Edwin Juan Colindres, Local leader of Cimitéde Unidad Campesina Other members of the CUC

Re: Edwin Juan Colindres, Local leader of Cimitéde Unidad Campesina Other members of the CUC

To: Lic. Carlos David de Leon Argueta, Attorney General

From: Gail Davidson of LRWC

Date: 2003-06-02

LRWC is concerned by reports that Mr. Colindres, a leader of the Cimitéde Unidad Campesina (CUC) is being intimidated by local paramilitaries in the community of Los Andes. Despite government settlement of a land dispute favour of the farmer peasant community, heavily armed men have been occupying the land and reports indicate that these men are keeping Colindres’ home under surveillance because of the assistance he has provided to the farmers.

Our concern for the safety of Edwin Colindres is heightened by the recent murders of two farmers from the nearby Lanqui n ll community in Morales both of whom had been involved in the dispute with local cattle-owners and were CUC members. We understand that Mr. Edi Lopez Oliva was shot and killed April 21, 2003 and that he had sustained injuries from a machete. Mr. Santiago Soto, a farmer from the same community, was killed on May 4 during a trip to Cebol.

In total, there have been five CUC killings to date. The Attorney General’s Office has given no word as to an official investigation into these two murders. In addition, no protection has been given to the Lanqui n ll community, despite promises to do so.

Guatemala as a member of the Organization of American States is bound by the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man (adopted April 1948). Although the Declaration was originally conceived as non-binding, since 1967 the provisions have been binding on member states. Guatemala is also bound, as a member of the United Nations to take effective measures to both prevent and punish violations. The Human Rights Defender Declaration (adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1998) imposed a duty to conduct prompt, effective and impartial investigation of the threats and violations against CUC members. (Articles 9(5) &11) Article 12 imposes a duty to protect CUC workers.
“States shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by competent authorities of everyone,…against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or other arbitrary action…”

We note that Hina Jilani Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders recently called on the government of Guatemala to immediately take measures to combat impunity and protect human rights defenders from attack. LRWC echos Ms Jilani’s call.

LRWC requests that the government of Guatemala take appropriate steps to redress these criminal acts and human rights violations against peasants and CUC workers. In particular LRWC requests the Government of Guatemala to:

  • Identify those responsible for the murders of Mr. Oliva and Mr. Soto through a process of effective investigation and trials,
  • Immediately put in place protective measures to ensure the safety of peasants and CUC members in the communities of Lanqui n II and Los Andes;
  • Take measures to prevent further criminal acts against the peasants and CUC members by paramilitaries.
  • Provide LRWC with confirmation of the steps taken by the government of Guatemala to redress the violations that have occurred and to prevent further violations against the peasants and members of CUC.

We look forward to receiving your reply. Thank you.