On March 8, 2009, Assistant Prosecutor Rudy Manuel Herrera, 45 years-old, was assassinated on the 13th Street, Italy Settlement, Colonia El Limón, Zone 18. Mr. Herrera’s son, Eddy Herrera Merida, 18, was also wounded and was transferred to the Hospital in San Juan de Dios with a gunshot wound to the back .
It is reported that Mr. Manuel Herrera and his son was walking to his house when a minor, who was 16 years-old approached them and attacked the two with a gun. The minor then fled the scene after the attack. It is believed that the minor recently joined a gang called “El Gangster” . Members of this gang have been active and are known to the police. They have been linked to more than 20 deaths and the police has apprehended 10 members from this group for criminal charges . The police also linked this group to a recent killing of 5 policemen and the attack on the headquarters of the prison system .
It is believed that this attack is linked to Mr. Manuel Herrera’s involvement in the investigation into a series of car theft which is believed to be linked to organized crime .
Mr. Manuel Herrera has spent 12 years working at the Public Ministry and he was working in the Prosecutor’s Office against Organized Crime.
On March 12, 2009, Mr. Rony Lopez, who is the Chief Prosecutor against Organized Crime was also attacked in his house when an AK-47 rifle was used to shoot into his house. It is believed that this act was to intimidate Mr. Lopez. Luckily, Mr. Lopez escaped uninjured.
LRWC wrote on March 18th, 2009 expressing concerns for professionals in the legal justice system who has come under attack for their work. LRWC asked the government of Guatemala to take immediate action to ensure the security of Mr. Lopez and his family against intimidation and attack. In addition, LRWC also asked the government to investigate the murder of Mr. Herrera and apprehend the appropriate persons responsible.
LRWC also expressed concerns on the growing attacks on members of the legal system and human rights activists in Guatemala. One of these attacks includes the murder of Attorney Miss Erick Moisés Gálvez in May 2005. The case remains unsolved to this date. Also, Armando Donaldo Sanchez Betancurt, a lawyer, was murdered on December 23, 2008 in the town of Coatepeque. Mr. Betancurt represented fired workers and a group of market vendors who were trying to stop the municipality from forcibly relocating them. He had received threats prior to his murder. As a result of these attacks, these professionals are constantly living in fear in carrying out their line of work. Also it has weaken the rule of law in the country and a lack of confidence among Guatemalans in the justice and public system. LRWC also reminded the Guatemalan government that it is a signatory to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, therefore there is an obligation to respond to the massive and systemic violation of human rights facing the country.
LRWC also asked the government of Guatemala to provide the necessary resources to provide these individuals at risk. In addition, LRWC asked the government to investigate into all the attacks to these members of the legal community.
Letter written March 16, 2009 by Brenda J. Wemp, member of LRWC.