Edda Gaviola and other members of CALDH–Human rights defenders

On 14 July 2004, the home of Edda Gaviola, director of the Centro para Acción Legal en Derechos Humanos (CALDH), the Centre for Human Rights Legal Action, was broken into. Nothing was stolen, but intimidating messages were left. The following day Edda Gaviola returned home accompanied by United Nations personnel to find that her home had been broken into again. This time her personal papers had been thoroughly searched, though no objects of value were stolen. On the night of 16 July one of CALDH’s offices was broken into. A laptop computer and a mobile phone were stolen and papers containing important information about their work with youth organisations were searched. A large quantity of valuable equipment was left untouched. Following the temporary kidnapping of CALDH’s driver in March 2004, protection measures were introduced at their offices. Authorities agreed to increase the protection to a 24 hour permanent police presence following the break-in at Edda Gaviola’s home. Despite this the break-in still occurred.

CALDH is legal advisor to survivors of the Plan de Sánchez massacre in which 268 inhabitants of Plan de Sánchez, Baja Verapaz were killed by Guatemalan armed forces on 18 July 1982. On 17 July 2004, a witness of the Plan de Sánchez massacre heard a motorcycle approaching his community and home. In the early hours of the morning, a box was found containing a death threat which read, “PRONTO SERAS MUERTO, POR SER TESTIGO DE LA MASACRE DE PLAN DE SANCHEZ Y POR SER RESPONSIBLE DEL CONDENA DEL ESTADO DE GUATEMALA ESTA ES TU QUERIDO PREMIO PRONTO SERAS ASESINADO FELIZ ANIVERSARIO DEL 18 JULIO” (Soon you will be dead, for being witness to the massacre of Plan de Sanchez and for being responsible for the conviction of the state of Guatemala this is your dearest prize soon you will be killed happy anniversary of 18 July.)

Amnesty International fears that these latest acts of intimidation and surveillance represent a clear attempt to intimidate massacre survivors and CALDH staff to stop campaigning for justice and working on highly sensitive human rights issues. CALDH has been instrumental in pressing the Guatemalan authorities to persecute those responsible for carrying out massacres during the conflict years. CALDH is also part of the coalition promoting the creation of the proposed Commission for the Investigation of Illegal Bodies and Clandestine Security Apparatus (CICIACS) and in calling for investigations into the increasing number of killings of women in Guatemala. Edda Gaviola is herself one of CALDH’s representatives to the CICIACS coalition.


Letter written July 29, 2004 by James P. Tate, Esq.