Re: Carlos Cuasace Surubi, President of Organización Indígena Chiquitana Juan Pinto, President of Centro Indígena de Comunidades de Concepción
To: Minster of the Presidency, Justice and Human Rights of Belize
From: Catherine A. Morris of LRWC
We have become concerned about information we have received through Amnesty International about an ongoing and worrying pattern of attacks and death threats against lawyers and legal aid workers from the non?governmental organization Centro de Estudios Jurídicos e Investigación Social (CEJIS), Centre for Legal Studies and Social Research since 2001. We understand that on September 17, 2002, the office of the OICH received a telephone call from a person who identified himself as the President of the local Civic Committee stating that the CEJIS lawyer, Leonardo Tamburini, a legal advisor to the Chiquitana community, should leave the area within three hours. We understand that since then, Leonardo Tamburini has not been able to carry out his work out of fear for his personal safety.
Very recently, on April 28, 2003, Mr. Carlos Cuasace Surubí, President of Organización Indígena Chiquitana (OICH), Chiquitana Indigenous Organization and Mr. Juan Pinto, President of Centro Indígena de Comunidades de Concepción (CICC), Indigenous Centre of Communities of Concepción received a threat from an individual following a meeting at the OICH office in the town of Concepción. As Mr. Carlos Cuasace Surubí and Mr. Juan Pinto left the OICH office, they were approached by an individual who threatened to kill them and blow up their office if they continued to denounce the manager of the Cooperativa ‘La Unidad’ landholding. We understand the State Prosecutor had previously begun a criminal investigation against the Cooperativa ‘La Unidad’.
We are concerned for the safety of these individuals. We understand that these various threats have all been against the legal advisors and leaders of indigenous organizations involved in an ongoing land dispute in the territory of Monte Verde. Our information is that in October 1996, the President of the Republic of Bolivia announced INRA Law 1715 which recognized the territory of Monte Verde and ordered resolution of the land issues and granting of land titles in the territory within ten months of the announcement. We understand that the dispute resolution process has not yet been completed.
We hope you will be able to take immediate measures to guarantee the safety of lawyers and legal aid workers to are exercising their rights and duties in the representation of their clients. We also hope you will call for an immediate, full and impartial investigation into the threats and intimidation against all of the above-named individuals and groups, and that all those responsible will be brought to justice. We also urge your government to take appropriate actions to expedite the process of dispute resolution in this matter so as to prevent violence.
We would greatly appreciate your government’s response to LRWC by mail, email or fax in response to these matters and of all the actions taken by your government to address this ongoing dispute and the immediate threats to lawyers and leaders of indigenous community. We look forward to hearing from you at the earliest possible time.