Press Release

IACHR Grants Precautionary Measure for Those Evicted and Displaced from the Community of Laguna Larga in Guatemala

September 29, 2017

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Washington, D.C.—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted a precautionary measure to protect the lives and personal integrity of 450 people grouped into some 111 families—members of the Maya Q’eqchi and Maya Chuj indigenous peoples, as well as campesinos and mestizos—from Laguna Larga, a community in the municipality of San Andrés, in the Guatemalan department of Petén. The beneficiaries of the precautionary measures reportedly were forced to leave their community and move to an area near El Desengaño, a community in the municipality of Candelaria, in the Mexican state of Campeche, where they are living in tents and shacks (champas), exposed to the elements, in a rural area along the Guatemala-Mexico border.

After evaluating the information provided by the Guatemalan State and the parties that requested the precautionary measures, and based on its own observations made during the on-site visit to Guatemala from July 31 to August 4, the Commission concluded that the people who were evicted and displaced from Laguna Larga are in a a serious and urgent situation. They are exposed to various risk factors, including a lack of potable water, electricity, and basic services, which have produced extremely unhealthy and unsanitary conditions. In addition, according to information received by the Commission, 36 children reportedly have different degrees of malnutrition, ranging from mild to severe, including seven or eight children under age 5 who are suffering from severe malnutrition. The Commission has also been informed that there are 14 pregnant women, seven or eight of whom have high-risk pregnancies, as well as three older men with prostatic hypertrophy, which requires medical treatment. Moreover, the Commission received information regarding complaints of threats and intimidation by members of the Guatemalan Army standing guard in their former community.

Consequently, the Commission requested that the State of Guatemala take the necessary steps to protect the beneficiaries’ rights to life and personal integrity, by adopting measures designed to improve, among other aspects, sanitation and health conditions, especially for children, women, and older persons. Specifically, the IACHR asked the State to take steps to ensure that the displaced population has access to food that is both nutritionally and culturally adequate, as well as to drinking water, at levels considered acceptable by international organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO). The Commission especially requested that immediate measures be adopted to protect the life and integrity of the children suffering from malnutrition and to prevent future cases. Measures should also be taken to ensure that the beneficiaries have safe, habitable, and healthy accommodations, as well as clothing that offers protection from the heat, the rain, the wind, and other health threats. The measures to be adopted should also guarantee safe access by the beneficiaries to the area where they used to live, so that they can collect their possessions, household items, and crops needed for the population’s subsistence; continuity of education and basic assistance and care services for children; and adequate medical care, in keeping with applicable international standards, to treat diseases, ailments, and illnesses suffered by the beneficiary population. This should include specialized medical treatment for those with chronic diseases, as well as specialized care related to women’s health and maternal health, along with care for children and older persons, in conditions that are affordable and accessible.

The IACHR also asked the State to adopt any measures that may be necessary to protect the displaced population’s rights to life and personal integrity in the face of possible acts of violence by third parties or agents of the State. At the same time, the Commission asked the State to ensure the protection of household items, property, and crops left behind when the members of the community were displaced. The precautionary measure requested that the State adopt the necessary measures to continue relevant consultations and dialogue with the people who were evicted and displaced, to reach a lasting solution to their situation, and that it come to an agreement with the beneficiaries and their representatives on the measures to be adopted. Finally, the IACHR asked the State to report on actions taken to investigate the allegations that led to the adoption of this precautionary measure, so as to avoid a recurrence.

The granting of a precautionary measure and its adoption by the State do not constitute a prejudging of any petition that may come before the inter-American system alleging violations of rights protected in the American Convention of Human Rights and other applicable instruments.

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 and defense of 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. 148/17