Posted 2010/3/10

Guatemala: Break-in at the home of human rights defender Ms Erenia Vanegas and threats against Ms Claudia Samayoa and members of SEDEM

Claudia Samayoa

The home of human rights defender Ms Erenia Vanegas was broken into on 5 March 2010 and the car of Ms Claudia Samayoa was tampered with in an attempt to cause an accident on 2 February 2010.

Further Information

Erenia Vanegas is an investigator with the Unidad de Protección de Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos Guatemala – UDEFEGUA (Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Guatamala) and Claudia Samayoa is the coordinator of the same organisation.

UDEFEGUA supports the work of human rights defenders in preventing and responding to security risks, through monitoring, verification and advocacy work. UDEFEGUA has recently been investigating various cases of human rights defenders in Guatemala, including the defamation campaign against the San Juan Sacatepéquez movement and the murders in Malacatán. The organisation has also recently documented irregularities within the Ministry of Governance.

On the morning of 5 March 2010, a group of men broke into the home of Erenia Vanegas. According to her neighbours, a young man came to the house and knocked on the door but left when neighbours informed him that there was no one in the house.

Shortly after, a black car with tinted windows pulled up outside the house and several men emerged. The men quickly forced the door to the house open and spent approximately five minutes inside the house before leaving in the same car. Nothing was stolen in the incident but it was clear that the wardrobes in the rooms nearest the entrance and a box containing documents had been searched.

On 23 February 2010, the first hearing in the case against Ms Silvia Ruiz, former administrator of the Asociación para el Estudio y la Promoción de la Seguridad en Democracia – SEDEM (Association for the Study and Promotion of Security in a Democracy) took place.

Between 30 April and 3 May 2009, more than 30 threatening text messages were sent to members of UDEFEGUA and SEDEM from the mobile phone of Silvia Ruiz and from two other unidentified numbers. While the investigations carried out by the human rights unit of the Attorney General's office concluded that Silvia Ruiz was responsible for the threatening messages, in the hearing on 23 February 2010, the judge cleared Silvia Ruiz of the charges and suggested that the cloning of telephone numbers should not be ruled out in the case. This ruling is being appealed.

On 2 February 2010, Claudia Samayoa's car was tampered with. A quantity of oil was poured under the driver's seat which ran under Claudia Samayoa's feet when she was driving, causing the pedals to become slippery. Claudia Samoyoa was driving quite slowly at the time and so managed to stop the car without causing an accident. This incident occurred on the same day that a meeting of the Instancia de Análisis de Ataques en contra de Defensores de Derechos Humanos (Institute of the Analysis of Attacks on Human Rights Defenders) took place.

Front Line believes that the break-in at the home of Erenia Vanegas, the tampering with Claudia Samayoa's car and the threats against members of UDEFEGUA and SEDEM are directly related to their human rights work, in particular their efforts to provide protection for human rights defenders in Guatemala. Front Line fears for the physical and psychological integrity of Erenia Vanegas, Claudia Samayoa and members of SEDEM.

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