Waldemar Barrera, Regional Representative of PDH Other staff of the PDH in Izabal

Re: Waldemar Barrera, Regional Representative of PDH Other staff of the PDH in Izabal

To: Lic. Sergio Morales, Procurator

From: Gail Davidson of LRWC

Date: 2003-05-06

LRWC is concerned about the recent raids and break-ins on Procuraduria de los Derechos Humanos (PDH) offices. We understand that unidentified individuals broke into Waldemar Barrera’s car and stole his briefcase containing PDH documents (April 4) and that on April 6 2003; the PDH offices in Puerto Barrios were raided. Files, office equipment and computers were stolen from the human rights organization were stolen during the raid.

Criminal attacks against PDH workers have been carried out over the past two years. LRWC is alarmed that there has apparently been no investigations into prior threats and harassment against staff members of this state institution. PDH staff cannot fully discharge their professional duties to uphold human rights when their security is under constant threat and their independence hampered.

Guatemala is legally responsible for ensuring that Mr. Barrera and the staff of PDH are able to conduct their human rights work free from threats of violence and intimidation. The government of Guatemala’s duty to protect human rights defenders entails: protecting the lives and professional independence of human rights defenders and identifying perpetrators of criminal acts against them through investigations, prosecutions and trials. These legal obligation arise in part from Guatemala’s membership in the United Nations (UN) and in the Organization of American States (OA). For example, the (UN) Delcaration on Human Rights Defenders (Articles 9(5) and 11) obliges Guatemala to conduct an impartial investigation into the raids referred to above.

LRWC requests to be informed of the corrective action the government of Guatemala is pursuing to bring those responsible for break-ins and threats against PDH staff to justice, as well as the the measures being taken to ensure the safety of Waldemar Barrera and all other PDH staff members at the Izabel offices.

LRWC also requests information of any investigations conducted with reference to the attacks on PDH offices and staff that have occured during the past two years. No human rights workers in Guatemala are safe in the absence of your government reliably responding to attacks on human rights defenders by conducting proper investigations, prosecutions and trials.

We look forward to receiving your reply.