PBI-Guatemala accompanies BDH lawyers at hearing in killing of French NGO worker Benoit Maria

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On November 7, the Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project posted: “PBI accompanied the Human Rights Law Firm [BDH] in the Hearing of the First Declaration in the Higher Risk Court of Quetzaltenango regarding the case of the murder of Benito María, who was part of the organization Agronomists and Veterinarian Without Borders in Guatemala. Also present is the Consul of France Mr. Brice Sardain.”

In August 2020, Entremundos reported: “Social and human rights organizations expressed their repudiation of the murder of Benoit Pierre Amedee María, known as ‘Benito’, who was a French citizen and lived in Guatemala for 20 years.”

That article adds: “A number of social media users, including activists, human rights defenders, and members of indigenous communities, who had the opportunity to meet Benito personally classified the murder a cowardly act towards a person who had given so much to the poorest communities in the country.”

Prensa Comunitaria also noted: “His work here has always been in favor of the peoples, especially in the Mayan Q’eqchi ‘and Ixil region, on issues of sustainable agriculture, peasant markets, recovery of native seeds, ancestral and veterinary medicine.”

On September 29, Le Parisien reported: “Two men, Elias Eliseo and Diego Tay Vicente, were arrested after searches in the village, located in the department of Quiché, the prosecutor’s office added without specifying the links between the two men. Weapons and ammunition were seized.”

That article adds: “The motive for the murder is still unknown, but the theft was ruled out because the victim’s personal belongings, including his phone, computer and cash, were found in the bullet-riddled vehicle.”

At the time of those arrests, Prensa Comunitaria reported: “Some people who asked not to be summoned say that investigations should continue to establish whether there are more people involved and that the masterminds should be reached out to clarify the causes of B’en Ijo’s murder, as he was known to the Ixil people.”

And last month, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) stated: “The sudden transfer of Human Rights Prosecutor Hilda Pineda is a new step towards the extinction of the rule of law, denounced the Observatory (OMCT-FIDH), UDEFEGUA and CALDH. It is urgent to reinstate the prosecutor and guarantee the continuity of the investigations under her charge to avoid impunity in cases of crimes against humanity and serious human rights violations, the organizations added.”

“At the time of his transfer, he was in charge of the ‘Diario Militar’ case, about the capture, torture and forced disappearance of at least 183 political opponents between 1983 and 1985 allegedly at the hands of the military and police, as well as the investigations into the murder of human rights defender Benoît Maria in August 2020.”

The article adds: “Transferring Hilda Pineda from the Prosecutor’s Office puts at serious risk the progress in these cases, as well as the processes of justice and reparation for thousands of victims of serious human rights violations and crimes against humanity.”

PBI-Guatemala has accompanied BDH lawyer Édgar Pérez Archila since August 2010 and the other BDH lawyers beginning in late 2013.

Benoit Maria

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