Guatemala Must Ensure Full Enjoyment of Human Rights by Indigenous Peoples

 The office of Hautala met on 15th of November with Peace Brigades International and Guatemalan indigenous women human right defender, Ms. Lorena Cabnal.[:]


Meeting concerned the rights and situation of indigenous people, human rights defenders and women in Guatemala. The role of international companies and mining was also discussed in context of the livelihood of the indigenous people, Xinca in particular.


The office of Ms Hautala was informed that Ms Cabnal has received threats very recently due to the nature of her work and that her home has been raided in the past. This is deeply worrying information and it is utterly important that the authorities take immediate steps to ensure the safety of Ms Cabnal and all other human rights defenders in Guatemala.


Human rights defenders continue to suffer multiple challenges and dangers in Guatemala. Reports concerning death threats, attacks, harassment, arbitrary detention and even killings, are numerous. In many instances, the security organisations or other illegal groups are thought to be responsible for the violations. It is vitally important that specific law to protect human rights defenders be put in place and that the government take concrete steps to ensure their safety.


The need to improve the situation of the Xinca and other indigenous peoples by way of making justice system fairer for them, ensuring better right to bilingual education and improving their political representation, was also discussed in detail. These efforts are essential in strengthening the capacity of indigenous people, eradicating poverty and ensuring their continuous development.


The situation and rights of women, and the indigenous women in particular, is also in urgent need of attention. Domestic law does not protect women against discrimination, which affects the rural and indigenous women the most. They suffer multifaceted discrimination starting from their traditional clothing, lack of access to health care or education, the lack of work opportunities and exclusion from decision making.


In the meeting the mining and other activities of international enterprises was discussed. It appears that on the areas that are inhabited by the Xinca and other indigenous peoples, licences to mine and exploit other natural resources have been granted by the Guatemalan government without consulting the indigenous peoples. This, it would seem, would clearly violate the obligations of Guatemala under the ILO Convention No. 169 and disrespect the recommendations of CERD.


UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, Mr James Ananya, visited Guatemala in June 2010 to discuss the way the indigenous peoples had been consulted in relation to the extractive industries in the municipalities of Sipacapa and San Miguel. He noted that the consultation of the indigenous people has been, at best, inadequate and that the situation of exploitation of the natural resources and its impact on the indigenous peoples requires urgent response by the government.