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Guatemala: Fear for safety/Death threats

, رقم الوثيقة: AMR 34/008/2001

Two senior judges, Conchita Mazariegos and Iris Yassmín Barrios have been attacked, and one has received death threats. Both are involved in high-profile cases involving members of the Guatemala's military, including a former Head of State during the country's military government.

PUBLIC AI Index: AMR 34/008/2001
UA 71/01 Fear for safety/Death threats 27 March 2001
GUATEMALAConchita Mazariegos (f), judge
Iris Yassmín Barrios (f), judge
Other members of the judiciary
Two senior judges have been attacked, and one has received death threats. Both
are involved in high-profile cases involving members of the Guatemala’s
military, including a former Head of State during the country’s military
government.
Conchita Mazariegos is President of the country’s highest appeal court, the
Constitutional Court (Corte de Constitucionalidad). On 24 March at 7.40pm shots
were fired at her front door. A few days earlier she had received threatening
telephone calls. In statements to the national press she said: "Somebody has
been calling me by phone but nobody replies when I answer; they just play funeral
music. I did not want to report this as I didn’t want to harm Alfonso Portillo’s
government..." ("Me han llamado por teléfono y no contestan; lo que hacen es
ponerme marchas fúnebres. No lo quise denunciar, por no dañar al gobierno de
Alfonso Portillo...").
On 21 March Judge Mazariegos presided over a Constitutional Court hearing that
ruled unconstitutional an attempt by Congress members of the ruling party,
including General Efraín Ríos Montt, to amend the Congress’s internal law in
order to keep their seats on the Congressional Executive Committee. He and
23 other members of his party had initially been accused of corruptly altering
a liquor tax law after it had been passed by Congress. As members of Congress
they were immune from prosecution, but the Supreme Court lifted their immunity
in early March. The Congress’s internal law stated that members of the
Congressional Executive Committee would have to relinquish their Congressional
seats during any proceedings against them. With their Congressional majority
the General Ríos Montt’s party passed a decree to ensure they kept their seats.
It was this decree that the Constitutional Court ruled unconstitutional on
21 March.
General Ríos Montt was Head of State during some of the worst years of the
Guatemalan civil conflict, when tens of thousands of indigenous peasants were
killed or “disappeared” at the hands of the army and their civilian agents,
the civil patrols. Many Guatemalan human rights activists welcomed the
Constitutional Court’s decision to remove his immunity in the liquor tax affair,
as a possible step towards eventually prosecuting him for crimes against
humanity.
On the evening of 22 March two grenades were thrown into the back garden of
judge Iris Yassmín Barrios. Judge Barrios was one of three judges slated to
hear the trial of three high-ranking army officers and two civilians charged
with the murder of Bishop Juan José Gerardi, which was to re-open the following
day (see UA 137/00 and UA 313/99). In February 2001 the judge presiding in
the case, Eduardo Cojulún, had received death threats (see UA 199/00 and follow
ups).
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
There has been a string of attacks on judges and lawyers involved in high-profile
cases. Human rights lawyer Mynor Melgar received death threats in December
2000, when he announced that the Archbishop’s Human Rights Office (Oficina
2
de Derechos Humanos del Arzobispado de Guatemala, ODHAG) was preparing to charge
Efraín Ríos Montt with genocide. (See UA 04/01.)
The President of the Colegio de Abogados y Notarios de Guatemala, a prestigious
Guatemalan lawyers’ association, has given the United Nations mission in
Guatemala (MINUGUA) the names of five lawyers murdered in recent months in
suspicious circumstances: Maura Ofelia Paniagua Corzantes, Edwing Haroldo
Arriaga España, Óscar Adán Bosques Morales, Gabriel Alberto Coronado Méndez
and Francisco Javier Mazariegos Cifuentes.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express/airmail
letters in Spanish, English or your own language:
- expressing concern for the safety of judges Conchita Mazariegos and Yassmín
Barrios, who are being threatened and harassed, and urging the authorities
to take effective action to protect them;
- urging the authorities to ensure that all members of the Guatemalan legal
profession can carry out their work in safety, particularly those involved
in high-profile human rights cases;
- expressing concern for the safety of all those working against impunity in
Guatemala, and urging the authorities to do everything necessary to ensure
that they can carry on their work in safety.
APPEALS TO: Please note that it can be difficult getting through to some of
these fax numbers. Please be patient and keep trying. If a voice answers, please
say: "Fax, por favor" and wait for the signal.
1) President of the Republic of Guatemala
Lic. Alfonso Portillo Cabrera
Presidente de la República de Guatemala
6a. Avenida “A” 4-46, Zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala, GUATEMALA
Fax: + 502 238 3579
Salutation:Dear President/ Señor Presidente
2) Minister of the Interior
Sr. Byron Barrientos
Ministro de Gobernación
Ministerio de Gobernación
6ª Avenida 4-64, Zona 4
Ciudad de Guatemala, GUATEMALA
Fax:+ 502 362 0239 / 362 0237
Salutation: Dear Minister / Señor Ministro
3) Attorney General
Lic. Adolfo González Rodas
Fiscal General de la República
Ministerio Público
8a. Avenida 10-67, Zona 1
Tercer nivel
Ciudad de Guatemala, GUATEMALA
Fax: + 502 221 2718
Salutation: Dear Attorney General/ Señor Fiscal General
COPIES TO:
NGOs:
Alianza Contra la Impunidad
3
1a calle 0-11 zona 2,
Guatemala, C.A.
Tel/fax: + 502 232 2651
E-mail: alianza@amigo.net.gt
Colegio de Abogados y Notarios de Guatemala (Bar Association)
0 Calle 15-46, Zona 15, Colonia el Maestro
Guatemala, Guatemala
Fax: + 502 369 3714
Asociación Guatemalteca de Juristas (Bar Association)
8a Calle 10-12, zona 1,
Guatemala Guatemala
Fax: + 502 -2321548
Email: agj@c.net.gt
and to diplomatic representatives of Guatemala accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 8 May 2001.

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