Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
  • Seguridad en Democracia (SEDEM)
  • Sindicato de trabajadoras domésticas de maquila, nexas y conexas SITRADOM
  • Sisters of Mercy of the Americas - Institute Justice Team
  • Solidaridad con Guatemala de Austria (Guatemala Solidarität Österreich)
  • SOS-Torture/Burundi, Burundi
  • The Fund for Global Human Rights
  • UDEFEGUA, Guatemala
  • Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), United States
  • West African Human Rights Defenders Network
  • World Movement for Democracy
  • ZEB / Zentrum fuer entwicklungspolitische Bildung der Evangelischen Landeskirche Stuttgart, Alemania
  • Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum

Individual signatures:

  • Ana Lucía Ixchíu Hernández, Guatemala
  • David O., ciudadano de los E.E.U.U.
  • Dra. Lisette Aguilar Prado, Guatemala
  • Esther Gut de Zurich, Suiza
  • Eve Chayes Lyman
  • Iduvina Hernández Batres, Guatemala
  • Karla AVELAR activista trans refugiada
  • Maya Alvarado Chávez, Guatemala
  • Mirna Ramírez, Guatemala
  • Padre Cirilo Santamaria Sáez, Guatemala
  • Samwel Mohochi, Executive Director, ICJ Kenya
  • Tony Smith, ciudadano de los E.E.U.U.
  • Victoria Sanford, PhD, Director, Center for Human Rights & Peace Studies, Lehman College, City
  • University of New York, United States
Latin America