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UA 499/90 - Guatemala: attempted abduction: Axel Mejia, street educator

, Index number: AMR 34/078/1990

EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: AMR 34/78/90
Distr: UA/SC
UA 499/90 Attempted Abduction 13 December 1990
GUATEMALA: Axel MEJIA, street educator
On 4 December 1990 at about 9pm, an attempt was made to abduct Axel Mejía as he arrived
at his home in Zone 7 of Guatemala City. His would-be abductors were five armed men driving
a light blue vehicle, the licence plate number of which was noted. One wore an olive
green military issue sweater. The man's family were able to intervene on his behalf and
prevented him from being seized. They have reported that the car involved in the attempted
kidnapping had been seen parked in front of their home the previous week-end.
Axel Mejía works as a street educator with Covenant House, (Casa Alianza), an
organization which works with street children in Guatemala and has been in the forefront
of efforts to investigate recent police abuses against children, including harassment,
torture, "disappearance" and killings. Axel Mejía had been the principal witness to an
incident which occurred on 7 November 1990, when thirteen members of the SIPROCI, Sístema
de Protección Cívica (System of Civil Protection), and of the security forces, (four
National Policemen, five members of the Treasury Police and 4 Military Police) beat three
street children in front of a refuge run by Casa Alianza. The agency reported the incident
to the authorities immediately, and that same evening the head of the Treasury Police
brought the five members of the Treasury Police who had been involved to the Casa Alianza
refuge where Axel identified the principal aggressor. Legal proceedings have now been
initiated against this Treasury Police agent for his assault upon the children, and it
is Axel's key role in the proceedings as principal witness that is believed to have
precipitated this attack.
The attack on street educator Axel Mejía came in the wake of increasing reports
of harassment of staff working with agencies attempting to help street children. In October
1989 a former employee of one such agency, René Geovanni Soto García was found dead after
having been seized by men in plain clothes. In June 1990 a young boy who had worked with
Casa Alianza was murdered by a Treasury Police agent in an incident believed to be related
to his work with street children. In recent months, further incidents of harassment and
assaults upon street educators carried out by the police were reported to Amnesty
International. On a number of occasions, the street educators were attacked when they
attempted to stop police beating street children. The photograph reproduced below was
taken in the context of one such incident which occurred in September. In recent months,
the director of Casa Alianza, a foreign national, has also reported receiving a series
of death threats directed at him and his staff.
These two street children, aged 11 and 13, were
beaten by police, hand-cuffed and thrown into
this police van on 20 September 1990. The
street educator who attempted to stop the
beating and who took this picture was himself
beaten and briefly taken into custody. His
camera was confiscated, but later returned to
him with the film intact by police who
reportedly explained that they were doing this
because "We are getting too many letters from
Amnesty International". The child on the left
was a witness to the fatal attack on street
child Nahamán Carmona López in March. (See
UA 294/90, AMR 34/43/90, 10 July 1990 and
follow-up AMR 34/45/90, 26 July 1990; UA
436/90, AMR 34/67/90, 30 October; and
Extrajudicial Executions and Human Rights
Violations against Street Children in
Guatemala, AMR 34/37/90, July 1990 for further
information on such abuses). Since he died,
street children who witnessed the attack have
been repeatedly harassed and beaten, in an
apparent attempt to intimidate them into
withdrawing their testimony about the case.
In recent months, Amnesty International has been deeply disturbed at reports of human rights
abuses, including harassment, threats, attacks and beatings, torture and apparent
"disappearances" and extrajudicial executions carried out against street children by
Guatemala City police, acting sometimes in uniform and sometimes in plain clothes.
According to non-governmental sources in Guatemala there are some 5,000 children, aged
five to 18 years, living on the streets of Guatemala City. Many are orphaned, abandoned
or handicapped; they search for food among the garbage and sleep under parked cars or on
sidewalks. Some were displaced by the army counter-insurgency campaigns of the early
1980's; others were forced into the streets for other reasons. Most reportedly survive
by stealing, begging and prostitution. Some of the young victims of human rights violations
have been involved in street crime. However, crime control can never be used as an excuse
for violating the basic human rights of children, including the right to life.
Investigations into a number of reported abuses appear to have stalled. Amnesty
International is concerned that failure by the authorities to determine the perpetrators
and bring them to justice could serve to encourage further such abuses. It is also concerned
that witnesses to violations, those who try and protect the children, such as Axel Mejía,
or those who press for inquiries into them, appear to be in danger of reprisals.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Telegrams/telexes/faxes/express and airmail letters:
- calling for protection for Axel Mejía and all those working to protect street children;
- asking that this and all incidents involving attacks on or threats against staff working
with street children be investigated and perpetrators brought to justice.
S.E. Vinicio Cerezo Arévalo Sra. Claudia Arenas Bianchi
Presidente de la República de Guatemala Secretaria de Relaciones Públicas
Palacio Nacional de la Presidencia
Guatemala, Guatemala Palacio Nacional
Tel: +502 22 1212, +502 22 2266 Guatemala, Guatemala
Fax: +502 253 7472 Fax: +502 253 7472
Telex: 5331 CAPRES GU Telex: 5325 RELPUB GU
Telegrams: Presidente Cerezo, Telegrams: Secretaria Relaciones
Guatemala, Guatemala Publicas, Guatemala, Guatemala
Gen. Carlos Augusto Morales Villatoro Cnel. Julio Enrique Caballeros Seigné
Ministro de Gobernación Director General de la Policía Nacional
Despacho Ministerial 6 Avenida 13-71
Oficina No. 8, Primer Nivel Zona 1, Guatemala
Palacio Nacional Guatemala
Guatemala, Guatemala Telegrams: Director Policia,
Tel: +502 2 21212/19, ext 500; 518105-6 Guatemala, Guatemala
Fax: + 502 2 518105 Tel: + 502 (2) 20221, 515158
Telex: 5085 MINGOB GU
Telegrams: Ministro Gobernación,
Guatemala, Guatemala
- Casa Alianza, Apartado 400, Antigua, Guatemala, GUATEMALA
- Sra. Marilys Barrientos de Estrada, Directora, Sección Familial y de Menores,
Procuraduría de los Derechos Humanos, Avenida Simeón Cañas 10-60, Zona 2, Guatemala
- Lic. Héctor Raúl Orellana Alarcón, Jefe de la Sección de Menores, Procuraduría
General de la Nación, Ministerio Público, 8a Calle 2-73, Zona 1, 01001 Ciudad de
Guatemala, GUATEMALA
- and to diplomatic representatives of Guatemala in your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat or your section
office if sending appeals after 24 January 1991.

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