Shrinking Space: Benoit Maria, HRD working with indigenous population for over 20 years, murdered in Guatemala

Member organisations from the Foro de ONGs Internacionales en Guatemala (FONGI) are denouncing the murder of the activist and Human Rights Defender (HRD) Benoit Maria, who worked for the Agronomes et Vétérinaires Sans Frontières – Agronomists and Veterinarians Without Borders.

The situation for Human Rights Defenders in Guatemala is reaching critical conditions. They face defamation, persecution and, ultimately, murder. This is possible thanks to the impunity of the perpetrators and the passivity of the Government and Local Authorities that, instead of protecting the work of HRDs and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), are restricting civic space. As a result, the country is experiencing a social regression, as well as a progressive loss of the rule of law. The current measures taken in the country to contain the impact of COVID-19 are also being used to further limit civic space and the work of activists and advocates. 

In response to this, FONGI has published a communication asking national authorities to open an exhaustive investigation to shed light on the case, as well as pleading to the European Union to support and follow this investigation, with the aim of bringing the perpetrators to justice. 

SOLIDAR manifests its indignation and joins the condemnation of this murder, asking the EU to report prominently on the critical situation of HRDs and CSOs in Guatemala.  

The EU committed itself to protect and support the work of CSOs in its communication “The roots of democracy and sustainable development: Europe’s engagement with Civil Society in external relations”, as well as its EU Guidelines on HRDs and the new “Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy”. The EU should actively react to the serious situation in Guatemala, and raise this issue as the first priority for EU-Guatemala relations.  

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