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Guatemala: Fear for safety: Peasant farmers from the El Sauce community

, Index number: AMR 34/001/1997

Rosa Pec Chub (f), Juan Rax Chub, her son: There is serious concern for the safety of 15 families from the El Sauce community, El Estor, department of Izabal, following a violent attack against them on 24 January 1997 by about 100 heavily armed individuals, led by a local landowner. In the attack Rosa Pec Chub was killed and her son, Juan Rax Chub, was wounded. The assailants also destroyed homes, crops and the community chapel. Amnesty International is urging the authorities to fully investigate the incident, and bring those responsible to justice.

EXTERNAL AI Index: AMR 34/01/97
UA 32/97 Fear for safety 30 January 1997
GUATEMALAPeasant farmers from the El Sauce community
Rosa Pec Chub (f), aged 57
Juan Rax Chub, her son
Amnesty International is seriously concerned for the safety of 15 families
from the El Sauce community, El Estor, in the department of Izabal, following
a violent attack against them on 24 January 1997 which resulted in the death
of Rosa Pec Chub, and the wounding of her son, Juan Rax Chub.
According to eye-witnesses, about 100 heavily armed individuals, some of them
private security guards and other employees, led by a local landowner, entered
the community at 5am on 24 January firing shots. Several women were already
preparing food when the landowner, shouting and swearing, allegedly shot at
them, killing Rosa Pec Chub. When her son protested, the landowner allegedly
shouted "shut up, son of a bitch, get out of here, this is my land" ["calla,
hijo de puta, fuera de aquí que estas son mis tierras"]. He reportedly shot
Juan Rax Chub in the right side of his waist. The assailants then began to
destroy homes, crops and the community chapel.
Amnesty International has reason to believe that the landowner was acting with
the complicity of local authorities who failed to take adequate steps to prevent
the incident and to guarantee the safety of the peasants. Furthermore, the
organization is alarmed at the apparent lack of state control over the private
security guards
1
recruited by the landowner to carry out the attack. Such guards,
frequently ex-members of the security forces, are employed by landowners and
often operate with the cooperation and acquiescence of the local official
security forces.
Members of the El Sauce community are staying on land allegedly owned by the
Asociación de Educación y Asistencias Sociales (EDUCASISTA), Education and
Social Assistance Association. The landowner in question contests the peasants
right to be on this land. While Amnesty International takes no position on
competing claims for land ownership, or on questions relating to judicial
decisions relating to land tenure, the organization believes that the attack
on the El Sauce community represents a deliberate attempt to intimidate the
peasants into leaving the land and giving up their legitimate right to campaign
to be on the land.
To Amnesty International’s knowledge, no arrest warrants have been issued
against suspects involved in the attack on the El Sauce community.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
Amnesty International is seriously concerned about reports suggesting a pattern
of intimidation against land activists in El Estor, department of Izabal. On
12 June 1995, a community activist from Rubelpec, El Estor, Carlos Lee Juc,
1
Private security guards fall "under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Interior,
through the National Police General Management", article 8, Private Policing Law, Decree
73-70, October 1970. According to article 14 of the same law, "in cases involving the
application of Public Security Law, private security guards cooperate directly with the
National Police General Management".
2
was knifed to death during a demonstration for land by members of the El Estor
community. A military commissioner allegedly wounded another peasant
participating in the protest and threatened to kill three members of the
community’s human rights committee. Father Daniel Joseph Vogt, who supports
the community in their efforts, was the victim of persistent death threats
throughout 1996. Other members of the parish were also threatened and accused
of being "guerrillas".
Land activists and members of the church assisting them are frequently the
victims of death threats and harassment by members of the security forces or
private security guards. During 1996 Amnesty International received reports
indicating that more than 10 people were killed in circumstances which remain
unclear in the context of violent land disputes in Guatemala.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express/airmail
letters in English or Spanish or your own language:
- calling for a full, prompt and impartial investigation into the attack on
El Sauce, El Estor, Izabal, on 24 January 1997, especially into reports that
private security guards, acting with the complicity of local authorities and
local members of the security forces, were involved;
- calling for all those responsible for the attack, which resulted in the killing
of Rosa Pec Chub, and the wounding of Juan Rax Chub, to be brought to justice
and the victims and the victims’ relatives compensated;
- calling for all "death squads", private armies, criminal gangs and
paramilitary forces operating outside the chain of command but with some sort
of official support or acquiescence to be prohibited and disbanded;
- calling for the adoption and implementation of a code of conduct for private
security guards operating under the licence of the National Police. Such a
code of conduct should be based on United Nation’s Basic Principles on the
Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.
APPEALS TO:
Minister of the Interior
Sr. Ministro de Gobernación
Lic. Rodolfo Mendoza
Ministerio de Gobernación
Despacho Ministerial, Of. No. 8
Palacio Nacional, 6ª Calle y 7ª Avda, Zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Fax: +502 251 5368
Telegrams: Ministro de Gobernacion, Guatemala, Guatemala
Salutation: Sr. Ministro / Dear Minister
Attorney General
Sr.Fiscal General de la Nación
Lic. Héctor Hugo Perez Aguilera
Ministerio Público, 18 Calle 10-36, Zona 1
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Telefax: +502 231 7066
Telegrams: Fiscal General, Guatemala, Guatemala
Salutation: Sr. Fiscal General / Dear Attorney General
Governor of the Department of Izabal
Gobernador Departamental de Izabal
7 Calle y 1 Avenida
3
Puerto Barrios, Izabal, Guatemala
Telefax: +502 948 0175
Telegrams: Gobernador, Puerto Barrios, Izabal, Guatemala
Salutation: Sr. Gobernador / Dear Governor
Izabal District Attorney
lic. Ramón Garcia Stany
Fiscal Distrital
Ministerio Público
Puerto Barrios, Izabal, Guatemala
Telefax: + 502 948 1193
Telegrams: Fiscal Distrital, Puerto Barrios, Izabal, Guatemala
Salutation: Sr. Fiscal Distrital
COPIES TO:
COPREDEH
Presidente de la Comisión Presidencial Coordinadora de la Política del Ejecutivo
en Materia de Derechos Humanos
Lcda. Marta Altolaguirre
15 Avenida 18-38, Zona 13
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Non-governmental Organization
José Cajbon
Presidente del Comité Pro-Adquisicón de Tierra
Parroquia San Pedro
18003 El Estor, Izabal, Guatemala
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 20 March 1997.

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