The U.N. human rights office reports the recent killing of several human rights defenders in Guatemala shows an alarming deterioration in the rule of law as threats increase against those working on behalf of indigenous and minority rights.
During the past 12 days, three human rights defenders working with indigenous and peasants rights organizations in Guatemala were killed. The activists were trying to secure land rights for indigenous people under an agreement worked out with the Government.
U.N. Human Rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani says human rights defenders in the country are operating within a climate of fear, harassment and intimidation.
"We call on the authorities to promptly investigate these murders and other attacks and threats against human rights defenders, and to ensure that those found responsible are held accountable. We also urge the State to adopt all necessary measures to ensure a safe, enabling environment for human rights defenders to be able to carry out their work free from threats and attacks," she said.
Shamdasani says the Government must do more to strengthen the rule of law.She says the rights to freedom of expression and judicial independence are under threat. She says this hinders efforts to fight impunity and corruption, which threaten all levels of civil society.
She says human rights monitors report with growing concern on what they see as an escalation of smear campaigns against independent journalists and media, judicial officials, civil organizations and others working to end corruption and impunity.