Orlando Joaquin Blanco Lapola

Re: Orlando Joaquin Blanco Lapola

To: Oscar Berger Presidente de la Republica de Guatemala and Sr. Carlos David de Leon Argueta, Ministerio Publico

From: Heather D. Neun, Barrister and Solicitor and LRWC member

Date: 2004-02-04

I write on behalf of Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (“LWRC”). LWRC is a committee of Canadian lawyers providing support internationally to lawyers whose rights, safety, or independence are threatened as a result of their human rights advocacy.

I am writing in response to recent reports of threats and intimidation against Orlando Joaquin Blanco Lapola, director of Centro Internacional de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos (“CIIDH”). LWRC is very concerned about the safety of Sr. Blanco and is very alarmed by reports that he received abusive telephone calls threatening him with death on January 16 and 30 and again on February 2, 2004.

LWRC requests that the new government of Guatemala take immediate steps to ensure the safety of Orlando Joaquin Blanco Lapola. We also call on the government to conduct a full and impartial investigation into these death threats, thereafter making the results public and bringing those responsible to justice.

LWRC is gravely concerned about the increasing difficulties faced by human rights defenders in Guatemala like Sr. Blanco to carry out their legitimate work in the defence of victims of human rights violations. We remind the government of Guatemala of its obligations to protect human rights defenders under the Human Rights Defender Declaration adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1998. Article 12 of the Declaration establishes a duty on the government of Guatemala to “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 Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders has called on the government of Guatemala to immediately take measures to combat impunity and protect human rights defenders.

LWRC urges the new government of Guatemala to adhere to the principles contained in the U.N. Declaration on the Rights and Responsibilities of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. As a member of the United Nations, Guatemala is bound to take effective measures to both prevent and punish violations.