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3 April 2019

Civil society organizations condemn ongoing criminalization of human rights defenders Claudia Samayoa and José Martínez

We the undersigned organizations are gravelly alarmed by the ongoing, targeted criminalization of human rights defenders in Guatemala including the recent judicial harassment of defenders Mrs. Claudia Virginia Samayoa Pineda and Mr. José Manuel Martínez Cabrera. The targeted judicial harassment of Ms. Samayoa Pineda and Mr. Martinez Cabrera is illustrative of the authorities’ growing intolerance of independent dissent, including defenders working on land and environmental defense.

Read the Front Line Defenders Urgent Appeal

Mrs. Samayoa Pineda is President of the Board of Directors of UDEFEGUA, an organization which works to support human rights defenders in Central America, and member of the OMCT Executive Committee; while Mr. José Manuel Martínez Cabrera is a member of the Justicia Ya Collective, a citizen movement which opposes corruption and impunity. Both human rights defenders are being subjected to a criminal complaint by Mr. Nester Mauricio Vásquez Pimentel, in his capacity as President of the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) and representing the CSJ, on spurious charges of illegally obtaining a court document and influence peddling. It is broadly acknowledged that civil society groups, including UDEFEGUA and the Justicia Ya collective, have been instrumental in the fight against impunity and public corruption in the country.

The criminal case against both defenders is a direct response to a complaint the defenders filed on January 17, 2019 requesting the withdrawal of the privilege of immunity from 11 judges of the CSJ. The complaint contends that the 11 judges breached the Constitution of Guatemala and committed judicial prevarication by allowing criminal proceedings against three judges from the Constitutional Court (CC). Along with the complaint presented to CSJ on January 17, 2019, Ms. Samayoa Pineda and Mr. Martínez Cabrera annexed a copy of the CSJ decision which allows the criminal proceedings against the CC judges to continue. Despite the fact that this document had been widely circulated in the national press and on social media, the President of the CSJ is accusing these two human rights defenders of illegally obtaining it.

The criminalization of both defenders is yet another example of the targeted reprisals leveled against civil society organisations and human rights defenders that have mobilised against a series of attacks on Guatemala's democratic institutional framework. Among other worrying attempts to undermine democratic norms and the rule of law in Guatemala, the authorities have sought to delegitimize the judges of the Constitutional Court and unilaterally cancel an agreement with the UN ending the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).

In the framework of our commitment to justice and human rights, we make a public call to the Guatemalan Government to:

  1. End all acts of harassment, misuse of criminal law and criminalization against individuals and communities that defend human rights in Guatemala, including Ms. Claudia Virginia Samayoa Pineda and Mr. José Manuel Martínez Cabrera. In particular, we ask the Public Ministry to dismiss the criminal complaint against both human rights defenders.
  2. Adopt the most appropriate measures to guarantee the safety and physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Claudia Virginia Samayoa Pineda and Mr. José Manuel Martínez Cabrera and of all human rights defenders in Guatemala.
  3. Protect, respect and guarantee the realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms in all regions of Guatemala, as well as the validity of a democratic State.

Organizational Signatories:
Action Aid, Guatemala
African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS), Sudan
Alianza Frente a la Criminalización (AFC), Guatemala
Asamblea socioambiental de General Roca . Argentina
Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC)
Asociación Ambiente y Sociedad - Colombia
Asociación COMUNICARTE, Guatemala
Asociación de Mujeres de Guatemala AMG, España
Asociación de Trabajadoras del Hogar a Domicilio y de Maquila ATRAHDOM
Asociación Interamericana para la Defensa del Ambiente (AIDA), Colombia
Asociación para una Ciudadanía Participativa (ACI PARTICIPA) – Honduras
Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE), Ethiopia
AWID (Association for Women’s Rights  in Development)
Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), India
Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), Cambodia
Carea e.V., Alemania
Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL)
Central General de Trabajadores de Guatemala
Centro de Incidencia Ambiental de Panamá (CIAM)
Civil Society Organizations Network for Development (RESOCIDE), Burkina Faso
Colectivo CADEHO, Alemania
Collectif Guatemala, Francia,
Comité de Familiares de las Víctimas de los Sucesos de Febrero-Marzo de 1989 (COFAVIC) – Venezuela
Comité de Solidaridad con los Presos Políticos (CSPP) – Colombia
Comite Noruego de solidaridad con America Latina, Noruega
Committee Against Torture, Russian Federation
Comunidades en Resistencia Pacífica de La Puya, Guatemala
Confederación Unitaria de Trabajadores de Honduras
Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, US Provinces
Consorcio para el diálogo parlamentario y la equidad Oaxaca A.C .- México
Coordinadora Civil-Nicaragua
Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CNDDHH) - Perú
Derecho Ambiente y Recursos Naturales DAR (Perú)
Dienst fuer  Mission, Oekumene und Entwicklung der Evangelischen Landeskirche Stuttgart, Alemania
DKA Austria
Federación Guatemalteca de Escuelas Radiofónicas (FGER), Guatemala
Festivales Solidarios, Guatemala
Foro de Organizaciones No Gubernamentales Internacionales en Guatemala (FONGI)
Front Line Defenders
Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (FARN)
Fundación Ciudadanía Inteligente
Fundación de Estudios para la Aplicación del Derecho (FESPAD)
Fundación Karmel Juyup’, Guatemala
Fundación para el Debido Proceso (DPLF)
German Zepeda, Solidarity Center
Global Witness
Guatemala-Netz Zürich
HondurasDelegation, Alemania
Human Rights Defenders Network- SL
Iglesia Luterana ILUGUA de Guatemala, Guatemala
Impunity Watch, Países Bajos
International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)-Kenya, Kenya
International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF)
International Land Coalition (ILC) - América Latina y el Caribe
International Land Coalition (ILC) - Secretariat
JASS (Just Associates)
Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights, Philippines
Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law (KIBHRL), Kazakhstan
KM207 Guatemala-Suisse
Latin America Working Group
Ligue Burundaise des droits de l’homme Iteka, Burundi
Maryknoll Affiliates
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Metro Center, Journalists Rights & Advocacy
Movimiento por la Paz (MPDL)
Mugen Gainetik, del País Vasco, España
Oekumenische Initiative Mittelamerika e.V., Alemania
Organización Mundial Contra la Tortura (OMCT) – Internacional
Oxfam America
Peace Watch Switzerland (PWS), Suiza
People in Need
Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), Philippines
Plataforma Internacional contra la Impunidad
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Presbyterian Peace Fellowship
Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI), India
Project on Organizing, Development, Education and Research (PODER)
Protection International Mesoamérica
Public Association “Spravedlivost” Jalal-Abad Human Rights Organization, Kyrgyzstan
Public Verdict Foundation, Russian Federation
Reacción Climática, Bolivia
Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe por la Democracia
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
Seguridad en Democracia (SEDEM)
Sindicato de trabajadoras domésticas de maquila, nexas y conexas SITRADOM
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas - Institute Justice Team
Solidaridad con Guatemala de Austria (Guatemala Solidarität Österreich)
SOS-Torture/Burundi, Burundi
The Fund for Global Human Rights
UDEFEGUA, Guatemala
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), United States
West African Human Rights Defenders Network
World Movement for Democracy
ZEB / Zentrum fuer entwicklungspolitische Bildung der Evangelischen Landeskirche Stuttgart, Alemania
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum

Individual Signatories:

Ana Lucía Ixchíu Hernández, Guatemala
David O., ciudadano de los E.E.U.U.
Dra. Lisette Aguilar Prado, Guatemala
Esther Gut de Zurich, Suiza
Eve Chayes Lyman
Iduvina Hernández Batres, Guatemala
Karla AVELAR activista trans refugiada
Maya Alvarado Chávez, Guatemala
Mirna Ramírez, Guatemala
Padre Cirilo Santamaria Sáez, Guatemala
Samwel Mohochi, Executive Director, ICJ Kenya
Tony Smith, ciudadano de los E.E.U.U.
Victoria Sanford, PhD, Director, Center for Human Rights & Peace Studies, Lehman College, City University of New York, United States