PBI-Guatemala expresses concern for criminalized land defenders in jail at risk due to COVID-19

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On March 25, the Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project posted on its Facebook page, “Thinking of Bernardo Caal Xol of the Peaceful Resistance of Cahabón, Jorge Coc and Marcelino Xol Cucul of the CCDA [Campesino Committee of the Highlands] and Agustírez and Timoteo Suchité de Rosa, indigenous authorities and members of Nuevo Dia, all criminalized defenders of the territory.”

This week, in light of the coronavirus pandemic and the increased vulnerability of those in prison, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet issued this statement: “Now, more than ever, governments should release every person detained without sufficient legal basis, including political prisoners and others detained simply for expressing critical or dissenting views.”

Earlier this month, the International Committee of the Red Cross warned, “An outbreak of COVID-19 in prison could be devastating to the population there, especially an overcrowded prison where general health is already low.”

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders  has previously stated, “The Observatory reiterates its concern about the deepening of the patterns of persecution and violence against people who defend human rights in Guatemala.”

The Observatory adds, “According to UDEFEGUA [Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Guatemala] data, in 2018 there were 391 attacks against defenders, including 26 murders and 147 cases of criminalization.”

The Inter‑American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has defined criminalization as the “the misuse of criminal law by State and non-State actors with the aim [to] not only interferes with their work in defending and promoting human rights, but also affects the leading role they have in the consolidation of democracy and the rule of law.”

You can click on the following hyperlinks to learn more about PBI-Guatemala accompaniment of defenders Bernardo Caal Xol, Jorge Coc and Marcelino Xol Cucul, and Agustín Ramírez and Timoteo Suchité.

PBI first operated a project in Guatemala from 1983-1999, which closed following the Peace Accords. The current project opened in 2003.

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