Staff and members of the non-governmental organization Donde están los niños y las niñas? (Where Are The Children?) have been facing increasing threats and violence in recent months. It is feared the increases intimidation are an attempt to prevent the organization from continuing its work investigating the circumstances surrounding the adoption of several children separated from their families during Guatemala’s 30-year civil war; an investigation which has implicated several senior military officials.
Over Easter weekend, April 8-12, 2004, the organization’s offices were burglarized. Along with computers and other office equipment, several files containing information about the role of military officers in human rights abuses were also stolen. The organization has already been forced to relocate its offices several times in the past year as a result of harassment and intimidation. [AMR34/007/2004].
In mid-March 2004, Maria Isabel Escobar Donis, a staff member of the organization, was assaulted by three men just blocks from the organization’s offices. At gunpoint the men demanded her keys and stole a vehicle belonging to the organization, as well as all of its contents.
In 2003, two staff members were assaulted as they returned from an investigation. Their bags, containing tape recordings and other documents related to the investigation, were stolen. Also in 2003, another staff member was followed on foot by an unidentified man for several kilometers as he left the organization’s office on his way to an investigation. He was only able to loose the man when he went to another NGO’s office to seek assistance.
LRWC is very concerned by the trend of increasing interference and intimidation towards Donde están los niños y las niñas? and its staff members, particularly in light of military officials being the prime target of the organization’s investigations. LRWC has written several members of the Guatemalan government requesting that a full investigation into these acts of intimidation be carried out and that proper security measures be put into place to ensure the safety of the organization’s members.
Letter Written May 8, 2004 by Heather Neun, LL.B., B.A., M. Phil.