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Sun May 26, 2019, 09:36 AM

UN: Human Rights Defenders Under Attack in Guatemala

May 26, 2019 8:54 AM
Lisa Schlein

FILE - Hundreds of indigenous people, peasant farmers and activists demonstrate in the streets of Guatemala City, demanding the end of the corruption and the persecution of political leaders, May 8, 2019.

A report by the U.N. Human Rights Office finds human rights defenders, minorities and indigenous people in Guatemala are subject to widescale, wanton attacks by state and non-state actors. The report, prepared with Guatemala's National Human Rights Institution, covers the period from January 2017 to April 2019.

The U.N. human rights office has recorded an alarming 884 attacks against human rights defenders, including 39 killings during the two-year reporting period. It says human rights defenders are subject to physical attacks, threats, intimidation, surveillance, stigmatization, and gender-based violence.

The report accuses the government of misusing criminal law to silence those defending peoples' rights to lands, territories and natural resources. It notes indigenous peoples, women defenders, LGBTI defenders, and journalists are among those at particular risk of abuse.

In mid-June, Guatemalans will go to the poll to elect the President and Congress. U.N. human rights spokeswoman, Marta Hurtado said this is a particularly precarious time for human rights defenders. She said her office has documented a number of attacks against community and indigenous leaders targeted for their political involvement.


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