"If we are confident in ourselves, and aware of our role as human rights defenders, there is no way they will get us on our knees again."
CODECA (Comité de Desarrollo Campesino) is a human rights organisation based in Mazatenango, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala. Since 1992, CODECA has been working on improving the situation of the rural poor in Guatemala, focusing on issues such as the wage conditions for farmers, land reform and nationalisation of electric energy in the country.
Because of their work, members of CODECA have suffered threats, harassment, persecution, and kidnappings. On 11 July 2012, human rights defender Enrique Linares, a member of CODECA, was shot dead in Zacapa in Guatemala.
On 26 June 2014, five agents of the company ENERGUATE captured and kidnapped CODECA's founder, Mauro Vay, together with other two HRDs from the organisation. After the abduction, the three HRDs were unfairly imprisoned for more than three months. On 16 March 2016, the Single Judge of the Court of Criminal Sentence, Narcoactivity and Crimes Against the Environment of Huehuetenango sentenced them for the crime of "attempted fraud", even if there was no evidence against them.
On 27 June 2016, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions urged the Guatemalan authorities to release the HRDs and one year later the Appeals Chamber of Huehuetenango acquitted the HRDs of all charges.
In a statement published after their release, CODECA wrote: "We learned that if we are organised, if we mobilise and we communicate effectively, however great is the criminal enemy, it will always be possible to win. We learned that if we are confident of ourselves, and we are aware of our role as human rights defenders, there is no way they will get us on our knees again. We learned that if we have clear ideas of where we are and where we want to go, and we persevere, there is no lie or slander that can distract us. We learned that companies like ENERGUATE can buy a judge or a prosecutor, but they can not buy all the judges of the country, or the world".