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Campaigner for Justice Attacked

March 14, 2008

On March 5, 2008, Guillermo Chen’s house was shot at six times by unknown assailants, in the city of Rabinal, in the department of Baja Verapaz. Guillermo is the director of Fundacion Nueva Esperanza, Rio Negro (New Hope Foundation, Rio Negro). Around 9:00pm while Guillermo was sitting at home with his wife and two children, two individuals on bicycles rode by the Chen household and opened fire, shooting six rounds at their front door. No one was injured. GHRC believes that this attack is directly related to Guillermo’s work campaigning for justice for crimes committed during Guatemala’s internal armed conflict (1960 – 1996).

Click here to send a message to Guatemalan authorities urging them to investigate the attacks and bring the perpetrators to justice!

A UN Truth Commission established that the Guatemalan military and paramilitary forces were responsible for 93% of human rights violations committed during the 36-year armed conflict, resulting in more than 200,000 dead or forcibly disappeared. Eight-three percent of human rights violations were carried out against Guatemala’s indigenous population.

New Hope Foundation has been campaigning to hold military officials and civil patrollers accountable for crimes committed during the internal armed conflict, especially during the Rio Negro massacre of March 13, 1982 when armed civil patrollers murdered 177 indigenous women and girls.

In recent months, Guillermo and his colleagues have ratcheted up pressure on the Guatemalan government to bring those responsible for these crimes to justice. Earlier during the day of the shooting, victims that New Hope Foundation works with provided evidence in court about the hundreds of people killed in this massacre. In February, Guillermo appeared at least 15 times at a local radio station calling for indigenous people to attend public legal hearings regarding the Río Negro massacre. Also in February, New Hope Foundation organized a delegation of survivors and witnesses of the Río Negro massacre to travel to Spain to give testimony in the case against former Guatemalan dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt and other ex-high military commanders, on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Challenging Guatemala’s Constitutional Court’s (CC) recent decision refusing to extradite Ríos Montt and others accused of crimes to Spain, New Hope Foundation filed a complaint in January charging that the CC was discriminating against Indigenous peoples. The complaint was dismissed a few days later.

GHRC fears that this attack against Guillermo and his family is an attempt to intimidate him, the New Hope Foundation, and victims in the region in order to stop them from providing evidence about past mass atrocities and campaigning for justice.


[Information for this Urgent Action has been taken from Amnesty International and Human Rights First. We appreciate their contributions!]





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