Fernando Lopez, Director of CALDH

Re: Fernando Lopez, Director of CALDH

To: Lic. Sergio Morales, Prosecutor

From: Monique Pongracic-Speier of LRWC

Date: 2003-09-23

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (“LRWC”), a committee of Canadian lawyers, provides support internationally to human rights defenders and promotes the enforcement of human rights standards and the rule of law.

LRWC is extremely disturbed by reports from Amnesty International that Guatemalan human rights activist Fernando López received a written death threat this week. We are also concerned that his colleagues in CALDH may be vulnerable to similar threats or, worse, violence.

Mr. López was in a pharmacy near the CALDH offices in zone 1 of Guatemala City at approximately 1:30 pm on September 22, 2003 when the anonymous death threat was left in his car. The handwritten note stated: “Fernando López: te bigilamos (sic.) desde el 80. Dejá de chingarnos o te quebramos el cul hijo de puta.” We understand that Mr. López reported the threat to the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Misión de Verificación de las Naciones Unidades en Guatemala (“MINUGUA”).

We believe that it is relevant to the context of this situation that on September 22, 2003, CALDH co-signed a press statement with the Asociación Justicia y Reconciliación (“AJR”) denouncing the planned campaign visit of Congressional President Efraín Ríos Montt to the town of Playa Grande in the Ixcán region of the El Quiché department. Tens of thousands of indigenous people, including thousands from the Ixcán area, died during the counterinsurgency campaign associated with Mr. Montt’s tenure as head of state from March 1982 to August 1983. CALDH and AJR have filed law suits against Mr. Montt and members of his previous administration in connection with this genocide. Mr. López, as head of the CALDH legal team, has been the driving force behind the suits.

Mr. Procurator, LRWC shares the concern of Amnesty International that the death threat against Mr. López may have been issued by, or with the complicity of, the official security forces to intimidate Mr. López and the CALDH legal team into abandoning their law suits. We note that, in the past, members of CALDH have been targeted with threats and violence because of their human rights work.

LRWC calls on you to cooperate in a prompt, impartial and exhaustive investigation into the death threat against Mr. López. We urge you to make the results public and to bring those responsible to justice.

Further, we urge you to support immediate and effective measures to protect Mr. López’s safety and the safety of the members of the CALDH legal team, in accordance with their wishes.

As a party to the key international human rights treaties, Guatemala has assumed important positive obligations to protect and promote human rights. Guatemala is party to the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its Optional Protocol, the American Convention on Human Rights, and the Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, among other treaties.

Further, as a member of the international community, Guatemala ought to heed the 1998 UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which evidences the general and international acceptance of an obligation to protect those who work in the cause of human rights protection and promotion.

LRWC expects, and sincerely hopes, that Guatemala will fulfill its legal and moral obligations to protect those human rights defenders who live and work within the country’s borders.

I also reiterate LRWC’s concern (previously expressed in my August 15, 2003 letter to the President, Attorney General, Minister of Interior and others concerning threats to the safety of Rigoberta Menchú Tum and other members of the Fundación Rigoberta Menchú Tum) about the lack of apparent progress being made to bring to justice those responsible for the human rights abuses, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during the armed conflict of the early 1980s. The slow pace of progress was documented, for example, in the December 6, 2002 Report of Hina Jilani, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations on the situation of human rights defenders in Guatemala (E/CN.4/2003/104/Add.2):

[T]he Special Representative notes . . . a decline in the commitment of the Government to pursue the goals set by the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights (Acuerdo Global sobre los Derechos Humanos) and the human rights components of the peace agreements.

Mr. Procurator, I urge you to work with others in the Government of Guatemala to make a renewed commitment to implement the human rights-related elements of the peace accords and the Historical Clarification Commission. LRWC respectfully suggests that this commitment is essential to future peace and prosperity in Guatemala.

Please advise LRWC, by mail, e-mail or fax, of the actions that you are taking in relation to the matters discussed above. LRWC awaits your response.