ILC Latin America & the Caribbean demands an end to the wave of assassinations of land and human rights defenders in Guatemala
ILC firmly condemns the murders of Luis Marroquin of Comite de Desarrollo Campesino (CODECA), and of Jose Can Xol and Mateo Chaman Paau of Comite Campesino del Altiplano (CCDA) and demands a thorough investigation to bring to justice those responsible.
In less than a week, three prominent community leaders from member organisations of the International Land Coalition (ILC) were murdered in Guatemala.
Luis Marroquin was shot down by unknown people on the morning of May 9, when he was on his way to a community assembly in the municipality of San Luis Jilotepeque, Jalapa. Mr Marroquin, 54, was a prominent land and human rights defender and a leading member of Comite de Desarrollo Campesino (CODECA), where he was the organisational and political coordinator of the eastern region.
Jose Can Xol, leader of the Comite Campesino del Altiplano (CCDA) was murdered with a firearm on May 10. The crime was perpetrated in the peasant community of Choctun Basila in Alta Verapaz, where currently 40 people face arrest and 8 peasants are political prisoners for exercising their legitimate right to defend their territory.
Mateo Chaman Paau, another active leader and member of CCDA, was found dead at the community San Juan Tres Rios, Coban, Alta Verapaz. Mr. Chaman Paau had been threatened due to his work and received a warrant for his arrest in 2015 in relation to a land conflict between his community and the alleged landowners.
These three assassinations add to the worrying escalation of crime and harassment against defenders regarding struggles for land and territories rights of rural communities in Guatemala. The country registered more than 50 assassinations of human rights defenders between 2011 and 2017, which goes hand in hand with the criminalization of defenders and the increase of aggressions against them.
At the epicentre of numerous conflicts is the access and secure land tenure of rural communities, where stakeholders with different interests are involved. In a context of unequal access to justice and lack or deficient legal frameworks, members of social organizations are constantly criminalized for defending the rights to land and territories.
ILC and the Latin American Initiative for the Protection of Defenders of Land and Territories, which is conducted as part of the Coalition´s commitments to achieve people-centred land governance, urge the Guatemalan Public Prosecutor´s and Attorney General Offices to launch the pertinent investigations into the murders of Mr. Marroquin and Mr. Can Xol, in order to bring those responsible to justice.
We also support the requests of various organizations and agencies for the implementation of effective protection measures for human rights defenders, together with the investigation of the committed crimes against them. It needs to be highlighted that Mrs. Victoria Tauliz Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, recently visited Guatemala and described as "alarming" the murders of the two indigenous leaders .
We urge Jimmy Morales, President of Guatemala, to prevent any declarations that could stigmatize social organizations such as CODECA, and to comply with the role entrusted to him as the guarantee of citizens´ fundamental rights, including those of peasants and indigenous people, and his responsibility to favour governability and social peace in the country.
We express our solidarity to the families, friends and colleagues of Mr. Luis Marroquin, Mr. Jose Can Xol and Mr. Mateo Chaman Paau, and reiterate our support to CODECA and CCDA, organizations daily fighting for the rights of rural residents who are living situations of poverty and exclusion in Guatemala.
15th May 2018
* ILC promotes the Latin American Initiative for the Protection of Defenders of Land and Territories, comprised by national and international organizations defending land and human rights in the region.
NOTE: the announcement was issued on 11th May 2018 and updated on 15th May of the same year after receiving information about the assassination of the human rights defender Mateo Chaman Paau, who is added to the wave of crimes subject of this text.
Otros communications (in Spanish):
Read the statement By ILC Secretariat Director Mike Taylor here