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Lesbia Artola

HRD & Member

Lesbia Artola is a member of Comité Campesino del Altiplano – CCDA (Campesino Committee of the Highlands) in Cobán, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. CCDA is an organization that fights for access to land and labour rights for Mayan campesinos in Guatemala. Through their work, several peasants receive support related to land, credit, scholarships, and have the opportunity to participate in various trainings offered by the CCDA and other partners. At the national level, the CCDA forms part of the National Coordination of Campesino Organizations (CNOC). The organization helps campesinos to organize themselves and struggle together to improve their living conditions and access to basic rights.

Human rights defenders (HRDs) in Guatemala are subjected to death threats, physical attacks, acts of harassment, surveillance, stigmatisation, judicial harassment, arbitrary detention, forced disappearance and killings. Many of the violations are carried out by clandestine security structures and illegal groups. The exceptionally high level of impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators increases the risk exponentially for HRDs.

A serious issue is the unfair use of criminal proceedings in order to prevent HRDs from carrying out their legitimate human rights activities. Many criminal proceedings are launched by private companies (often backed by European and North American governments) related to the mining sector and the construction of dams, spuriously accusing HRDs of crimes such as acts of terrorism, usurpation of land, kidnappings and others. As part of the criminalisation process, campaigns of defamation and stigmatisation have been carried out by both state and non-state actors, particularly transnational companies and right-wing media publications. State authorities continue to publish statements and press releases in which they publicly incriminate HRDs on unverified charges.