Maya Q’eqchi defender Bernardo Caal Xol in court today seeking an annulment of his wrongful imprisonment
“The hearing will be held in the Supreme Court of Justice for the appeal of annulment where magistrates of the criminal chamber will listen to the arguments about the falsity of crimes that the hydroelectrics on the Cahabon River fabricated for me.” – Bernardo Caal Xol
Maya Q’eqchi river defender Bernardo Caal Xol will be in court today at 1 pm Guatemala time (3 pm in Ottawa, 9 pm in Brussels).
Caal Xol is a leader of the Peaceful Resistance of Cahabón, a collective of 38 Maya Q’eqchi communities in Guatemala. The Resistance was formed to oppose the construction of the Oxec and Renace dams on the Cahabón River and its tributaries.
Key dates and context
In December 2015, Caal Xol filed an injunction with the Supreme Court of Justice to suspend the construction of the Oxec dam because the licence for it had been granted without prior consultation or free, prior and informed consent.
On May 26, 2017, the Constitutional Court ruled that Indigenous communities had not been consulted but authorized the company to continue operations for one more year.
Then on August 27, 2017, Indigenous communities held their own consultation and voted overwhelmingly against dams on the Cahabon River.
Arrest and wrongful imprisonment
The Guatemalan Human Rights Commission (GHRC) has highlighted: “A few months later, Bernardo was arrested [in December 2017], a clear act of retribution for the defense of his community’s water rights.”
In November 2018, Caal Xol was sentenced to seven years and four months in jail. Amnesty International has declared that Caal Xol is a prisoner of conscience who has been wrongfully imprisoned.
Marielos Monzón comments in La Prensa: “On Monday, April 5, there will be a public hearing before the CSJ Criminal Chamber for the case of Bernardo Caal Xol. There we will know if it ends its criminalization or we will confirm that, as almost always, the justice of Guatemala, like the snake, only stings the barefoot.”
And Kathy Price of Amnesty International Canada has tweeted: “Will the hearing that begins on April 5 deliver impartial justice? Many eyes are watching!”
PBI-Guatemala began accompanying Bernardo Caal Xol and the Peaceful Resistance Cahabón in August 2017.