Press Release

IACHR Urges the State of Guatemala to Investigate and Clarify the Circumstances Surrounding the Death of Human Rights Defender and Indigenous Leader

January 20, 2014

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its deep concern at the death of Juan de León Tuyuc Velazquez, a Mayan leader that managed development projects in indigenous communities in Guatemala. The IACHR urges the State to investigate and clarify the circumstances in which his death occurred and, where appropriate, identify and punish those responsible.

According to publicly available information, Mr. De León Tuyuc was found dead on January 15, 2014, in the Inter-American highway, department of Sololá. According to the media, the police report stated that De Leon Tuyuc died of multiple injuries as a result of being struck by an unidentified vehicle. Meanwhile, the human rights defender, Rosalina Tuyuc, said that her brother was detained prior to his death. In addition, human rights organizations have also reported that the body was found with several injuries and had “gunshot wounds.”

The Commission reminds the State that it is obliged to conduct an ex officio investigation in a timely manner, aimed to clarify the circumstances in which the death of Mr. De Leon Tuyuc occurred and, if appropriate, to identify and punish those responsible. Such investigation should be undertaken with due diligence in an exhaustive and impartial way. The IACHR highlights the importance that the official investigations are directed to satisfy the victim´s family right to access to justice, for which they must have all the relevant information and wide opportunities to participate in. The IACHR also urges the State to immediately adopt all necessary and urgent measures to ensure the right to life, integrity, and security of human rights defenders in Guatemala.

As the Commission has stated previously, acts of violence and other attacks against human rights defenders not only affect the guarantees of every human being, but undermine the fundamental role that human rights defenders play in society and leave all those for whom they fight defenseless. The Commission also calls to mind that the work of human rights defenders is essential for the construction of a solid, lasting democratic society, and rights defenders play a leading role in the process of pursuing the full attainment of the rule of law and the strengthening of democracy.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 3/14