PBI-Guatemala accompanies BDH at Hogar Seguro hearing as MTM human rights lawyer faces security incidents

Published by Brent Patterson on

On February 18, the Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project posted on its Facebook page, “Yesterday we accompanied BDH [Bufete Jurídico de Derechos Humanos/ Law Office of Human Rights] to a hearing of group 2 of the Hogar case. Due to the absence of two of the lawyers, the hearing was again canceled and postponed to March 6.”

Threats faced by lawyers

BDH

PBI-Guatemala has previously explained on its website, “Édgar Pérez Archila and BDH provide pro-bono legal representation to victim organizations in judicial proceedings for human rights violations committed during the internal armed conflict and other human rights violations past and present.”

“PBI began to accompany Édgar in August 2010, due to several security incidents he had faced in relation to the high profile judicial processes he was working on.”

“At the end of 2013, we extended the accompaniment to the other lawyers of the BDH who work in high-profile trials to fight against impunity and in defending criminalised human rights defenders.”

Esteban Celada

On February 12, Nomada reported on security incidents against Esteban Celada, a human rights lawyer and member of the Group of Litigators against Torture in Latin America as well as Women Transforming the World (MTM).

He is also a lawyer for the families of the girls who died in the fire and is involved in several other high-profile human rights cases.

Nomada reports, “On March 8, 2018, lawyer Esteban Celada participated in the annual march for International Women’s Day. After that activity, he went to the Courthouse Court for a hearing on the Hogar case. Upon leaving the hearing, the lawyer suffered the first of 31 episodes of threats to his physical safety. Since then he has received anonymous calls and messages, has detected that he is being monitored and that photographs have been taken.”

Front Line Defenders has urged the Guatemalan authorities to investigate the murder of the lawyer’s brother and the threats against him to bring those responsible to justice and request that all necessary measures be taken to guarantee his physical and psychological integrity.”

That article adds, “The case against Celada adds to a long list of attacks against human rights defenders. In 2019, 467 of attacks against people and communities working in that sector were reported throughout the national territory; among them, 15 murders and 5 assassination attempts.”

The Hogar Seguro fire

Forty-one girls, who were 14 to 17 years of age, died in a fire at the Hogar Seguro Virgen de la Asuncion shelter south-east of Guatemala City on March 8, 2017.

The Guardian has reported, “It has emerged that 56 girls had been locked inside a room measuring 6.8 metres by 7 metres as punishment for organising a protest the day before against cramped conditions and abuse by staff. More than 700 children lived at the home, which had capacity for 400-500.”

“The fire, which began in the early hours, sparked angry demonstrations in the capital over the government’s failure to protect young people in its care. Complaints about abuse at the centre had been made, but not followed up. A month before the fire, Guatemala’s human rights commission had asked for it to be closed.”

In March 2019, Al Jazeera reported, “Several government employees, including police, are now on trial for their role in the fire. The girls were locked in a room and shelter officials waited for nine minutes as the girls burned before they unlocked the door.”

“Some of the victims of the March 8, 2017 fire in the Hogar Seguro Virgen de la Asuncion shelter had run away from home, fleeing abuse and sexual assault by relatives. But many faced more of the same inside the shelter.”

That article adds, “For years, girls reported being raped and forced into prostitution inside the state-run facility, but their protests were ignored.”

You can read more about this situation from PBI-Guatemala in this article.

Categories: News Updates

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