PBI-Guatemala accompanies Maya Q’eqchi’ defender Bernardo Caal Xol at Supreme Court of Justice cassation hearing

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Twitter photo by PDH Guatemala.

On June 20, the Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project posted: “Tomorrow Monday PBI accompanies Bernardo Caal Xol audience. Meet Bernardo and his fight as well as his criminalization: We share an ACERCATE program-with English subtitles-that we recorded three months ago at Cobán Jail, Alta Verapaz.”

That interview with English subtitles can be seen here.

La Hora further explains: “This Monday, June 21, the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) will hear in public hearing an appeal in cassation for the case of environmental leader Bernardo Caal Xol. The hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m.”

That article adds: “Cassation is defined as an extraordinary remedy seeking the total review of decisions, and if appropriate, their annulment and subsequent issuance subject to the law.”

Late that afternoon, Prensa Comunitaria reported: “At the end of the cassation hearing, to review the conviction against Bernardo Caal, lawyer Édgar Pérez reported that he expects the Criminal Chamber to resolve within 15 days.”

Calls for Bernard to be released

La Hora adds: “On June 4, dozens of residents of Alta Verapaz organized a demonstration to demand the release of Bernardo Caal. From four different aspects, social organizations were also added that at the end of the tour concentrated in the central park of Cobán.”

PBI-Guatemala accompanied that march.

Bernardo’s partner Isabel Matzir has commented: “It has been more than 3 years and 4 months of prison torture for Bernardo, a process with an obvious malicious delay. We hope that the CSJ [Supreme Court of Justice] will read the three Amicus Curiae that the defense presented to have more elements to resolve the case.”

Background

Caal Xol is a leader of the Peaceful Resistance of Cahabón, a collective of 38 Maya Q’eqchi communities, that was formed to oppose the construction of the Oxec and Renace dams on the Cahabón River and its tributaries.

PBI-United Kingdom has 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 Guatemalan Human Rights Commission (GHRC) highlights: “A few months later [in December 2017], Bernardo was arrested [in] a clear act of retribution for the defense of his community’s water rights.”

In November 2018, Bernardo was sentenced to seven years and four months in jail.

In July 2020, Amnesty International declared that Caal Xol is a prisoner of conscience who has been wrongfully imprisoned.

The Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project has accompanied Bernardo and the Peaceful Resistance Cahabón since 2017.

“Residents of Santa María Cahabón, Alta Verapaz, traveled to Guatemala City to participate in the Public Hearing for the challenge to the sentence of Bernardo Caal, a community leader sentenced to 7 years in prison. In the rain they demand that he be released.”


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