International mission presents report with recommendations to end violence against Human Rights and Land Defenders in Guatemala

Monday, 8th October 2018

During the Global Land Forum 2018, participants were informed about the international mission to Guatemala, a response to the escalation of murders of human rights and land defenders in the country. In its report "Losing Lives to Defend the Land", the mission highlights that the acts of violence against land defenders are not isolated events and expresses its concern about renewed systematic patterns of violence against Guatemala's rural communities and Indigenous Peoples. The document includes recommendations aimed at different types of actors involved in order to end the attacks and the general climate of impunity reigning in the country.

The results of the mission and an analysis on the worrying situation suffered by Guatemalan Indigenous Peoples and peasants were presented at the Global Land Forum, held in Bandung, Indonesia, from 25th to 27th September, a global event involving 1000 representatives of organisations from over 80 countries.

The mission was a response to the murder of 19 human rights defenders in Guatemala in the current year. The majority of those murdered were indigenous peoples and defenders of land and territories. Two organisations were particularly under attack: the Comité de Desarrollo Campesiono (CODECA) and the Comité de Defensa del Altiplano (CCDA), both members of the International Land Coalition and who lost 9 members.

The escalation of murders, threats and persecution of land defenders is an expression of the structural violence faced by indigenous and peasant communities in Guatemala, a country in which 75% of the indigenous population lives in poverty.

Having met with different actors –civil society, diplomatic corps, national and local authorities, and violence-affected communities─, the mission collected countless complaints related to land dispossession and confirmed the large number of violations suffered by land and environmental defenders. The mission also noted that, to this day, the Government has not yet been able to protect human rights defenders effectively, and neither has it investigated crimes against this group of people, generating a climate of impunity.

Moreover, the mission found out evidence of systematic acts of violence taking place against defenders. This chain of violence often starts with the criminalisation of defenders by  their defamation in public spaces and the media, hate speech against social leaders, and an improper use of criminal law preventing them from acting. Likewise, it is troubling that public entities charged with protecting the population are oftentimes the source of the criminalisation. The mission also draws attention to the situation of female defenders, who suffer higher levels of violence and aggression given their active role in defending the rights of their communities.

The report includes a series of recommendations for the Republic of Guatemala and other actors involved with the aim of encouraging them to, within its responsibilities and obligations, end the violence against human rights defenders.

ILC ─part of the international mission─ has committed itself to follow up the implementation of the recommendations and thus contribute to putting an end to violence and make progress in building a society with moral justice.

The report of the international mission is available here (in Spanish).


About the international mission

From 6th to 10th August 2018, the international mission travelled to Guatemala as a response to the situation faced by human rights and environmental defenders in the country. The mission was made up of representatives of the International Land Coalition, the World Alliance for Citizen Participation (Civicus), Frontline Defenders and a reporter for the British newspaper The Guardian. Moreover, the mission was accompanied by the Pastoral de la Tierra Nacional de la Conferencia Episcopal de Guatemala (National Land Pastoral Commission of the Episcopal Conference of Guatemala), and the Unidad de Protección a Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos Guatemala (Udefegua) (Human Rights Defenders Unit of Guatemala).


About the organisations participating in the mission

The International Land Coalition is a global alliance of 255 civil society and intergovernmental organisations in over 70 countries. The Coalition works to put people at the centre of land governance.

Front Line Defenders is an international human rights organisation with the specific aim of securing and protecting human rights defenders at risk.

Civicus is a global alliance of individuals and civil society organisations dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world. It has over 4,000 members in 175 countries.

Contacts (Spanish and English)                                                 

James Loughran | Frontline Defenders | +35 3872316049 | jim[at]

Zulema Burneo | International Land Coalition LAC |+51 987814597 | z.burneo[at]

Elisa Novoa | CIVICUS | +27 795817941 | elisa.novoa[at]