Edda Gaviola and other members of CALDH–Human rights defenders

On 1 August, 2004, a handwritten note was left at the CALDH regional office in the town of Rabinal, in the Baja Verapaz mountains north of Guatemala city. The note named the witness to the massacre and warned that “if you carry on talking to the human rights people about the massacre the days of the 80s may return”. During the 1980s Guatemala was under military rule, and the army and paramilitary groups carried out several hundred massacres, including the 1982 Plan de Sánchez massacre. The note also warned that “if you don’t leave this land … you are going to die very soon”.

CALDH director Edda Gaviola, whose house in Guatemala City was burgled twice in July, has been followed by cars with tinted windows. Another CALDH staff member has reported seeing cars with tinted windows driving past her house repeatedly. On the night of 28 July three men visited her: she recognised two of them as local, and they introduced the third man by a military title. They seemed friendly, and told her they were worried about her because they had seen strange men loitering near her house, and suggested this was connected with her work.

The police should have been providing 24-hour protection to CALDH offices in the capital since mid-July. CALDH say the police officers regularly disappear for hours at a time, and ignore the cars that appear to be keeping the offices under observation. On 30 July, anonymous phone calls to the CALDH headquarters in Guatemala City claimed that a bomb had been planted in the office. That day a man had loitered outside the office all morning, and talked to the driver of a car with tinted windows that passed the office, but the police had done nothing.