Posted 2012/11/21

Guatemala: Threats and defamation against human rights defender Ms Claudia Samayoa

Ms Claudia Samayoa

During the week of 12 November 2012, human rights defender Ms Claudia Virginia Samayoa received warnings of an attack being prepared against her, in the latest incident in an ongoing series of threats and defamatory statements targeting her and several other human rights defenders.

Claudia Samayoa is the coordinator of the Unidad de Protección de Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos Guatemala - UDEFEGUA (Human Rights Defenders Protection Unit in Guatemala), who supports the work of human rights defenders in preventing and responding to security risks, through monitoring, verification and advocacy work.

On 5 November 2012, she filed a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights denouncing a statement, then in circulation, in which she and several others were threatened and accused of involvement in terrorist activities and fuelling anti-business hostility. The statement, which is believed to have been delivered at a press conference on 15 October 2012, had reportedly been circulated and forwarded for several days before it came to Claudia Samayoa's attention on 19 October 2012. The statement originates from the Fundación Contra el Terrorismo (Foundation Against Terrorism), and mentions Claudia Samayoa by name as someone with anti-business and terrorist sympathies. It claims she expressed this by financing “destabilizing organisations” and partaking in a conspiracy with two other civil society figures, who are accused of being ex-guerrillas who took part in the torture and kidnapping of the Foundation Against Terrorism's director in 1982.

The document goes on to link the human rights defender to a number of recent violent clashes between the military and local populations in which members of the military were injured, and implies that Claudia Samayoa and others were responsible for these events through “incitement”. The last part of the document is a direct call on state authorities and the armed forces alike to ensure that all those it deems complicit in “political trials” against the military be held responsible and forced to pay for having attempted to change history. During the week of 12 November 2012, both Claudia Samayoa and a member of the Human Rights office of the Archbishop of Guatemala received warnings of an attack being prepared on their lives.

Threats have been issued against UDEFEGUA in the past and on one occasion in February 2010, Claudia Samayoa's car was tampered with in an attempt to cause an accident. Front Line Defenders issued an urgent appeal on the threats against the organisation on 10 March 2010. As a result of the threats, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights considered it necessary to provide Claudia Samayoa and other members of UDEFEGUA with protection measures.

Action Update Needed. Before taking further action on this case please contact info@frontlinedefenders.org for further information