Threats against Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Francisco Menchú and other FRMT staff

Re: Threats against Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Francisco Menchú and other Fundación Rigoberta Menchú Tum (“FRMT”) staff.

To: Lic. Alfonso Portillo Cabrera, Presidente de la República de Guatemala

From: Heather Neun, LRWC member

Date: 2003-08-15

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.

LRWC is concerned by recent reports of additional threats and intimidation directed at the Fundación Rigoberta Menchú Tum (“FRMT”). LWRC is gravely concerned about the safety of Rigoberto Menchú Tum, Francisco Menchú and Gustavo Meoño Brenner and all of the staff of FRMT. In particular, LRWC is alarmed by the following reports:

1. ongoing surveillance and intimidation of staff at the FRMT office, beginning on July 26, 2003;

2. the apprehension and savage attack on Francisco Menchú on August 10, 2003, followed by anonymous threatening telephone calls;

3. an incident on August 8, 2003 wherein Rigoberta Menchú Tum, was followed by an individual in a truck that unsuccessfully attempted to crash into her vehicle.

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 you of Guatemala’s 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 member states 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…”

Hina Jilani, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders recently 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. take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of the FRMT staff members; b. launch an impartial and thorough investigation into the kidnapping of Francisco Menchú and other incidents of intimidation, with the results to be made public and those responsible brought to justice; c. provide LWRC with confirmation of steps it has taken to redress the violations that have occurred and prevent further violations against the staff of FRMT.
We look forward to receiving your reply.