3rd February 2014, Brussels, Belgium. As part of the continuing contributions of Protection International (PI) in the establishment of public policies to protect human rights defenders at risk, the President of the Board of PI, Luis Enrique Eguren, presented an expert report at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) on the basic elements for the creation of an effective protection mechanism, in the light of government initiatives in Guatemala. This collaboration was carried out in response to the request of Guatemala Defenders Unit (UDEFEGUA), PI’s local  counterpart and representative of the victims before the IACHR, concerning the murder of Florentin Gudiel Ramos.

On 20th December 2004 Florentin Gudiel Ramos, peasant leader, political activist and human rights defender was murdered by unknown assailants on his way to the community of La Esperanza, in the town of Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa, Department of Escuintla, in Guatemala. These events occurred after several threats and harassment against him due to his actions defending his community, who had elected him for public office. The day of the murder, Mr. Gudiel was returning home after performing various procedures related to the disappearance of people during the internal armed conflict, including the forced disappearance of his son José Miguel Álvarez Gudiel.

In their long search for justice, the family of the defender Florentin Gudiel decided to go to the Inter-American System of Human Rights, with the support of UDEFEGUA. The lawsuit against the State of Guatemala denounced the lack of preventive measures against the initial threats and lack of due diligence in investigating the reasons for the murder in a reasonable time, as well as the violation of other rights of his relatives, who were forced to leave their community due to the increasing attacks against them.

Next Wednesday, 5 February, a public hearing will be held at the headquarters of the IACHR in San Jose, Costa Rica, to present the allegations and concluding remarks by each of the parties to the process. Ms. Hina Jilani, former Special Representative of the Secretary General on Human Rights Defenders UN, will provide an oral statement on the international conceptualisation of the right to defend human rights and its protection under the American Convention on Human Rights. During the hearing, the Inter-American Court will also hear the testimony of Makrina Gudiel Álvarez, daughter of Mr. Florentin, as well as a human rights defender.

The expert report, presented by the President of PI, addresses comprehensively the state’s duty to proactively protect defenders, and highlighted the need for effective public policies in terms of protection. According to Luis Enrique Eguren, “prevention is the cornerstone around which a public protection policy pivots, always accompanied by a logic of deterrence and combating impunity.”

In this regard, the expert report develops the minimum and essential components for an effective public policy: the participation of the defenders themselves, the joint intervention among institutions, the adoption of an appropriate risk analysis model, the creation of a system to manage the information allowing an analytical evaluation of trends and patterns, as well as comprehensive protection plans addressing networking features among defenders.

Based on an initial expert report presented by PI, these elements were already recognised by the Inter-American Court in the judgment of the case Lopez vs. Honduras (1), and therefore they are part of the Inter-American jurisprudence on the protection of human rights defenders. With this new expertise, PI wishes to contribute to the improvement of the actions implemented by the State of Guatemala and thus fill the gaps in the existing mechanisms.

We appreciate the trust of the family Gudiel Alvarez for allowing us to accompany them in this stage of their struggle, and recognise the continuing efforts of UDEFEGUA to combat and prevent attacks against human rights defenders in Guatemala.

Press release of the IACHRwww.corteidh.or.cr/docs/comunicados/cp_01_14_esp.pdf”http://www.corteidh.or.cr/docs/comunicados/cp_01_14_esp.pdf

Live broadcasting of the hearing: www.corteidh.or.cr/


(1) Court H. R., Case of Luna López v. Honduras. Merits, Reparations and Costs. Judgment of October 10, 2013. Series C No. 269. Párr. 243.