PBI-Guatemala accompanies lawyers at acquittal for Maya Q’eqchi’ leader Samuel Choc Ac criminalized by palm oil company
Samuel Choc Ac (in light blue shirt and white hat) at court today.
On March 16, PBI-Guatemala posted: “PBI accompanies the lawyers from the Human Rights Law Firm (BDH) in the last hearing of the Indigenous authority Samuel Choc Ac in Cobán. Samuel has been acquitted for the 3 crimes he was accused of.”
Choc Ac is a Maya Q’eqchi’ community leader.
The Protection Unit for Human Rights Defenders – Guatemala (UDEFEGUA) has tweeted: “Judge Fidel Och, of the First Criminal Sentencing Court of Cobán, issued an acquittal in favor of defender Samuel Choc, freeing him from the crimes of aggravated usurpation, illegal detentions and instigation to commit a crime.”
The process against him had been initiated by the palm oil company Tecniservicios Agro Industriales SA.
Former UN Special Rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz has noted the “crime of aggravated usurpation is commonly brought against indigenous land rights defenders.”
She explains: “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.”
UDEFEGUA had tweeted during the hearing earlier in the day: “Samuel Choc declares about how necessary it is to defend water for everyone; if the water runs out in your village, it runs out in the city too. If the peoples do not fight for water, no one else will, it is the water that gives them strength and life, he said.”
Choc Ac has also previously stated: “My parents, grandparents and families in the community have lived for several generations in that place. We are a family of farmers, merchants and fishermen on the Chiribiscal, Quimala, San Román and Negro rivers, which are being contaminated by palm planting waste these days. They have caused serious damage, many fish have died and many people have sprouted skin diseases, the pestilence of waste has increased and caused the increase in flies.”
PBI-Guatemala has accompanied the Human Rights Law Firm since 2013.
For more on this, you can also see the Prensa Comunitaria article: Samuel Choc Ac is innocent of aggravated usurpation.