I am writing to express my grave concern over the developments occurring in Guatemala. Since the decision to terminate the mandate of Guatemala’s International Commission against Impunity (CICIG) there has been a dangerous deterioration for Guatemala, resulting in compromises of the independence of the judiciary, a cornerstone for peace and democracy.
In recent months, the persecution of justice operators has been intensified, as well as human rights defenders, defenders of the environment and territories. The situation leaves survivors and entire population vulnerable to further violence, and denigrate the dignity of the victims in their struggle for the pursuit of justice.
Through the 1996 Peace Accords, Guatemala achieved remarkable advances in the fight against impunity, human rights violations and crimes against humanity. However growing restrictions on fundamental rights, such as freedom of expression and association, is moving Guatemala back in time. The ongoing criminalization of activists, lawyers, journalists, and Indigenous community leaders who defend their lands and territories from mining extraction projects, hydroelectric projects, among others, demonstrates the degree of impunity prevailing in Guatemala.
In light of this severe democratic crisis, I urge the State of Guatemala to:
- Guarantee the rule of law, through national interpretation and applications in light of the principles and values of international law, which privileges the person in the equal treatment of the application of the law, respecting the judicial independence of the Supreme Court of Justice and the autonomy of the objective investigation of the Public Ministry and the Justice operators who defend the rule of Law and the respect for all democratic institutions; to guarantee the safety, life and integrity of human rights defenders.
Guarantee the freedom of expression, opinion, peaceful assembly and association of all Guatemalan citizens, as well as full protection for victims of human rights violations and human rights defenders, particularly from indigenous communities, activists, journalists and lawyers.
The people of Guatemala have endured enormous hardship to safeguard their fundamental rights. I urge Guatemala and the international community to uphold the principles and guarantee of Guatemala’s Constitution and international instruments to ensure peace and democracy prevail to guarantee the life and integrity of people.
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 1997
A version of the statement in Spanish is available here.