The Guardian October 25,2000


Guatemala: Urgent appeal for action

A human rights defender has been shot at by unidentified individuals in 
the wake of government statements implying that human rights activists are 
trying to destabilise the country and that they are fair targets for 
attack.

Unidentified individuals driving a pick-up truck attacked Ricardo Lobo and 
his travel companion on September 7. As they drove by in the opposite 
direction, the attackers yelled insults and fired at Ricardo Lobo.

The car was hit, but Ricardo Lobo threw himself on the floor of the car and 
was not injured.

Ricardo Lobo works for the Centre for Studies, Information and Basis for 
Social Action, (Centro de Estudios, Informacion y Bases para la Accion 
Social  CEIBAS), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) campaigning for 
the implementation of social, economic and cultural rights that were agreed 
under the Peace Accords which formally ended Guatemala's long-term civil 
conflict.

He is also involved with the Civic Movement for Justice and Democracy 
(Movimiento Ciudadano por la Justicia y la Democracia), a coalition of NGOs 
and individuals who are demanding that ex-dictator Efrain Rios Montt and 19 
others should be expelled from the Congress and stripped of immunity 
because of their involvement with the illegal alteration of a law on 
alcohol taxes.

The attack on Ricardo Lobo is not an isolated incident. Lately, members of 
human rights organisations, journalists and others involved in human rights 
activism have increasingly been threatened or abused.

The increased abuse has followed recent government statements appearing to 
declare `open season' on human rights defenders.

On 28 September, the Minister of the Interior declared that "there are 
groups that want to cause instability, to create chaos and anarchy".

Such groups, he said, "plan to set off bombs that will scatter propaganda 
leaflets when they explode ... they will also burn the central offices of 
NGOs".

The Vice-President of the Guatemalan Congress, Leonel Soto Arango, declared 
two days later: "The Minister of the Interior and the director of the 
National Civil Police have informed us that there are some individuals, who 
claim to be human rights activists, that want to create instability in the 
country by causing confrontations."

Your help needed

Please send faxes or airmail letters:

* expressing concern for the safety of Ricardo Lobo and other members of 
CEIBAS and the Movimiento Ciudadano por la Justicia y la Democracia;

* expressing concern that recent government statements appear to legitimise 
attacks on human rights activists;

* calling on the authorities to investigate this latest attack and all 
other recent incidents and bring those responsible to justice;

* urging the authorities to take all necessary steps to ensure the security 
of all of those involved in legitimate NGO and human rights work.

Send messages to:

President of the Republic:
Lic. Alfonso Portillo Cabrera Presidente de la Republica de Guatemala
6a. Avenida 'A' 4-18, Zona 1 Ciudad de Guatemala, GUATEMALA
Fax: 0015 502 221 4423 / 221 4537
Salutation: Dear President

Minister of the Interior:
Sr. Byron Barrientos
Ministro de Gobernacion Ministerio de Gobernacion
6a Avenida 4-64,
Zona 4 Ciudad de Guatemala, GUATEMALA
Fax: 0015 502 362 0239 / 362 0237
Salutation: Dear Minister

President of the Congress:
Efrain Rios Montt
Presidente del Congreso
9a Avenida 9-44,
Zona 1 Ciudad de Guatemala, GUATEMALA
Fax: 0015 502 220 4024 
Salutation:  Dear President of the Congress

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