Guatemala: 15-year-old girl raped to intimidate trade unionist parents

The girl and her 13-year-old brother were washing clothes near their home on the afternoon of 6 July when two men in balaclavas attacked them, dragged them at gunpoint to nearby coffee trees, and tied them up using the Children's rights’s own clothing. One man then raped the girl while the other kept watch. Plantation workers searching for the missing Children's rights found them about an hour later. Both had been beaten. The Children's rights’s parents, Margarita Perez Aguilar and Jose Elias Juarez, are active members of the Maria Lourdes Plantation Trade Union.

The following day the Children's rights’s parents filed a complaint with the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Human Rights Procurator. In her testimony the girl identified the man who kept watch as the Manager of the Maria Lourdes Plantation. On 8 July the local Forensic Medical Official confirmed that the girl had been raped. No arrest warrants have yet been issued in connection with this attack.

That day, lawyers acting for the Maria Lourdes Plantation warned other union members via a third party that they would be arrested if they involved the plantation manager in the rape complaint.

Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Stephen Bowen said:

“To commit such an horrific crime against a young girl, with a view to intimidating her parents and forcing a solution to a labour dispute, is almost beyond comprehension.

“It is hard to conceive that someone could sink to such depths. But whoever is responsible must be brought to justice swiftly and fairly. Amnesty International members around the world will not allow this crime to go unnoticed or unpunished.”

Background

The Maria Lourdes Plantation Trade Union has been in dispute with the management of the plantation since 1992. The union first demanded that the workers receive the minimum hourly wage of 11.20 quetzales (approx US$1.50). At the time the plantation was paying workers about half this sum. The plantation management reacted by dismissing all 47 union members then working on the plantation. The courts ruled in favour of the union, ordering the management to pay compensation and raise wages accordingly. Union members occupied part of the plantation to pressure management into reinstating the workers following the court ruling. They were violently evicted.

Since then union members have suffered continuous intimidation: they have been fired for joining the union; their houses have been demolished; their fruit trees have been cut down; they have been charged with assault and robbery as reprisals for taking part in union activities; they have been threatened with death and rape, and their Children's rights have been denied education and medical treatment.

Amnesty International members are writing urgent appeals expressing concern for the safety of members of Maria Lourdes Plantation Trade Union and their families, especially the Children's rights of Margarita Perez Aguilar and Jose Elias Juarez. They are calling for a full, prompt and impartial investigation into the rape of the 15-year-old girl, with the results made public and those found responsible brought to justice.

Amnesty International is also seriously concerned that people who reported the rape were threatened with arrest, and is calling for this to be investigated. The organisation is urging the Guatemalan authorities to help end the intimidation of Maria Lourdes Plantation Trade Union members, so that they can defend their rights without fear of retaliation of punishment.

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