Press Release

IACHR Deeply Regrets Killings of K’iche’s Indigenous Persons in Totonicapán, Guatemala

October 23, 2012

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) deeply regrets the killing of six people, k’iche’s indigenous persons of Totonicapán, Guatemala, who according to the information received, died during an operation conducted by State agents against a protest that took place on October 4, 2012. The IACHR urges the State of Guatemala to assign the human and material resources necessary to conduct the investigations that have been launched by the Office of the Attorney General, and to prosecute and sanction the persons who are determined responsible.

According to publicly available information, on October 4, a group of protesters blocked the Inter-American Highway in the stretch known as Cuatro Caminos, in the Department of Totonicapán, in the context of a protest against State reforms. According to the information available, six persons died and approximately 30 were injured during an operation to lift the blockeade. The operation was implemented by the State security forces: the National Civil Police (PNC) and the Army.

The Office of the Attorney General of Guatemala informed that the persons killed, all of them k’iche’s indigenous persons of Totonicapán, were José Eusebio Puac Barreno, Santos Hernández Nicolás Menchú, Rafael Nicolás Batz Menchú, Jesús Baltazar Caxaj Puac, Arturo Félix Sapón Yax and Jesús Francisco Puac Ordóñez. In addition, information was received indicating that as a result of these events, the whereabouts of Domingo Pascual Solís, Jesús Domingo Caniz and Domingo Pablo Puac Vásquez remain unknown.

On October 11, the Attorney General, Claudia Paz y Paz Bailey, presented the results of the first phase of the investigation. She informed that some of the persons responsible have been identified and that the legal actions to prosecute members of the Army who are thought to be responsible of extrajudicial execution and of injuries, among other charges.

In this regard, the Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Commissioner Dinah Shelton, said: “The IACHR values the actions taken by the Office of the Attorney General. It is now essential that the judicial inquiry continues until all facts are cleared up, and criminal responsibilities are established. It is also of fundamental importance that the authorities of Guatemala adopt mechanisms to avoid excessive use of force by State agents in protests and demonstrations.”

As the IACHR has stated previously, “Criminalizing legitimate social mobilization and social protest, whether through direct repression of the demonstrators or through an investigation and criminal prosecution, is incompatible with a democratic society in which persons have the right to express their opinion.”

On October 16, 2012, the Inter-American Commission requested information on these events to the Government of Guatemala. The IACHR will continue to closely monitor these investigations.

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 matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in a personal capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence. 

No. 127/12