Guatemala: Detentions, threats and assaults of members of FREDEMI and ADISMI
FREDEMI is an alliance of various communities and organisations opposed to the mining operations in the area. ADISMI is a development organisation based in the area which works on various issues including rights to land, water, freedom of expression, and cultural identity, as well as mining-related human rights issues.
Between the hours of 03.30 and 16.00 on 28 February 2011, approximately 200 individuals from the municipality of San Miguel Ixtahaucan took part in a peaceful protest against the continued failure of the Guatemalan government and Gold Corp mining company to comply with a May 2010 decision by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights ordering the suspension of mining operations in the area.
However, as the protest dispersed and most of the participants returned in the direction of the community of San Antonio, a number of individuals were subjected to assaults, detentions, threats and harassment. Human rights defender Mr Miguel Bamaca, having not yet left the site of the protest, was violently assaulted by members of a named local family, who also stole his documents, telephone, and other items.
Furthermore, a bus carrying approximately 45 participants and a pick-up carrying a further 20, were stopped by authorities in San Jose Ixcaniche, who demanded that the participants exit from the vehicles, many of whom were subsequently physically assaulted and had their personal items confiscated.
Members of the aforementioned local family then arrived on the scene and dictated that all of the detained individuals would be taken to the office of the deputy Mayor. They then separated a number of individuals from the rest of the group, including human rights defender Mr Aniceto López who they then assaulted and threatened with death, and stole his belongings before obliging him to place a phone call to a local radio station and claim that they had not done anything wrong. It is also reported that they attempted to sexually assault Ms Alberta López, sister of Aniceto López.
Death threats were reportedly overheard being issued to a number of other individuals including Mr Carlos Loarca, a lawyer who represents FREDEMI at the Inter American Commission of Human Rights. The majority of those detained were obliged to pay a total sum of Q. 7,000 (approximately US$900) before being released. A number of those detained, including Aniceto López, were brought back to the location of the original detention and forced to clean the area before being released at approximately 23.00.
Front Line believes that the detention, physical assault and threats issued against the individuals involved in the protest were directly related to their legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights. Front Line is particularly concerned at the apparent complicity of the authorities in the abuses carried out against peaceful human rights defenders by purportedly private citizens, and remains seriously concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of all of the aforementioned human rights defenders.