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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
07GUATEMALA1328
2007-07-05 17:53:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Guatemala
Cable title:  

THREATS AGAINST HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS IN GUATEMALA

Tags:   PHUM  PGOV  KJUS  EAID  KCRM  KDEM  GT 
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RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHGT #1328/01 1861753
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 051753Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY GUATEMALA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3177
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO 4388
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0842
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0146
						UNCLAS GUATEMALA 001328 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KJUS EAID KCRM KDEM GT
SUBJECT: THREATS AGAINST HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS IN GUATEMALA


Sensitive but unclassified. Please protect accordingly.

UNCLAS GUATEMALA 001328

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KJUS EAID KCRM KDEM GT
SUBJECT: THREATS AGAINST HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS IN GUATEMALA


Sensitive but unclassified. Please protect accordingly.


1. (U) Summary: The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
(UNHCHR) called for investigation of threats and other acts
of intimidation against human rights defenders and protective
measures during a presentation on the current situation of
human rights defenders in Guatemala. Civil society
representatives urged government agencies to strengthen
public policy and to collaborate on investigation and
prosecution. Guatemala's Presidential Human Rights
Commissioner urged congressional approval of the
International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala
(CICIG), while the Minister of Government outlined a
three-step approach -- prevention, investigation, and
analysis -- to address the growing problem. End summary.


2. (U) In the wake of numerous attacks and threats against
human rights defenders over the past few months, UNHCHR
Anders Kompass focused public attention on the problem and
urged preventive and protective measures during a June 29
presentation to the international community, civil society,
government, and local press. In attendance were ambassadors,
including the U.S. and British ambassadors, the Attorney
General, Minister of Government, Presidential Human Rights
Commissioner, representatives of the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, and representatives of various local and
international human rights organizations.


3. (U) UNHCHR Kompass expressed deep concern over the
increasing number of threats against human rights defenders,
which he said suggests a systemic mode of intimidation. He
attributed impunity as the fundamental cause of the pervasive
climate of fear gripping Guatemalan society, and stressed the
need for new, more effective measures, as well as stronger
public policy, to protect human rights defenders.


4. (U) Deputy Human Rights Ombudsman Maria Eugenia Morales
recalled that government institutions have an obligation
under the constitution to protect citizens, and called for
greater collaboration to fight impunity. Presidential Human

Rights Commissioner Frank La Rue underscored that the State
has a permanent obligation to protect human rights defenders
and to promote democracy and that "respect for human rights
is a measure of democracy." Noting the greater number of
threats against human rights defenders during an election
year and the lack of guarantee of police protection in
Guatemala, La Rue urged a public policy to provide greater
protection to human rights defenders. He also urged the use
of tax revenues for additional security measures and approval
of CICIG as an essential mechanism for combating impunity.
He stressed that security is a human right for all sectors of
society, dismissing the conceptual distinction from the
protracted debate on CICIACS (the precursor to CICIG) of
security for human rights defenders and security for the rest
of society.


5. (U) Minister of Government Torrebiarte expressed gratitude
to the international community for its support on
investigation and capacity-building. She described the
cornerstone of the Ministry's work as establishing security
and combating impunity, and outlined her top five priorities:
purging and restructuring the National Civilian Police,
strengthening internal controls, strengthening and taking
control of the penal system, creating a preventive model and
a management model for security, and implementing the
government's civil intelligence unit (DIGICI).


6. (U) Torrebiarte outlined the Ministry's three-step
approach, consisting of prevention, investigation, and
analysis, to respond to threats against human rights
defenders. In the area of prevention, the Ministry will
provide attention to victims through the National Civilian
Police emergency hotline. It will train a response team to
ensure prompt and effective attention to emergency calls from
women and human rights defenders, and provide protective
measures upon request. In addition, it will create a
specialized unit of investigators and assign investigators to
the metropolitan office of the prosecutor for crimes against
women and to its municipal offices. In the area of analysis,
it will create space for dialogue with civil society to
better understand the possible sources and patterns of
aggression.

7. (U) When asked what concrete actions have been taken by
the Attorney General's Office in response to threats against
human rights defenders, Attorney General Florido pointed out
that the Prosecutor's Office for Crimes Against Human Rights
Activists was created only three years ago and that Guatemala
has had a long history of violence. He enumerated the many
challenges confronting the office, including insufficient
personnel (only six) and vehicles. A representative from the
Ministry of Government reported that there were five cases
currently under investigation.


8. (U) In its preliminary report on the situation of human
rights defenders from January to April 2007, which was
provided during the presentation, the National Movement for
Human Rights reported that the first four months of 2007
registered a total of 89 threats and attacks against human
rights defenders, compared to 75 during the same period in

2006. The month of January, in particular, registered a
level of violence much higher than in previous years, with
1.13 threats or attacks per day. By April, that number had
decreased to .23 per day.


9. (U) Environmentalists were the most targeted group of
human rights defenders (19 attacks), followed by defenders of
the right to justice (16 attacks), and labor union leaders
(11 attacks). Attacks against justice sector defenders were
attributed in large part to aggravation of the security
situation and exposition of police officers involved in
extrajudicial killings that put at risk the Institute of
Comparative Studies in Penal Sciences, as well as other
groups that have denounced the activities of police officers.
During the four-month period, four murders, two attempted
murders, one kidnapping, 10 break-ins, 26 telephone threats,
13 written threats, and four threats in person were reported.
The majority of the attacks (58 of the 89) took place in the
Department of Guatemala and targeted men (61.68 percent),
while 13.15 percent targeted women and 15.17 percent were
aimed at groups or institutions.


10. (SBU) Comment: The increase in the number of threats and
other acts of intimidation against human rights defenders is
troubling although not surprising given the increase in the
general level of crime and impunity in Guatemala. This
well-attended, high-level presentation provided greater
visibility to human rights defenders, the challenges and
risks they face, and their demands for greater protection.
Guatemalan government officials recognize the problem and
seem well intended; however, with the Attorney General's
Office, like most Guatemalan institutions, continuing to
suffer from lack of capacity, the extent of further actions
in the few months remaining before a new administration takes
office may be limited.
Derham