Guatemala: 40 death threats sent by text message
Amnesty International has warned that the lives of nine activists working for two prominent human rights organisations in Guatemala are at risk after they received dozens of death threats by text messages. One of the activists was also followed by two unknown armed men.
Between 30 April and 5 May, members of the Association for the Study and Promotion of Security under Democracy and the Human Rights Defenders Protection Unit received over 40 SMS text messages containing abuse and death threats. The texts focused on their work to bring to justice those responsible for the crimes committed during Guatemala’s internal armed conflict.
One of the messages, sent on 2 May read:
“You’ve got one hour, this is the last warning. Stop messing with us, military declassified files. We’ll kill your kids first, then you.”
On the morning of 4 May two unknown men sat in a dark green car with tinted windows parked outside the house of one of the activists. Police officers were called and they later told the activist that the men were armed, had a valid licence to carry the weapons and were let go because they were considered not to be posing a threat. At the same time, two of the activists received the same SMS text message, which read:
“I am watching you [...] It’s good that you didn’t go to work, I have my sight set at you. Son of a bitch […] you’re scared.”
Amnesty International’s Americas Programme Deputy Director, Kerrie Howard said:
“The death threats received by these activists are an illustration of a climate of insecurity and fear in Guatemala, where those working to protect human rights and seek justice are required to do so at great personal risk.
“The government must take immediate steps to protect these activists and ensure they are able to carry out their legitimate and important work free from fear.”
Amnesty International has appealed to its members to take urgent action calling for protection of the activists of these organisations. More information can be found at www.amnesty.org.uk/cases
Last March, members of the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office working on legal cases from the time of the internal armed conflict were victims of threats and attacks. Days later, the Ombudsman’s wife, Gladys Monterroso, was kidnapped and tortured.