Jose Israel Lopez Lopez and others working at the Oficina Regional de Chimaltenango de la PDH

Re: Jose Israel Lopez Lopez and others working at the Oficina Regional de Chimaltenango de la Procuraduria de Derechos Humanos (PDH)

To: President Lic. Alfonso Portillo Cabrera, Attorney General Lic. Carlos David de Leon Argueta and Lic. Adolfo Reyes Calderon, Ministro de Gobernacion.

From: Gail Davidson, LRWC Director

Date: 2003-06-23

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) is a committee of Canadian lawyers that provides support internationally to lawyers and human rights defenders in danger because of their advocacy. LRWC also promotes the enforcement of international human rights standards that protect the duty and right of lawyers to uphold the rule of law.

We urge you to ensure that the government of Guatemala react appropriately to the recent assassination of Jose Israel Lopez Lopez, the Auxiliar de la PDH. It appears clear, from the information available to LRWC, that Mr. Lopez was murdered to prevent him and to deter others from continuing his work and that the government of Guatemala failed miserable to comply with their legal obligation to safeguard Mr. Lopez’ safety and independence.

We base these initial conclusions on the facts that: a) Mr. Lopez was murdered two months after the previous Auxiliar was forced by numerous death threats to vacate the job, b) Mr.Lopez was assassinated while conducting an investigation for the PDH and c) the murder of Mr. Lopea was the fourth murder of a PDH staff member in the past ten months.

LRWC urges you to ensure that the government of Guatemala takes all actions necessary measures to ensure that the individuals responsible for this dreadful murder are identified and punished through a process of investigation, prosecution and trial.

LRWC is very concerned also for the safety of other PDH members. We note that PDH staff have often been targeted with both violence and threats as reprisals for their human rights work. As PDH is the primary government organization responsible for investigating human rights violations, it is essential that the independence and safety of PDH staff are adequately protected so that they are able to work free from danger, threats, harassment, intimidation and reprisals.

LRWC urges you to ensure that the responsible authorities take all other necessary steps to ensure that Guatemala complies with both the letter and spirit of the UN Declaration on the Rights and Responsibilities of Individuals, Groups and Institutions to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Liberties. This Declaration recognizes the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders and their right to carry out their activities without any restrictions or fear of reprisals.

LRWC calls upon the government of Guatemala to immediately: investigate the murder of Mr. Lopez and all the attacks and threats against other PDH worker and to identify those responsible by a process of prosecution and trial, and; provide security for PDH workers throughout Guatemala that is adequate to ensure both their physical safety and their independence, and; comply with Guatemala’s international obligations, arising from membership in the United Nations and in the Organization of American States, to protect human rights defenders and to provide remedies for human rights violations.

We look forward to receiving from you details of all measures taken by the government of Guatemala in response to the murder of Mr. Lopez.