Thelma de Lam, Special Prosecutor for Human Rights Defenders

Re: Thelma de Lam, Special Prosecutor for Human Rights Defenders

To: Luis Alfonso Rosales Marroquin, Procurador General de la Nacion and Lic. Manuel Arturo Soto Aguirre Ministro de Gobernacion

From: Heather Neun, LL.B., B.A., M.Phil.

Date: 2004-03-25

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 directed at Thelma de Lam, Fiscal Especial para los Defensores de los Derechos. LWRC is gravely concerned about the safety of Ms. de Lam. In particular, we are alarmed by reports that on March 11, 2003, she was followed by two men on a motorcycle in Guatemala City. When her body guards stopped the two men, they identified themselves as members of the Guatemalan Army and advised Ms. de Lam to “dejen las cosas como estan”. Later in the evening of the same day, she was followed in her car for over an hour by a pick-up truck with dark windows and no licence plates.

This type of intimidation is very worrying given Guatemala’s recent history and reports that the Public Ministry has reduced security measures and resources for the Special Prosecutor’s Human Rights Defenders Office. LWRC is concerned that the threats are aimed at stopping Ms. de Lam from continuing her investigations into “Black Thursday” and “Friday of Mourning”.

As a member of the Organization of American States, Guatemala is bound by the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man. As a member of the United Nations, Guatemala is bound to take effective measures to both prevent and punish violations.

We also remind the Government of its obligations to protect human rights defender 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 previously called on the Government of Guatemala to immediately take measures to combat impunity and protect human rights defenders.

LWRC requests that the Government of Guatemala immediately:

a. Guarantee the safety of Thelma de Lam;

b. Launch an immediate, exhaustive and impartial investigation into reports of intimidation against Thelma de Lam, with the results to be made public and those responsible brought to justice;

c. Ensure that adequate security measures and resources are provided to ensure the security of the Special Prosecutor’s Human Rights Office and all who work there.

The capacity of the Special Prosecutor’s Human Rights Office to carry out investigations into cases of abuse against human rights defenders is of paramount importance and LWRC urges the government to reverse the decision to reduce resources and security measures.

We have previously written to the Government of Guatemala on various occasions, expressing our concern for the security of various justice workers and human rights defenders in Guatemala, including Thelma de Lam. To date, we have received no response. We look forward to receiving your early reply.