PBI-Guatemala accompanies the Human Rights Law Firm to a hearing for the Indigenous human rights defender Samuel Choc

Published by Brent Patterson on

On June 13, the PBI – Guatemala Project accompanied the Human Rights Law Firm (Bufete de Derechos Humanos – BDH) at a hearing for the Indigenous human rights defender Samuel Choc.

Choc was arrested in March 2018 and charged with “usurpación agravada” (aggravated usurpation).

UNSR Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, has stated in a report to the UN Human Rights Council that the “crime of aggravated usurpation is commonly brought against indigenous land rights defenders.”

She highlights, “Disregard of indigenous rights of traditional lands ownership breeds tensions, subsequent violence and criminalization, as indigenous peoples become trespassers or illegal occupants of their own lands, subject to criminal charges such as ‘usurpation’ or illegal occupation, and liable to forced evictions and removal from the lands they rely upon for their livelihoods, social and cultural cohesion and spiritual traditions.”

PBI-Guatemala has previously posted, “Indigenous leaders and leaders continue to be criminalized in [the department/province of] Alta Verapaz. We reaffirm that defending rights is not a crime.”

Yesterday they noted, “The BDH and PBI-Guatemala Project will continue to monitor the legal situation of Samuel and the other defenders who are criminalized.”

The UN Special Rapporteur’s report (dated August 2018) where she comments on how states use the charge of usurpation against Indigenous peoples can be found here.

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