Amnesty International Urgent Action

(the urgent action below is reposted from here)

(EDIT: below I have also posted updated information and other ways to take action as shared by the Guatemala Human Rights Commission)

URGENT ACTION

MEMBERS OF INDIGENOUS ORGANISATION ATTACKED

Several members of an indigenous peoples organization have been physically attacked and threatened in recent weeks in northern Guatemala. One member was killed. The others remain at risk.

The Council of K’iche’ Peoples (Consejo de los Pueblos K’iche’, CPK) is an organization based in Santa Cruz del Quiché in the department of Quiché that works on Indigenous Peoples rights, extractive industries and corruption issues. Aura Lolita Chavez is one of its leaders.

On 4 July CPK organised a peaceful demonstration against discrimination, alleged economic mismanagement and abuse of power by the mayor. At 4.15pm, after the demonstration, participants were returning to their community by bus when their vehicle was stopped by a group of 8 people, armed with stones, pocket knives, machetes and batons. As the group threw stones at the bus, several CPK members got off it to see what was happening. The group asked where Aura Lolita Chavez was and violently attacked two women and a girl who participated in the demonstration. The activists were injured, with two women reporting a knife wound and a fractured ankle respectively.

Previously, on 27 June, Gaspar Tipaz, CPK member and local leader, had received phone calls threatening him to death. A male caller asked him about the number of people who were going to attend a demonstration planned for 28 June and told him “tomorrow I’m going to kill you” (“Mañana te voy a matar”).

Weeks earlier, on 12 June, José Tavico Tzunun, another CPK leader, was killed by armed gunmen who raided his house at night. The house was a meeting point for CPK activists.

Please write immediately in Spanish or your own language:

  • Urging them to take immediate steps to provide appropriate protection to members of the executive committee of the CPK according to their wishes;
  • Calling on the authorities to order an independent, thorough and impartial investigation into the killing of José Tavico Tzunun, and the threats and attacks against CPK members;
  •  Reminding them that human rights defenders have a right to carry out their activities without any unfair restrictions or fear of reprisals, as set out in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 29 AUGUST 2012 TO:

Attorney General
Claudia Paz y Paz Bailey
Fiscal General de la República
Ministerio Público
15a Avenida 15-16, Zona 1, Barrio Gerona Ciudad de Guatemala,
Guatemala
Fax: +502 2411 9210 Twitter:@mpclaudiapaz
Salutation: Estimada Sra. Fiscal General

Presidential Commission for Human Rights Carlos Morales
Executive Director
Comisión Presidencial para los Derechos Humanos (COPREDEH)

2 Av. 10-50 Zona 9, Guatemala City Guatemala
Fax: + 502 2334 0119

Salutation: Dear Director / Estimado Sr.Director

And copies to:
Consejo de los Pueblos K’iche’
Email: consejodepuebloskiches@yahoo.es

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

In Guatemala human rights defenders, including journalists and trade unionists, continue to be threatened, harassed and attacked, by those seeking to dissuade them from their work. In 2011 local organizations documented 402 cases of attacks and intimidation against local human rights defenders, whose work ranges from the protection of human rights of forcibly evicted indigenous communities to the investigation of human rights violation committed during the internal armed conflict. For more information, please see “Guatemala – Submission to the UN Human Rights Committee for the 104th session of the Human Rights Committee (12-30 March 2012)” (AI Index AMR 34/001/2012)”, available at http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR34/001/2012/en

 

(what follows is reposted from the Guatemala Human Rights Commission listserv)

GHRC Denounces Attack on Lolita Chavez                                    

 

Summary
On July 4, Lolita Chavez, indigenous activist and human rights defender, narrowly escaped being lynched as four others were beaten by a violent group of people allied with Estuardo Castro, the mayor of Santa Cruz del Quiché and member of the ruling Patriot Party.
Although she avoided harm this time, GHRC is gravely concerned for Lolita’s ongoing safety and well-being. Likewise we are distressed by the harassment and attacks against other members of the K’iche’ People’s Council.
Background
Lolita Chavez is a indigenous woman known for her warm smile, energetic personality, and her selfless commitment to the rural communities of Guatemala’s Quiché department. As a leader within the K’iche’ People’s Council (Consejo de Pueblos K’iche’s – CPK) Lolita has accompanied 87 communities in their struggles for self-determination and resistance to harmful development projects which could threaten the health of families and cause irreversible damage to the environment.
This opposition to “development at any cost” has placed these communities, and in particular the members of the CPK, at great risk. Powerful local, departmental, and national political figures — closely aligned with transnational corporations — have made it perfectly clear that they are not interested in consulting with indigenous communities or entering into real dialogue with local organization and leaders. Guatemalan authorities have instead responded with threats, defamation, intimidation, and violence.
On June 12th of this year José Tavico Tzunun, a member of the CPK who hosted meetings at his home, was assassinated by armed gunmen who broke into his house after midnight. A few days previous to the attack he had received a phone message that threatened: “If you continue to bring people together for meetings, you will pay the consequences…”
On June 26th Lolita, in representation of the CPK, presented a formal accusation against the mayor of Quiché, Estuardo Castro, for “abuse of power, racial discrimination, arrogance and authoritarianism, exclusion and marginalization” in his dealings with the indigenous communities. She also denounced a death threat against another community leader, Gaspar Tipaz Gómez, for his participation in the protests. Lolita added: “We hold the mayor and the municipal government responsible for anything that happens to us or our families.”
The Attack against Lolita
Around 4:15pm on July, 4, Lolita and other women were returning home from a peaceful gathering in Santa Cruz del Quiché to protest Mayor Castro’s blatant disregard for the opinions and proposals of the indigenous communities. When they arrived at the community of Xatinap Quinto La Laguna their bus was intercepted by eight people armed with knives, rocks, machetes, and other sharp objects. The assailants shouted “Mayor Castro is in charge here and we’re here to do the mayor’s justice.” They demanded that Lolita be handed over to them. When the community members refused, the mob threw rocks at the bus and forced three women and a child off the bus.
One woman, age 20, had her arms held behind her back while being beaten with a piece of wood. She also received a knife cut to her right wrist. Another woman, age 40, had her left eye scratched and her blouse torn. The third woman, 52, had her lip split open and her front teeth shattered when struck in the face by a rock. The 11 year-old girl had her left ankle fractured by another thrown rock.
Lolita avoided falling into the hands of the attackers because the bus driver decided to make a break for it and escape. Lolita immediately contacted the police, who took nearly half an hour to arrive on the scene. Once there, the officers instantly sided with the attackers saying that Lolita and the other members of the K’iche’ People’s Council were “delinquents and agitators” and that the authorities were “tired of having to listen to all of their demands.”
The tense situation was only diffused by the arrival of ambulances to attend to the injured women. None of the assailants was detained or arrested. In fact, in a perverse distortion of justice, the attackers claim that they were the victims and have filed charges against Lolita and the others. While absurd, these bogus charges could likely result in arrest warrants for Lolita and others.
Also troubling are reports from El Quiché that Lolita’s name is being disparaged during “official” news broadcasts on the local radio station accusing her of provoking disturbances in the area, an obvious attempt to criminalize her activism.
GHRC’s Concerns
GHRC laments that this incident is just the latest in a series of violent attacks against human rights defenders, particularly those defending the collective rights of indigenous communities to self-determination and the protection of their natural resources and the environment.
GHRC calls on the Guatemalan government to fully guarantee the safety and security of Lolita Chavez and the other members of the Consejo de Pueblos K’iche’.
GHRC calls on the Public Ministry to transfer the case of the murder of José Tavico Tzunun to the Office of the Human Rights Prosecutor, to guarantee that the investigation take into account the relevant human rights elements surrounding his assassination.
GHRC calls on the Interior Ministry to investigate the conduct of the police officers in the aftermath of the attack, in particular their refusal to arrest those responsible for this crime.
GHRC calls on the Mayor of Santa Cruz del Quiché and his municipal government to engage in honest dialogue with the participation of independent observers, to attend to the just demands of the communities and to immediately cease any and all actions designed to provoke division, discord and violence amongst the communities.
GHRC fully supports the rights of the indigenous communities of El Quiché to determine the type of development that best respects their rights and embodies their beliefs and world view. We reject the imposition of any external model that is based on exclusion and exploitation.
GHRC presents petition in case of Yolanda Oquelí

The attack against Lolita and her companions is the second against women community leaders in the last month. On June 13, anti-mining activist Yolanda Oquelí was shot on her way home. GHRC’s petition to support Yolanda and her community collected 772 signatures and was presented to the Guatemalan and US authorities. Yolanda is in stable condition and GHRC continues to monitor her situation and push for protection for the community and the arrest of her aggressors.

(photo courtesy of mimundo.org)

Send a postcard to Lolita and the members of the CPK!
GHRC will be delivering postcards with messages of support to these brave activists as they continue with the difficult and often dangerous work of defending indigenous rights and natural resources.
You can send a postcard to the GHRC office before July 27th, and GHRC staff will deliver it to Lolita and the K’iche’ People’s Council in Guatemala.
GHRC/USA
3321 12th St. NE
Washington, DC 20017
Don’t write in Spanish? Don’t worry!  You can start the postcard with “Estimados miembros del Consejo de Pueblos K’iche’s”. Below are some sample messages that you could send. Feel free to mix and match.
  • _Estoy_____ en solidaridad con Los Pueblos K’iche’s. (Or you can fill in the name of your group to say “_____stands in solidarity with the K’iche’ people”)
  • Respaldamos su lucha por sus derechos y la madre tierra. (We support your struggle for your rights and Mother Earth)
  • Que sigan adelante con la lucha para la dignidad de los pueblos K’iche’s. (Keep up the fight for the dignity of the K’iche’ people)
  • El pueblo de _____ presente en la lucha. (The people of ______ present in the struggle)
  • El pueblo unido jamás será vencido. (The people united will never be defeated)
  • Lamentamos la violencia contra de los miembros del Consejo de Pueblos K’iche’s. (We lament the violence against the members of the K’iche’ People’s Council.)
  • Apoyamos los derechos colectivos de los pueblos indígenas de Guatemala. (We support the collective rights of the indigenous people of Guatemala)
You can also write a letter to the Guatemalan Prosecutors Office and the Presidential Commission for Human Rights urging them to provide protection to the K’iche’ People’s Council and investigate the recent acts of violence.
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s