June 4, 2007
Juan Luis Florido
Attorney General of Guatemala
Distinguished Minister Florido,
We write to you today out of grave concern regarding recent attacks, threats and acts of
intimidation against human rights defenders in Guatemala. The failure to adequately
investigate these attacks and bring those responsible to justice will increase the
vulnerability of these activists.
In particular, we wish to highlight the following incidents that have occurred since the
beginning of 2007.
• On January 10, 2007 an attempt was made on the lives of the environmental activists
Carlos Albacete Rosales and Piedad Espinosa Albacete in Guatemala City. Both
activists are founding members of the environmental organization Trópico Verde.
They have been victims of previous threats and acts of intimidation believed to be
linked to their work in denouncing illegal appropriation of land inside the Maya
Biosphere Reserve, El Petén. In January and February, the Italian environmentalist
Flaviano Bianchini, a volunteer for the environmental group Colectivo Madre Selva,
also received threats and was kept under surveillance. All of these environmental
activists have now left Guatemala out of fear for their lives.
• On January 15, 2007, Pedro Zamora Álvarez, a trade union leader from the Sindicato
de Trabajadores de la Empresa Portuaria Quetzal, was killed in front of his two small
children. Previously Zamora Álvarez had received numerous death threats believed to
be related to his union work. Four other members of the union’s Executive Committee
have continued to receive death threats.
• On January 10 and 25, 2007, the Equipo de Estudios Comunitarios y Acción
Psicosocial (ECAP) received various telephone, email and in-person threats relating to
their work exhuming mass graves in Rabinal.
• On February 5, the shared offices of the Unidad de Protección de Defensoras y
Defensores de Derechos Humanos (UPD), of the Movimiento Nacional por los
Derechos Humanos (MNDH), and the Asociación Comunicación para el Arte y la Paz
(COMUNICARTE) were broken into. Computers with case information, as well as
communications equipment and money, were stolen. The two organizations work to
defend and promote human rights and human rights defenders in Guatemala.
• On February 5, 2007, lawyers at the Centro para la Acción Legal en Derechos
Humanos (CALDH) received a death threat. A few days earlier, on February 2, 2007
another member of CALDH was assaulted and kidnapped at gunpoint. For several
years, CALDH has provided legal assistance to the Asociación para la Justicia y
Reconciliación (AJR) as a co-plaintiff in the genocide legal proceedings in Guatemala.
• On February 6, 2007, Israel Carias Ortiz, a member of the Comité de Unidad
Campesina (CUC), was killed together with his two young children. Other
associations of peasant farmers have also been targeted in the past few months,
including the February 13 death of Vicente Ramírez López, from the New San José
las Lagrimas Association and the CUC. It is believed that these killings are linked to
their non-violent involvement in land disputes in their communities.
• On different occasions in April 2007, five staff members from the Instituto de
Estudios Comparados en Ciencias Penales de Guatemala (ICCPG) were harassed and
received death threats. Members of ICCPG were also threatened on two different
occasions in March. It is believed that this intimidation is due to ICCPG’s work on
cases of human rights violations allegedly committed by members of the police and
their legal support for victims of police violence.
• On May, 25, staff members of the Fundación de Antropología Forense de Guatemala
(FAFG) received a death threat against them and members of their families through an
email. On May 28th, Fredy Peccerelli received a subsequent email threatening to kill
him and members of his family. It is believed that these threats may be linked to
FAFG’s exhumation work which aims to identify victims of massacres during the
internal armed conflict in Guatemala. On 24 May, other members of FAFG were
assaulted at gunpoint. The FAFG has been receiving death threats since 2002 and no
one has been prosecuted for these crimes.
We are also deeply concerned that attacks and acts of intimidation are now also being
perpetrated against international agencies working in Guatemala.
• On April 5, 2007, three different international organizations discovered that their
offices had been broken into: TROCAIRE, an Irish development agency; ACSUR
Las Segovias, a Spanish non-governmental organization; and the humanitarian
organization CARE International. The break-ins appeared to be designed to
intimidate the organizations and deter them from performing their important
• On May 7, 2007, a staff member of the international donor agency Project
Counselling Service (PCS) was abducted, beaten, robbed and sexually assaulted.
He and the entire PCS team received a subsequent death threat on May 17th.
Through local partners, PCS has been involved in the struggle against impunity
and in supporting women who have suffered sexual violence either during
Guatemala’s armed conflict and or subsequently.
• On the morning of May 20, 2007, the offices of the international organization
ActionAid were broken into. The Board of Directors’ computer and other
computers containing information about their work were stolen.
We respectfully urge you to conduct prompt, comprehensive and impartial investigations
into these attacks and prosecute those responsible for committing these crimes.
Successful investigations and prosecutions will serve to highlight the Guatemalan
government’s commitment to combat impunity and protect human rights defenders. We
also urge the Guatemalan government to take all steps necessary to ensure that
Guatemalan human rights defenders are able to carry out their legitimate and important
activities without fear of reprisals, as set out in the United Nations Declaration on the
Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and
Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. As part of
this, we ask that the Guatemalan government promptly provide at-risk defenders with
adequate protective measures tailored to their individual security needs with the aim of
preventing future attacks against them.
We thank you for considering our concerns and would appreciate a response as to the
status of investigations into the cases mentioned above.
Associate for Mexico and Central America
Washington Office on Latin America
Associate for Violence against Women
Washington Office on Latin America
Director Human Rights Defenders Program
Human Rights First
Director of Advocacy for the Americas
Amnesty International USA
ActionAid International USA
Daniel B Magraw Jr.
Center for International Environmental Law
Director of Programs
Center for International Policy
Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA
Regan E. Ralph
Fund for Global Human Rights
James R. Stormes, S.J.
Secretary for Social and International Ministries
Mary Ann Stein,
The Moriah Fund
Andrew de Sousa
NISGUA: Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala
Project Counselling Service
President, Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative
Former President of Ireland
Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Rev. Dr. Mari E. Castellanos
Public Life and Social Policy Office
United Church of Christ
James E. Winkler
General Board of Church and Society
United Methodist Church
C.c. Minister Adela Camacho de Torrebiarte, Ministry of the Interior of Guatemala
Ambassador Marta Altolaguirre, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of
Foreign Affairs of Guatemala
Frank La Rue, Director of COPREDEH
H.E. José Guillermo Castillo, Ambassador of Guatemala to the United States