No. 27/02


The Unit for Human Rights Defenders of the IACHR has received information regarding a significant increase in the number of murders, threats, acts of intimidation, attacks on the person, abductions, and violations of domicile targeted at human rights defenders.  Furthermore, in recent days information was received about a letter containing a death threat sent to six prominent defenders and four Guatemalan journalists.  This recent threat, coupled with the concrete acts of violence against defenders, reflects the increasing danger to all those individuals devoted to the defense and protection of human rights in Guatemala.  

The Commission received information about the creation of a Special Prosecutor's Office and a Presidential Commission to investigate threats against human rights defenders.  The Commission acknowledges the importance of these mechanisms of protection and hopes that they will make solid progress in the meaningful investigation and identification of those responsible.  The Commission recalls that it is the duty of states to protect the lives and physical integrity of defenders and to ensure for them the full exercise of their activities in defense of human rights. Finally, the Commission reiterates that it is the duty and obligation of states to investigate such acts of violence and to punish those responsible, and it undertakes closely to monitor developments in connection with this worrying situation.  

The IACHR recalls that at the last OAS General Assembly held in Barbados, in June 2002, the states adopted a resolution on Human Rights Defenders in the Americas, whereby they agreed: 

To condemn actions that directly or indirectly prevent or hamper the work of human rights defenders in the Americas.  

To urge member states to step up their efforts to adopt the necessary measures, in keeping with their domestic law and with internationally accepted principles and standards, to safeguard the lives, personal safety, and freedom of expression of human rights defenders.


Washington, D.C.,  June 14, 2002