PBI-Guatemala accompanies media conference on Bernardo Caal Xol’s cassation verdict

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On September 17, PBI-Guatemala posted: “Today we accompany the press conference that announced the negative response of the Supreme Court of Justice of Guatemala to the appeal for cassation [annulment] raised by the defence of the criminalized defender Bernardo Caal Xol. The appeal sought a review of the legal process for the series of faults and irregularities that occurred in the course of the criminal prosecution against the Q’eqchi ‘leader.”

El Periodico further reports:

The Council of Ancestral Authorities Q’eqchi’ and the Communities in resistance of Santa María Cahabón, expressed their indignation at the ‘unjust sentence of the cassation process issued by the Criminal Chamber’, in relation to the conviction of Bernardo Caal Xol.

The organizations point out that corruption and impunity allowed the criminalization, false accusations and conviction against Professor Bernardo Caal, who defended the territory and the Cahabón River following the teachings and norms of his ancestors.

They said, ‘The case reached the last instance of cassation where the Criminal Chamber ratified the sentence to 7 years and 4 months despite the procedural defects in form and substance,thus condemning it unjustly.’

In a statement, the organizations demand that the Supreme Court of Justice annul the conviction for the crimes that were charged through ‘false accusations, and in processes with obvious procedural defects.’

In addition, they demand that the Public Ministry investigate and deduce responsibilities from those who, through acts of corruption, have authorized and favored extractive projects in Alta Verapaz.

Finally, they call on the population to ‘continue demonstrating against corruption and influence peddling in the powers of the State to demand transparency in the application of justice, prompt and fulfilled.’


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.

El Periodico photo.

PBI-Guatemala at the cassation hearing on June 21, 2021.

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