Since Friday, March 15, human rights defender and member of the Departmental Assembly of Huehuetenango for the Defense of Natural Resources (ADH), Rubén Herrera, has been unjustly imprisoned for alleged crimes committed in relation to community resistance of the Cambalam hydroelectric dam, operated by Hidro Santa Cruz. Citing 12 charges, including kidnapping and terrorism, a Guatemalan judge denied Herrera’s bail, ordering the case move to pretrial proceedings on May 30, 2013.
The arrest and imprisonment of Rubén Herrera is the most recent example of the systematic criminalization and persecution of community leaders and human rights activists defending territory and communities’ right to self-determination. Perhaps most notable are the actions of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the entity responsible for prosecuting the case. During the arraignment, they argued the case should not continue as there is insufficient evidence linking him to the alleged crimes. Despite the lack of evidence, the judge ordered that the case against Herrera move forward.
The work of Rubén and the ADH to construct alternatives and promote democratic participation in the key issues Guatemala is facing today is a response to a historic wrong committed against indigenous peoples. The current trial of former Guatemalan leaders for genocide highlights the state’s violation of the basic rights of indigenous and rural people in Guatemala. Unfortunately, today’s repression of peaceful and legitimate social movements in defense of territory and towards self-determination is using distinct, yet disturbingly familiar strategies to criminalize and delegitimize the voice of indigenous peoples.
Sign the petition condemning the capture of Rubén Herrera and calling for his immediate release. Signatures will be turned in to the Guatemala Public Prosecutor’s Office with copies to President Otto Perez Molina.
The undersigned thoroughly condemn the capture of Guatemalan human rights defender Rubén Herrera on March 15th, and call for his immediate release. Rubén’s unjust incarceration is part of a strategy to delegitimize, defame, and intimidate community leaders in Barillas, Huehuetenango who oppose the construction of the Cambalam hydroelectric dam.
The persecution of men and women who stand up for their internationally recognized right to consultation about development projects which impact their communities must stop. Rubén’s case reflects a troublesome trend in which the Guatemalan justice system is being misused and manipulated in order to preemptively punish activists, community leaders, and human rights defenders.
We support the efforts of the Guatemalan Public Prosecutor’s office to dismiss the baseless charges against Rubén, in compliance with their mandate to preserve the rule of law and respect for human rights. We join our voices with those of countless others in Guatemala and around the world to plead for justice and call for Rubén Herrera’s immediate release!