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Facts

Protection of civil rights defenders in Guatemala

Published: 13 November 2012 Updated: 2 April 2015

In 2011, the highest number of attacks against civil rights defenders in Guatemala was recorded, since the start of the internal armed conflict in the country. As many as 402 individuals were attacked and 19 murdered due to their work with civil rights, according to the human rights organisation Udefegua.

In addition to murder and threats, Guatemalan civil rights defenders are increasingly being victimised under the guise of 'criminalisation.' Media and the authorities portray them as criminals and discredit and stigmatise these individuals in order to undermine their work.

Both the UN and the EU have emphasised the importance of civil rights defenders' working to promote democratic development and the respect for human rights. The states therefore have a special obligation to protect civil rights defenders, but Guatemala is an example of countries where this is not the case.

Both the UN and the EU have emphasised the importance of civil rights defenders' working to promote democratic development and the respect for human rights. The states therefore have a special obligation to protect civil rights defenders, but Guatemala is an example of countries where this is not the case.

Aura Elena Farfán is one of those civil rights defenders that the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society has observed. For more than ten years, peace observers have been found at her side at the excavations of mass graves and court trials, including the historic judgment on the massacre in Las Dos Erres in 1982, where an entire community was wiped out.

Who?

Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society, through the programme "Peace Service and International Presence" has four peace observers from Sweden in Guatemala to accompany threatened Guatemalan civil rights defenders in their work. A coordinator in Guatemala City coordinates the work.

How much?

Sida is supporting the programme with SEK 996,900 in 2012.

Results

  • 21 organisations, groups and communities are being accompanied by the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society peace observers in 2012.
  • In total, 280 civil rights defenders will be observed, of which 110 are women and 170 are men.
  • The programme's thematic focus areas are the targeted repression of civil rights defenders and organised civilians, reconciliation, truth, justice and recompense for victims and survivors of the armed conflicts. The programme also focuses on the rights of the indigenous peoples regarding land and natural resources as well as the specific situations facing the female civil rights defenders.
  • Two of the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society 's attending organisations have brought indictments of genocide against ex-dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt and other senior members of his government, including the then defence minister and subsequent dictator Oscar Humberto Mejía Victores.
  • Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society has also accompanied a human rights defender involved in a legal case relating to the massacre in the community of Las Dos Erres in 1982, where 201 people were murdered. In 2011, four former military special operations soldiers were each sentenced to 6,060 years imprisonment.
  • A significant amount of civil rights defenders that have been accompanied have expressed gratitude for the work the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society 's peace observers performed. A large proportion of these have expressed that their work would not have been possible if it were not for this international presence.

Page owner: The Communication Department

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