Geneva, Switzerland November 17, 2015   

Since 2004, the ICJ noted cases in which the State of Guatemala directs its punitive power against defenders of human rights by its association to peaceful actions in defense of the natural resources of different communities in Guatemala. Faced withthis practice, which undermines the right to defend human rights, says the ICJ: 1. The criminalization of social protest has become a recurrent phenomenon in Guatemala, where the criminal law is used as an instrument of repression and delegitimization of the work that the defenders of human rights carried out in the country. 

2. Special concern cause arbitrary arrests that are subject defenders human rights, working in areas of high social conflict and linked to the protection of natural resources, territories or rights of Indigenous Peoples. In some cases, the State of Guatemala has opted for the suspension of constitutional guarantees in those regions, decreeing states of prevention or site.

3. In order to know the impact of this practice, MEP Marina Albiol, visited Guatemala from 2 to 5 November this year. On that occasion, the ICJ accompanied his delegation in an on-site departments of Huehuetenango and San Marcos, to meet with defenders of human rights and to hold meetings with government officials and social movements visit.            

4. The delegation noted that the frequently and community leaders and human rights defenders are subjected to unfair, practice criminal proceedings consituye a tool for harassment of such persons.      

5. The delegation noted the case of arbitrary arrests of Ermitaño Bernardo Lopez, Rigoberto Juárez and Domingo Baltazar, Francisco Pedro (Chico Palas), Adalberto Villatoro (Don Tello), Juan Pablo Arturo Saul Mendez and Rogelio Velasquez, all of Department of Huehuetenango; in the latter two cases it has been acquitted, but both remain in detention. All have had their detention in jail or prison Huehuetenango area 18 Guatemala, under extremely difficult conditions. The above are not the only ones, because with them are detained arbitrarily other defenders of human rights Huehuetenango department and other departments.            

6. also concerned about the detention of Mauro Vay, leader and human rights defender of the CODECA organization, who is under alternative measure, but with restrictions that have affected their right to work and freedom of movement throughout 2015 in the Suchitepequez department.      

7. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has stated that the peaceful social protest is a fundamental tool for the work of defending human rights, essential for political and social criticism of governments. In this regard, States are required to ensure that no human rights defender of human rights is prevented from publicly assemble and demonstrate peacefully.      

Given these facts, Wilder Tayler, ICJ Secretary General said: "We urge the authorities of the State of Guatemala to stop the criminalization of social protest and arbitrary detentions that this phenomenon brings. Amendrentar and hinder the work of defenders of human rights is itself a violation of the right of individual rights ".