Judith Morán Cruz and Staff Members of Centro de Reportes Informativos sobre Guatemala (“CERIGUA”)

Re: Judith Morán Cruz and Staff Members of Centro de Reportes Informativos sobre Guatemala (“CERIGUA”)

To: Marco Antonio Cortez Sis, Special Prosecutor

From: Monique Pongracic-Speier of LRWC

Date: 2003-07-07

LRWC is gravely concerned by information received from Amnesty International which leads us to conclude that Judith Morán Cruz, her family, and other staff members of CERIGUA are being harassed and threatened with death.

As you are undoubtedly aware, CERIGUA reports extensively on human rights issues in Guatemala. Ms. Cruz is a regional reporter for CERIGUA working out of the town of Salamá, Baja Verapaz department.

On June 29, 2003 at approximately 9:30 pm, Ms. Cruz received two telephone calls at her home, in which an unidentified caller threatened, “te doy 24 horas para que renunciés de CERIGUA, porque ya me colmaste la paciencia por las publicaciones que hacen allí, si no cumplís con esto, tus hijos y tu familia sufrirán las consecuencias”.

The telephone call came two weeks after CERIGUA covered the incident on June 14th 2003 in which Congressional President and presidential candidate for Frente Republicano Guatemalteco, Efraín Rios Montt, was forced to abandon a rally in Rabinal, which was occurring at the same time as a ceremony to re-bury victims killed during the military government’s counterinsurgency strategy in the 1980s. I note Mr. Montt’s history of involvement in the counter-insurgency campaign in the early 1980s.

Also, earlier this year, in February, Ms. Cruz’s bag, containing papers relating to her work for CERIGUA and her press identification, was stolen. LRWC acknowledges the possibility that this theft may have been an incident of common crime, but we are concerned that it is more likely related to her work as a journalist, especially in light of other attacks against journalists this year. For example, on June 24th 2003, newspaper editor Rubén Zamora was attacked in his home one day after publishing an editorial denouncing corruption among high-level government officials and implicating Mr. Montt as an integral part of a ‘parallel power structure’ that facilitates and breeds corruption in Guatemala.

LRWC asks the Special Prosecutor to apply the principles articulated in the following international conventions and declarations affirming the right of journalists to express themselves and pursue their profession free from harassment and violence:

  • Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states, “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression [including] . . . freedom . . . to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”;
  • Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights, which establishes that the right to freedom of expression comprises the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas by any means of communication;
  • Resolutions 59(I) and 45/76A of the United Nations General Assembly, adopted on December 14, 1946 and December 11, 1990, in which the General Assembly affirmed that freedom of information is a fundamental human right and resolved and that information in the service of humanity deserves protection;
  • Resolution 1997/27 of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on the right to freedom of opinion and expression;
  • Resolution 29, “Condemnation of violence against journalists”, adopted at the 27th Plenary Meeting of UNESCO on November 12, 1997; and
  • Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression, approved by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (“ICHR”) during its 108th regular session in October 2000. I note that at the time the Declaration was adopted, the President of the ICHR, Dr. Helio Bicudo, stated, “It is important that States begin to bring their laws into compliance with the principles of this Declaration.”

More particularly, LRWC urges the Special Prosecutor to take immediate measures to ensure the safety of Judith Morán Cruz, her family and all members of CERIGUA. We request that the office of the Special Prosecutor exercise its influence to bring about an immediate, impartial and exhaustive investigation into the threats against Ms. Cruz, to make the results public, and to bring those responsible to justice.

More generally, LRWC also wishes to express its concern at the recent escalation of attacks against, and intimidation of, human rights defenders, including journalists, following the signing of the Comisión para la Investigación de Cuerpos Illegales y Aparatos Clandestinos de Seguridad (“CICIACS”) document, which is intended to lead to the formation of a commission to investigate human rights abuses allegedly committed by illegal armed groups and clandestine security apparatus. We urge the Special Prosecutor to collaborate fully with the work of the proposed CICIACS, and to take steps to ensure that the commission comes quickly into being.

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.