Guatemala Human Rights Commission (ghrcusa)
November 25, 2022
During the night of November 24, according to reports, numerous soldiers, police officers, and heavily armed civilian men are making incursions into the Q’eqchi and Poqomchi communities in the Sierra de las Minas, Baja Verapaz.
Already, for five days now, numerous contingents of soldiers and police officers have been occupying and controlling communities in the area. In the face of the armed and intimidating force of the military, members of the communities of Pancoc and Monjón fled their homes. Members of the army and the National Civil Police then entered and occupied the homes of community members, consumed their foods, killed and consumed their animals, and reportedly seriously injured more than one community member.
We are deeply concerned that more illegal and arbitrary evictions, including of the Dos Fuentes and Washington communities, will follow. These communities received protective orders from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in October 2020. Their rights must be respected. The Guatemalan government agreed to protect the rights to life and personal integrity of the Poqomchi’ Mayan families of the Washington and Dos Fuentes communities; use culturally appropriate measures to improve their living conditions, nutrition, and access to water; prevent acts of violence by third parties; and investigate the attacks that led to the granting of protective measures.
Instead, your government took action that put Indigenous communities at greater risk, in 2021 creating the Observatory on Property Rights and a special Prosecutors Office for the Crime of Usurpation—usurpation being a charge often levelled against Indigenous communities claiming their ancestral lands. Two months ago, the Guatemalan army inaugurated its first new military brigade in ten years, based in Baja Verapaz.
The entire Sierra de Las Minas area is now militarized, and as a result of the heavy presence of soldiers and police officers, members of Indigenous communities have not been able to freely circulate to carry out essential tasks of daily life.
Your government has systematically and repeatedly violated basic standards that evictions must meet under international law. Various Poqomchi’ and Q’eqchi communities now fearfully await illegal and arbitrary forced eviction.
We urge the Guatemalan government to:
- guarantee community members’ rights to life, liberty, and physical safety;
- cancel eviction orders that violate human rights and international standards, and place Indigenous communities, including families with children, in grave danger;
- immediately demilitarize the Sierra de Las Minas area and guarantee the safety and free movement of members of these threatened Indigenous communities;
comply with all obligations in the IACHR precautionary measures for the communities of Dos Fuentes and Washington, as well as obligations of the Guatemalan Constitution and international treaties adopted by Guatemala related to demilitarization and Indigenous rights.