2015 Alice Zachmann Human Rights Defenders Award Celebration and Fall Speaking Tour: Celebrating Community Journalism in Guatemala
The ceremony took place on November 3 at 6:30 PM (program at 7) at St. Stephen’s Church (located at 1525 Newton St. NW) in Washington, DC.
GHRC selected Prensa Comunitaria for its commitment to grassroots journalism and its focus on documenting important community struggles that often receive little to no coverage in the mainstream media. Journalism is a dangerous profession in Guatemala, and correspondents from Prensa Comunitaria have continued to challenge the systems that seek to silence them.
Lorenzo Mateo Francisco, a member of Prensa Comunitaria and an indigenous leader from Huehuetenango, will receive this year’s award on behalf of the organization. Lorenzo currently serves as the coordinator of the Snuq’ Jolom Konob’ community radio station in Santa Eulalia. Lorenzo will then join GHRC on a speaking tour in cities on the US East Coast and in the Midwest, and will be the featured speaker at the Chicago Religious Leadership Network’s Annual Luncheon event.
Congressional Briefing: Central America’s Unresolved Crisis
GHRC Executive Director Kelsey Alford-Jones participated as a panelist in a congressional briefing about migration on September 16 at 122 Cannon House Office Building.
Delegation to Guatemala
GHRC’s 2015 open delegation to Guatemala took place August 1-9, 2015.
GHRC’s delegation met with leaders who have been on the front lines of struggles to defend land and the environment, promote women’s rights, and push for justice for crimes of the past. We spoke with a diverse group of women, including representatives of civil society, survivors of violence and community leaders.
In the past, students, professors, religious leaders, lawyers and activists have participated in delegations. Anyone is welcome to apply.
The Legacy of Sexual Violence in Guatemala: Mayan Women´s Struggle for Justice in the Sepur Zarco Case
From April 12-20, GHRC accompanied human rights lawyer Gabriela Rivera on a speaking tour in Oregon and Washington, DC.
Gabriela Rivera works for the Association of Women Transforming the World (MTM), a part of the Alliance for Breaking the Silence and Ending Impunity. This Alliance was formed to pursue justice for Q’eqchi women who have suffered sexual violence, including acts of violence committed during Guatemala’s internal armed conflict.
Gabriela and the team at MTM are currently litigating a case of sexual slavery of Q’eqchi’ women at a military outpost in Sepur Zarco in Izabal between 1982 and 1988.
Gabriela Rivera has a long history of working with women survivors of sexual violence, other forms of violence against women, and the deprivation of freedom for women. She also has experience creating and presenting petitions to the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR), and has consulted and advised in individual human rights cases.
Congressional Briefing: Latin American Human Rights Defenders on the Impact of U.S. Security Policy in Mexico, Central America and Colombia
DATE: Wednesday, October 29th, 2014
TIME: 1:00-2:30 PM
LOCATION: 2226 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515
In early June, an unprecedented influx of child migrants fleeing violence in their communities led to a humanitarian emergency along our southern border. Late last month, 43 students in the western Mexican state of Guerrero disappeared after being detained by local police. Though the U.S. has provided hundreds of millions of dollars of assistance to security forces in Mexico and Central America, violence continues to rage in these countries, and — all too often — police and military agents from these countries appear to be a part of the problem.
While some policy makers and political leaders are calling for a Central American “Plan Colombia” to address drug-trafficking and rampant violent crime, human rights groups consider that heavy-handed and militarized enforcement methods, similar to those deployed under Plan Colombia, are making the situation worse.
This panel of leading human rights defenders from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Colombia will discuss the ongoing violence taking place in their countries and offer their perspectives on the impact of current U.S. security policy in the region.
Maria Luisa Aguilar is the Advocacy Coordinator at Tlachinollan, a Mexican human rights group currently accompanying the families of the 43 students who were detained by the police and are still disappeared.
Alberto Yepes is the coordinator of the Observatory of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, Colombia-Europe-U.S. Coordination.
Iduvina Hernández Batres is a Guatemalan journalist and the Executive Director of SEDEM, an organization that promotes democratic controls over citizen security.
Bertha Oliva is the founder and coordinator of the Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras.
Reclaiming Our Rights and Our Dignity: The Struggles of Maya Kaqchikel and Mestizo Communities in Guatemala
From November 4-14, GHRC will accompany Miriam Pixtún on a tour in the Midwest of the US. View the schedule here.
In September of 2013, the town of Nacahuil — a Maya Kaqchikel community located about one hour from Guatemala City — suffered a horrific attack. Unknown gunman sprayed bullets across the town’s main street, then viciously hunted people down; 11 people were killed and 15 more were injured, including two young girls. Nacahuil is one of many Guatemalan communities active in resisting the encroachment of mines, dams, and other mega-development projects onto its territory. Some residents believe that the attack was an attempt to break the community’s resistance to these projects; various witnesses also allege that the police were involved.
Miriam Pixtún Monroy is a resident of Nacahuil, has extensive experience in community outreach and has been involved in movements for indigenous rights and autonomy. She, along with other members of Nacahuil, has also been very active in the anti-mine blockade known as ‘La Puya.’
Miriam will be coming to the US Mid-West in November to talk about the roots and goals of community resistance to mega development projects and to describe the Guatemalan government’s overwhelming lack of respect for indigenous rights. GHRC will accompany Miriam providing interpretation and background information. Times and locations will be available here as they become available.
Mining and Human Rights in Guatemala: A Conversation with Oscar Morales
DATE: May 28, 2014, 6:30 – 8:30 PM
LOCATION: Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) at 1350 Connecticut Ave. NW Suite #1100
Refreshments will be provided
Please join us next Wednesday, May 28th to hear from Guatemalan community and environmental activist, Oscar Morales.
Oscar Morales of San Rafael las Flores, Guatemala will describe his community’s struggle against one of the largest silver mines in the world. Opponents of the mine have been shot by security guards, mysteriously killed and imprisoned for months on trumped up charges, but refuse to give in. A year ago, the Guatemalan government declared a state of siege in four departments surrounding the mine, suspending constitutional guarantees and putting the military in charge of the region. They raided several houses and arrested various members of the movement. Then, a month ago, 16 year-old Merilyn Topacio Reynoso and her father Alex Reynoso, both active against the mine, were shot. Alex was seriously injured, and Merilyn was killed.
The mine is owned by the Vancouver, BC based company, Tahoe Resources, which also has an office in Reno, Nevada. Hear from Oscar and US partner organizations about what we can do from here to help stop extreme violence and repression against environmental, indigenous and community activists in Guatemala.
Oscar will be joined by Juliana Turqui, Oxfam America’s Extractive Industries Program Coordinator for Central America.
Oscar Morales is a 5th generation resident of San Rafael Las Flores, Santa Rosa Guatemala, tracing his family roots to the city back to 1860. Married to Sara García, he has two children, Anna (10), and Oscar Jr. (7). He is an agricultural engineer, environmentalist, and human rights activist, and producer of cow’s milk and cheese. Since 2010 he has been the coordinator of the Committee in Defense of Life and Peace, in San Rafael Las Flores, and COCODE President (Community Mayor) in downtown San Rafael Las Flores. Oscar Morales has been criminalized for resisting mining and demanding civil rights in his community.
UUCA Screening of “Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth”
Spring House Concert with Gina Chavez and Elena Lacayo
DATE: April 13
TIME: 3:00 – 6:00 PM (doors open at 3:00, concert begins at 4:00)
LOCATION: Casa Phoenix, 1307 Corcoran Street NW, Washington, District of Columbia 20009
*Limited tickets are available, and we encourage you to buy in advance. Click here to purchase tickets!
Makrina Guidel: Seeking Justice for Crimes of the Past in Guatemala
DATES: March 31 – April 11
LOCATION: Various sites along the East Coast of the US (View complete schedule here)
From March 31-April 11, GHRC will accompany Makrina Gudiel on a tour on the East Coast of the US.
Many Guatemalans lost loved ones during Guatemala’s civil war. For Makrina, it was her brother, who was disappeared in 1983 by state forces and is included in the infamous Military Diary, a logbook that documented the kidnap, torture, and murder of 183 people considered to be linked to anti-government activity. Her family brought her brother’s case to the Inter-American Commission in 2004, and just days later, her father was murdered. The government never carried out an adequate investigation into the crime, and on February 5, 2014, Makrina testified before the Inter-American Court about the case.
Makrina will explain why her family has fought for justice for these crimes, despite ongoing death threats against them. She will also discuss international solidarity with Guatemala over the last 30 years, including the sanctuary movement of the 1980s and the decades-long struggle to end US military support for repressive regimes in Guatemala.
The Future of the Justice System in Guatemala: Challenges to the Defense of Human Rights
GHRC, CEJIL, DPLF and WOLA are excited to co-host a discussion on the future of the justice system in Guatemala. Several distinguished human rights defenders from Guatemala will participate in the conversation, including:
Francisco Soto (Center for Human Rights Legal Action)
Iduvina Hernández (Security in Democracy)
Jorge Santos (International Center for Research on Human Rights)
Édgar Pérez (human rights lawyer)
GHRC Presents: The Siege on Indigenous Women
Lorena Cabnal on the Protection of Body and Land
DATE: November 18-22, 2013
LOCATION: Various sites in Texas and Georgia (View complete schedule here)
From November 18-22, GHRC will accompany Lorena Cabnal on a speaking tour through Texas and Georgia. The tour will culminate at the School of the Americas Watch Vigil in Fort Benning, Georgia from November 23rd through the 24th.
Lorena Cabnal, a Maya-Xinka woman, grassroots feminist and community organizer, is the co-founder of AMISMAXAJ, a group of rural Xinka women in the mountain community of Xalapán in Eastern Guatemala. Lorena is an eloquent and inspiring human rights activist, and will be speaking about the history and current conditions of indigenous women, including the issues of gender-based violence and struggles for individual and collective rights. In addition, she will describe the impacts of militarization in Guatemala as well as threats posed to women.
Read more about Lorena and the November 2013 Speakers Tour here.
Congressional Briefing: Rethinking the Drug War in Central America and Mexico
DATE: Wednesday, November 13, 2013
TIME: 12:00 PM EST
PLACE: Capitol Visitor Center, Congressional Meeting Room North
HOSTED BY: Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM)
Lunch will be served
About the Speakers:
Javier Sicilia: Mr. Sicilia is the founder of Mexico’s Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity. He is a well-known Mexican writer whose son was killed by drug gang members in 2011, and who subsequently led the “Caravan for Peace” protest movement that went from the West to the East coast of the US, travelling 5700 miles to promote peace and push for an end to the drug war.
Claudia Samayoa: Ms. Samayoa leads the Unit in Defense of Human Rights Defenders in Guatemala (UDEFEGUA). She supports the work of human rights defenders in preventing and responding to security risks, through monitoring, verification and advocacy work. She is recognized nationally and internationally as an expert on the situation of human rights defenders in Guatemala and both the United Nations and US State Department frequently cite her organization’s research.
Reception Honoring the Alice Zachmann Human Rights Defenders Award Recipient: The Guatemalan Human Rights Defenders Protections Unit (UDEFEGUA)
DATE: Thursday, November 14, 2013
TIME: 6:00 – 8:00 PM EST
PLACE: All Souls Church
ADDRESS: 1500 Harvard Street NW, Washington, DC 20009
The Guatemala Human Rights Commission will hold a reception on November 14, 2013 to present our second annual Alice Zachmann Human Rights Defenders Award to the Guatemalan Human Rights Defenders Protection Unit (UDEFEGUA). The event will be held at the All Souls Church located at 1500 Harvard Street NW in Washington, DC. This event is free and open to the public.
Founded in 2012, The Alice Zachmann Human Rights Defenders Award recognizes an individual, organization or community who has demonstrated dedication to the defense of human rights through non-violent methods, and for which he/she has been exposed to threats, violence or other attacks.
UDEFEGUA was founded with the goal of providing holistic support to the men and women who defend human rights in Guatemala. Claudia Samayoa, coordinator for UDEFEGUA, will formally receive the award on behalf of her organization and will deliver the keynote address at the event. With Claudia’s leadership since its inception in 2000, UDEFEGUA has grown into a world-renowned human rights organization.
Gold Fever Movie Screening at American University:
Join us on October 18 at American University’s Ward Building, Room 2 from 5:00 p.m.-6:45 p.m. for the Washington, D.C. screening premiere of Gold Fever, the winner of the Rigoberta Menchú Grand Prix at the 2013 Montreal First Peoples Festival. The event is free and open to the public! Food and refreshments will be served.
Gold Fever is a documentary about three indigenous women resisting a transnational gold mine in their territory that is causing detrimental impacts to their ancestral lands, community, and people. GHRC is co-sponsoring the screening of this film as part of Global Screening Day, an opportunity to both learn about and discuss the issues, and to show solidarity with people-like Diodora, Crisanta, and Gregoria-experiencing globalized resource extraction.
The screening will be followed by a panel including: Andrew Sherburne, Gold Fever Co-Director; Marcos Orellana, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL); Juanita Cabrera Lopez, Maya Mam Councilmember; Prof. Robin Broad (moderator), American University School of International Service.
GHRC’s other co-sponsors include American University’s All American Weekend, International Development Program Student Association (IDPSA), Alumni Association and other NGOs and organizations, including Oxfam, Washington Ethical Society (WES), Earthworks, Frontline Defenders, Institute for Policy Studies, Center for International Environmental Law, and faculty from the School of International Service’s International Development program and the School of Communication.
Click here to view the trailer.
Destructive Mining in Latin America and Grassroots Resistance Panel:
On October 22nd from 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Institute for Policy Studies, Kathryn Johnson, GHRC Development and Advocacy Coordinator, will present case studies on Guatemalan communities resisting large-scale extractive mining projects. These mining projects exacerbate violence and human rights abuses, and they present disastrous consequences for local communities and the environment. The panel will also look at similar cases in El Salvador, Colombia, and Honduras.
Others participants will include: Sandra Carolina Ascencio (directly from El Salvador); Dana Brown, Executive Director of the US Office on Colombia (Colombia); Amanda Kistler, Communications Manager at the Center for International Environmental Law; and Sarah Blackwell, Legal and Policy Fellow at the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (moderator).
Please come to learn more about the activist networks helping resistance communities and how you get involved. The event is free, open to the public, and will include food and refreshments
Left Forum Panel:
Check out the Left Forum in New York!! Kathryn Johnson, our Development and Advocacy Coordinator, will be part of a panel discussion on June 9th called Latin America Rises Up: Resistance to Mega Mining Across the Americas.
One Million Bones:
We invite you to join GHRC this Saturday, June 8th in Washington, DC as we commemorate all those lost in Guatemala’s genocide. We will be participating in a ceremony to place one million bones made from different materials on the National Mall to raise awareness about genocide committed throughout the world. Click here for more information and here for event schedule.
Lolita Chávez Ixcaquic is spokesperson for the K’iche’ People’s Council, (CPK in Spanish), an organization which represents 87 Mayan communities in the department of Quiché, Guatemala.
Lolita discussed her communities’ struggle for self-determination and control over their land and natural resources. She also talked about the violence and intimidation activists – particularly women – suffer at the hands of multinational companies and their employees, and the government’s criminalization of community leaders for their resistance.
Lolita herself has been threatened dozens of times for her work in defense of land and territory. In June of 2012, several armed men tried to capture Lolita as she was returning home from a protest against a local mayor. They surrounded the bus that carried her and other protestors and shouted death threats, but were unable to drag her from the bus.
Despite this violence, Lolita has continued with her work with the CPK in defense of the rights of indigenous peoples.
September 2012 – GHRC Celebrates 30 Years:
Two representatives of those communities, Alvaro Sandoval Palencia and Antonio “Tono” Reyes, were present at the event to receive the 2012 Alice Zachmann Human Rights Defenders Award on behalf of their communities, and later visited eight US congressional offices, the US State Department, the Embassy of Guatemala, and various partner organizations to build support for their ongoing struggle in defense of their basic human rights to safety and a healthy environment.
In support of the actions of these communities, we asked those who attended GHRC’s 30th Anniversary to address the CEO of the mine in question, Mr. Daniel W. Kappes, to express their solidarity with Alvaro, Tono and their communities.