Attacks against Xinca leaders continue

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In April 2013, the Guatemalan Ministry of Energy and Mines granted to the company Tahoe Resources an exploitation license for the Escobal mining project. After that, the conflict around the mine escalated. On 27 April 2013, security guards at the mine site fired tear gas and rubber bullets on community members protesting outside the mine’s entrance, injuring some of them. For more information, see: Mining in Guatemala: Rights at risk (AMR 34/002/2014).

In 2019, the Canadian based mining company Pan American Silver completed the acquisition of Tahoe Resources, adding the Escobal mine to its portfolio. However, mining activities in Escobal have been paralyzed since 2017. After several appeals from the Centre for Environmental, Social and Legal Action (CALAS), who previously defended the rights of communities affected by the San Rafael mining company, the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) of Guatemala ordered a provisional suspension and the completion of a community consultation with the Xinca people. 

Members of CALAS reported reiterated acts of intimidation and harassment against them. For more information see Urgent Action: Smear Campaign against Human rights defenders (AMR 34/6680/2017). Lawyer Quelvin Jimenez, defender of the rights of the Xinca indigenous people, reported that on 23 June 2020 a group of armed people disrupted a meeting of the Xinca Indigenous People authorities, which he also attended, threatening and beating some of the participants (see Urgent Action AMR 34/0733/2019). He has faced smear and stigmatization campaigns on social media, judicial harassment, and received death threats and other forms of intimidation due to his work (see Urgent Action AMR 34/0336/2019). 

According to Amnesty International’s research, human rights defenders in Guatemala carry out their activities in an extremely hostile environment. Defenders are also regularly targeted with smear campaigns aimed at stigmatizing and discrediting them by private actors and the Guatemalan authorities. The criminal justice system is regularly misused, defenders are falsely accused and prosecuted trying to keep them silent and break up movements and organizations. 

Those working on rights related to land, territory and the environment are particularly at risk. With continuous threats, intimidation, and attacks against them. For more information, see: We are defending the land with our blood: Defenders of the land, territory and environment in Honduras and Guatemala (AMR 01/4562/2016).

The Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Guatemala (UDEFEGUA) reported more than a thousand of attacks against human rights defenders in 2020, including 15 killings, and 22 attempts of killings. 

Guatemala has yet to adopt a public policy for the protection of human rights defenders, which was ordered by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2014 in the judgement Human Rights Defender et al. vs Guatemala.

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