Act Now to protect women’s human rights activists in Guatemala

From Amnesty International

Women working with two important organizations in Guatemala that defend
women's rights are in danger.  Their offices were raided and information
about their members taken away. Your letters of concern are a crucial way
to protect these women.

PUBLIC
AI Index: AMR 34/017/2006 

08 June 2006

UA 161/06       Fear for safety 

GUATEMALA 

Members of Sector de Mujeres, Women's Sector
Members of Unión Nacional de Mujeres Guatemaltecas (UNAMG), National Union
of Guatemalan Women

The offices of two women's organisations have been the target of raids, in
which confidential information about their work and membership was taken.
Amnesty International believes that the members of these organisations may
be in danger. 

On 5 June, the departmental office of the Unión Nacional de Mujeres

Guatemaltecas (UNAMG), National Union of Guatemalan Women, in Chimaltenango, 
about one
hour outside of Guatemala City, was broken into. Desks and filing cabinets
were forced open and files were searched and then left scattered all over
the office. The new computer which served the Project for Victims to
Actors for Change, designed for women survivors of the conflict years, was
also stolen. UNAMG has been very active in lobbying in favour of a
controversial family planning law which was finally approved in Congress
in March 2006 and has also condemned the killings of women in Guatemala. 

On 5 June, the office in Guatemala City of the Sector de Mujeres, Women's
Sector, a group of non-governmental women's organizations, was
broken into in a very similar fashion. Desks were forced open and filing
cabinets which contained important information on the organisation's work
on women were searched.  Some computers and files containing information
on the killings of women and family planning were also searched. Just days
before, during the night of 29 May, the same office was also broken into.
Mobile phones and a telefax machine were taken. 

This is the second time the offices of the Sector de Mujeres have been raided.
In 2004 precautionary measures were sought from the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of Sector de Mujeres,
following a break-in into their offices in June 2004 (see No protection, no justice:
killings of women in Guatemala, AMR 34/017/2005, June 2005). The Sector de Mujeres
has played a prominent role in calling for an end to violence against
women in Guatemala and has provided legal advice and support in many cases
of violence against women across the country.

Both the Sector de Mujeres and UNAMG are also members of the Colectivo de
Organizaciones Sociales (COS), Collective of Social Organizations, which
campaigns for economic and social rights, greater civil society participation and the
implementation of the 1996 Peace Accords. COS has actively opposed the
Central America Free Trade Agreement, ratified by Guatemala in March 2005. 

Amnesty International fears that members of both organizations may be at
risk as in some cases break-ins have preceded attacks or acts of
intimidation against individuals. For example the office of the Asociación 

Ixqikan organization that provides legal counsel on behalf of victims ofsexual violence -
in San Benito, El Petén, in north-eastern Guatemala,was broken into on three
occasions in October and November 2005 and thenon 11 January 2006, there was another 

attempted break-in. Just two monthslater, on 10 March four men knocked on the hotel 

door where a former member of the Asociación Ixqik  in San Benito, Petén 

was staying saying that they had a police warrant
to search the room.  She could see through the room's window that two of
the men were carrying high calibre weapons and that they were standing
behind the other two men who were hotel employees.  She called the police
and when they arrived approximately 15 minutes later, the armed men ran
away.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
During recent months there have been numerous break-ins against both
women's organisations and other civil society organizations. Since the
beginning of 2006 there have reportedly been at least ten break-ins at
civil society organizations.
Women's organizations have becoming increasingly vocal in calling on the
Guatemalan government to end the impunity for killings of women in
Guatemala and have criticized the lack of response of government
authorities in the face of escalating killings. During 2004 the police
reported that 527 killings of women. In 2006 this figure was up to 665
killings. Between 1 January and 9 May 2006 the police reported 243
killings.

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

-expressing concern at the recent series of raids on the offices of Sector
de Mujeres and the Union Nacional de Mujeres Guatemaltecas, in which sensitive
information was taken;
- expressing concern for the safety of staff and members of these
organisations;
- calling on the authorities to take immediate measures, in accordance
with the organisations' wishes, to guarantee their safety;
-calling for an immediate, impartial and thorough investigation into the
break-ins, for the results to be made public and for those responsible to
be 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 Liberties.

APPEALS TO:

Head of the Special Prosecutor's Office on Human Rights:

Jefa de la Fiscalia de Sección de Derechos Humanos
Rosa Maria Salazar Marroquin
7a. Avenida 11-20, Zona 1, Segundo nivel
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Fax:            011 502 2230 5296 (if a voice responds, say "por favor,
tono de fax")
Salutation:     Estimada Fiscal/ Dear Madam

Minister of the Interior : 

Ministro de Gobernación
Carlos Vielman
6a.Avenida 4-64, zona 4, nivel 3, Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Fax:            011 502 2362 0237
Email:          ministro@mingob.gob.gt
Salutation:     Señor Ministro/ Dear Minister

COPIES TO:

His Excellency Carlos Humberto Jiménez Licona
Ambassador for the Republic of Guatemala
130 Albert Street, Suite 1010
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5G4
Fax:            (613) 233-0135
Email:  embassy1@embaguate-canada.com 

Sector de Mujeres
6 Avenida A, 1-81, zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala

Unión Nacional de Mujeres Guatemaltecas
7ª Avenida 4-73, zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Fax:            011 502 2230 6049 or 2230 4851 (if a voice responds, say
"por favor, tono de fax")

THANK YOU FOR ACTING QUICKLY.
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