PBI-Guatemala accompanies imprisoned Indigenous Q’eqchi leader Bernardo Caal Xol at court hearing
On July 29, the Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project posted: “Yesterday we accompanied Bernardo Caal Xol and the Human Rights Law Firm (BDH) to Bernardo’s appeal hearings which were suspended again.”
“Bernardo has been in prison for two years and 7 months waiting for his appeal process to begin.”
PBI-Guatemala adds: “For his struggle in defense of the territory he has been criminalized and sentenced to 7 years and 4 months in prison.”
Kathy Price of Amnesty International Canada further explains: “Yet again ‘justice’ failed #indigenous prisoner of conscience #BernardoCaal. Yesterday magistrates were to hear his appeal but canceled – for the 5th time!”
Price adds: “From Canada, we call for an end to this unjust, dangerous detention.”
Caal Xol is a leader of the Peaceful Resistance of Cahabón, a collective of 38 Maya Q’eqchi communities. The resistance was formed in 2015 to oppose the construction of the Oxec and Renace dams.
PBI-Guatemala has previously noted: “On the Cahabón River and its tributaries Oxec, Canlich and Chiacté, seven hydroelectric plants currently operate: Renace I, II, III, IV, Oxec, Oxec II, and Chichaic.”
The two most recently completed dams are Oxec II which began operation in September 2018 and Renace IV which became operational in January 2019.
PBI-United Kingdom has also noted: “In August 2017, PBI provided security support to the good-faith consultation in which the 195 communities of the Cahabón River overwhelmingly rejected the Oxec hydroelectric projects.”
The former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz visited Caal Xol in prison in May 2018.
She has stated: “The conviction of the Q’eqchí’ leader is an apparent attempt to silence and discredit the legitimate exercise of the rights of the indigenous community.”
Significantly, Tauli-Corpuz also highlighted: “This is not an isolated case; there are numerous indigenous community members who are being criminalised in Guatemala for defending their traditional lands and resources against large-scale development projects which cause environmental damage.”
PBI-Guatemala has accompanied the Peaceful Resistance of Cahabón since July 2017.