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ACTION URGENTE

 

GUATEMALA

 

 August 2nd ,  2008

 

 Amilcar de Jesús Pop Ac

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threatened with death at gunpoint by masked men,

 apparently in connection with his work as President of the Mayan Lawyers’ Association (Asociación de Abogados Mayas).

His life is at risk.

 

 

Source    Human Rights First

 

 

 

 

On August 2 two masked men swerved in front of Amilcar Pop's car, forcing him to a violent stop. The men drew guns and beat on the windows of the Guatemalan lawyer's car shouting that they would kill him. Despite injuries from the accident, Pop was able to reverse his car and escape.

As President of the Guatemalan Association of Mayan Lawyers, Amilcar Pop works in defense of human rights and against discrimination and racism. The attempt on his life is the latest incident in a series of threats and harassment, including baseless prosecutions and anonymous letters and phone calls.

On the night , as he drove through the capital, Guatemala City, Amilcar Pop was followed by a white pick-up truck without license plates. The pick-up truck accelerated, pulled out in front of Amilcar Pop’s car and forced him to make an emergency stop, injuring himself in the process. Two masked men armed with pistols got out of the pick-up truck and tried to force open Amilcar Pop’s car doors, shouting “you don’t learn” (vos no aprendés). The men also shouted “We’re going to kill you, you’re dead already. It’s no trouble for us to put a couple of bullets in you and send you to the next life” (te vamos a matar, ya estás muerto. No nos cuesta nada darte un poco de balazos y mandarte al otro mundo). Amilcar Pop managed to accelerate away, and was pursued by the pick-up truck for over 30 minutes. When he believed he was no longer being followed, he went to a local hospital where he sought treatment for the injuries he sustained while stopping his car. Upon entering the hospital, he looked out the window and saw that the white pick-up truck had continued to follow him and had parked behind his car. When he left the hospital in the early morning of 2 August, the pick-up truck had gone.

Threatening phone calls have previously been made to Amilcar Pop’s home. In May 2007, his wife answered one of these calls and was told “you’re getting yourselves mixed up in stupid things, take care, we’re going to kill your husband” (se están metiendo en babosadas, tengan cuidado, le vamos a matar a su esposo) Amilcar Pop passed the phone number of the caller to the authorities and made a formal complaint. The Public Prosecutor’s Office opened an investigation, but there has been no progress to date.

Amilcar Pop believes this incident is related to his work with Indigenous peoples in the municipality of San Juan Sacatepéquez, close to Guatemala City. In the past few years, the Mayan Lawyers’ Association has helped communities in San Juan Sacatepéquez, who are asserting their right to be consulted about the construction of a cement plant in the area. In June, following a killing believed to be related to the dispute over the cement plant, the President of Guatemala ordered a State of Emergency to be declared in the area of San Juan Sacatepéquez.

Following previous threats against them, in November 2007 the members of the Mayan Lawyers’ Association and leaders of the community in San Juan Sacatepéquez asked the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to order the Guatemalan government authorities to ensure their safety.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in Spanish or your own language:

- expressing concern for the safety of Amilcar Pop, for his family and for other members of the Mayan Lawyers’ Association;

- urging the President and the Minister of the Interior to ensure that immediate measures are taken to guarantee the safety of Amilcar Pop in strict accordance with his wishes;

- calling for the Attorney General to order an immediate, thorough and swift investigation into this incident, with the results made public and those responsible brought to justice;

- reminding the authorities of the right of human rights defenders to carry out their activities without any restrictions or fear of reprisals, as set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights and Responsibilities of Individuals, Groups and Institutions to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

Please take action for the safety of Amilcar Pop.

Copy the enclosed letter and send it to the address provided.

 

Target adresses: 

APPEALS TO:

President of Guatemala
Lic. Álvaro Colom
Casa Presidencial, 6ª Avenida, 4-18, Zona 1.
Ciudad de Guatemala,
Guatemala
Fax + 502 2221 4423
+ 502 2238 3579
Salutation: Dear President / Estimado Sr. Presidente

Attorney General and Head of the Public Prosecutor’s Office
Lic. José Amílcar Velásquez Zárate
Fiscal General de la República y Jefe del Ministerio Público
8ª Avenida 10-67, Zona 1,
Antiguo Edificio del Banco de los Trabajadores,
Ciudad de Guatemala,
GUATEMALA
Fax: +502 2411 9124/
+502 2411 9326
Salutation: Dear Attorney General / Estimado Sr. Fiscal General

Minister of the Interior
Francisco José Jiménez Irungaray
Ministro de Gobernación
6ª Avenida 13-71, Zona 1,
Ciudad de Guatemala,
GUATEMALA
Fax: +502 2413 8658
Salutation: Dear Minister/Estimado Sr. Ministro

Letter: 

 

Your Excellency,

I am writing to express my concern about the recent attack against Amilcar de Jesus Pop Ac. Just after 12:00 a.m. on August 2, 2008, Pop was driving home from the Roosvelt area in zone 11 of Guatemala City when he noticed he was being followed by three men in a white dual-cabin pick up truck, with tinted windows and no number plates. The vehicle swerved in front of Pop, forcing him to break suddenly and causing him to collide with the steering wheel which produced various injuries including lacerations to his tongue. Two masked men approached Pop on either side of his car. With guns drawn they beat on the windows of Pop's car, tried to open the doors, and shouted that they would kill him. Pop escaped by quickly reversing, and then driving for 45 minutes at high speeds to escape the perpetrators, who continued to follow him for most of that time.

After evading his pursuers, and given considerable bleeding from his tongue, he went to Sanatoria Cedros de Libano hospital in Guatemala City where he received treatment for his wounds and stitches to his tongue. While waiting for treatment at the hospital he noticed that the white pick-up truck was parked behind his car on the second level of the car park. When he was discharged at 6:00 a.m. the white truck had disappeared.

 

Pop is a renowned indigenous lawyer and President of the Association of Mayan Lawyers and Notaries. The Association is a non-government organization that rejects all forms of violence. Since 2006 Pop and the Association have represented the largely indigenous communities of San Juan Sacatepequez in their opposition to a cement factory. They have also represented more than 20 community members accused of various offences in connection to their opposition of the factory. They also represent approximately 40 people detained in June 2008 in San Juan Sacatepequez around the time that martial law was declared.

 

I fear that the recent attack against Pop is part of a pattern of intimidation intended to deter him from his advocacy. In the final week of May 2008 he received threatening phone calls at his house. Between October 2007 and January 2008 the Association received telephone threats and between May 2007 and January 2008 the Association also received anonymous letters and pamphlets with death threats.[1] These various communications had a common message: stop providing legal representation to indigenous communities opposing the cement factory. Finally, despite a lack of evidence, local authorities have accused Pop of threatening local community members and others have falsely accused him of being the intellectual author of the June 2008 murder of Francisco Tepeu Piri in San Juan Sacatepequez.

 

Article 16 of the U.N. Basic Principles on Lawyers state that "governments shall ensure that lawyers... are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference." Article 17 continues that "where the[ir] security ... is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities."

 

In light of the various threats and the very serious attempt on Pop's life, and in line with the Basic Principles, I ask that you re-evaluate and promptly upgrade his protection, and that of his family and colleagues at the Mayan Lawyers Association. Given the gravity of the attack against him, he should immediately be provided with police or bodyguard protection especially at his residence. I also ask that you ensure the police promptly and impartially investigate the attack and cooperate with the Attorney-General's office in prosecuting those responsible.

 

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

 

Yours sincerely,

COPIES TO:

Mayan Lawyers’ Association
Asociación de Abogados Mayas
10 avenida 10-58 zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala,
GUATEMALA

TAKE ACTION NOW

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