Trócaire is dismayed to hear of ongoing attempts to criminalise Guatemalan human rights defender Abelino Chub Caal.
Abelino was released from prison in 2019 after spending 813 days behind bars falsely accused of arson and other crimes. Abelino is a member of the Q’eqchi indigenous community and has campaigned against the land dispossession suffered by his community.
He was found innocent of all charges in April 2019. Later that year, he was awarded the Trócaire Romero Award for his defence of human rights.
Sadly, the Guatemalan Public Prosecutor’s Office has lodged an appeal against his acquittal. The court is set to rule on March 10th, in a ruling that could see Abelino threatened with further imprisonment.
The actions of the Public Prosecutor’s Office appear to be part of a strategy to criminalize human rights defenders and community leaders in Guatemala. Keeping Abelino Chub embroiled in a criminal process literally handcuffs his ability to carry out his work in defence of the Q’eqchi people.
According to Abelino Chub’s defence, “it is clear that this continues to be a case of criminalization and a strategy for dispossession of the Q’eqchi lands”.
The Q’eqchi community faces violence, repression, criminalisation and eviction from their land. Megaprojects continue to be imposed on community lands in violation of rights protected by the Constitution which establishes respect for indigenous lands and the right to prior, free, and informed consultations concerning the use of those lands.
Trócaire urgently calls on the Guatemalan State to end its attempt to criminalise Abelino and his community and to guarantee the rights of the Q’eqchi indigenous communities, including the right to defend human rights and the right to defend their territory.