No. 36/02






The Unit for Human Rights Defenders of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern over the serious acts of intimidation perpetrated on August 23, 2002 against Roberto Romero, acting as counsel in the trial for the murder of guatemalan anthropologist Myrna Mack and a member of the Foundation bearing her name.


According to the information received by the Unit for Human Rights Defenders, on August 23, 2002 Mr. Roberto Romero received two intimidating telephone calls. At the same time, three gunshots were heard near his home.  These acts of intimidation occurred as the Guatemalan Constitutional Court was about to decide some fundamental issues in the trial for the homicide of Myrna Mack, scheduled for September 3, 2002.  Ms. Myrna Mack was murdered in September, 1990.


In view of the harassment and threats endured by several members of the Mack Foundation in recent months, on August 9, 2002, the IACHR requested the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to grant provisional measures to protect all members of the Foundation, including Mr. Romero. These measures were ordered by the President of the Inter-American Court on August 14, 2002.  The State was requested to take the necessary measures to protect the life and personal safety of all members of the Myrna Mack Foundation.


The IACHR reiterates that it is the duty of the Guatemalan state to investigate these acts and prosecute those responsible and that the authorities must ensure that the trial for the murder of Myrna Mack develops in a safe atmosphere, with due respect for the independence of the Judiciary.  After its visit of last July to Guatemala the IACHR expressed its concern over the significant increase of systematic attacks against human rights defenders in that country and the way in which those attacks directly and indirectly hindered their work.


The IACHR recalls that during the most recent session of the OAS General Assembly, held in Barbados in June 2002, the member states adopted a resolution on human rights defenders in the Americas, where  they resolved:


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

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., August 27, 2002