IACHR CONCERNED OVER THE MURDER OF DIEGO XON SALAZAR IN GUATEMALA
Unit for Human Rights Defenders of the Inter-American Commission on Human
Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern over the murder of Diego Xon Salazar,
a Mayan priest and human rights defender of the Mutual Support Group
(GAM), who worked and lived in the town of Chamanchaj in the municipality
of Chichicastenango, Guatemala. It
also expresses concern over the safety of Mario Polanco, director of the
GAM, and his wife, Nineth Montenegro, a Guatemalan deputy.
to information received by the Unit, Diego Xon Salazar was abducted on
Thursday, April 3, 2003, and was found murdered, with bullet wounds, on
April 5. The information
indicates that Mr. Xon had allegedly been receiving death threats since
March 2000. In recent months
he had filed various complaints about the reorganization of the former
civil self-defense patrols (PAC) in the department of Quiché.
Unit for Human Rights Defenders also received information on an illegal
search and robbery in the home of Mario Polanco and Nineth Montenegro.
On April 7, 2003, several men entered Mr. Polanco’s house
and stole all his personal files and his computer equipment, which are
essential for his work in human rights.
its visit to Guatemala last March, the IACHR expressed its concern over alarming
indicia suggesting the possibility of backsliding in the progress made
towards consolidating the rule of law.
In particular, the Commission noted a
significant increase in the intimidation of human rights defenders and
judicial officers, including illegal searches of the offices of human
rights organizations, the theft of equipment and information, death
threats, attacks on physical integrity, being followed, kidnappings, and
even assassinations. The
IACHR reiterates that the Guatemalan State must investigate these acts and
punish their perpetrators.
IACHR recalls that, at the last regular session of the General Assembly
in Barbados in June 2002, the member states adopted a resolution on human
rights defenders in the Americas, in which it agreed to condemn actions
that directly or indirectly prevented or hampered their work in the
Americas. In the same
resolution, it urged member states to step up their efforts to adopt the
necessary measures, in keeping with their domestic law and with
internationally accepted principles and standards, to safeguard the lives,
personal safety, and freedom of expression of human rights defenders.
Washington, D. C., April 11, 2003