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Guatemala: UN experts call for end to criminalisation of indigenous human rights defenders in statement on Bernardo Caal Xól

Río Cahabón

“Guatemala: Stop treating indigenous human rights defenders like criminals – UN experts”, July 27, 2021

UN rights experts…[are concerned] over the criminalisation, violations of due process and health rights of an indigenous human rights defender in Guatemala.

"Mr. Bernardo Caal Xól has been criminalised because he…[tried] to halt the Oxec hydroelectric project," the experts said. "Sadly,…often…[land rights and environmental defenders]…are considered criminals."

Bernardo Caal Xól is a leader of [a]…resistance [movement]. In 2015, he organised peaceful opposition to the Oxec…project, which…endangered their…Cahabón River.

…Campaigns were launched in [the media] to discredit his work and to portray human rights defenders in a negative light.

In November 2018, he was sentenced to…prison despite a lack of evidence against him and irregularities in the prosecution

"We remain deeply concerned about long periods of pre-trial detention and the repeated suspension of hearings…," the experts said. "We urge Mr. Caal Xól to be given a fair trial by a competent…and impartial tribunal [immediately]," they said.

The experts [were also concerned about]…Mr. Caal Xól's health has deteriorated since [his imprisonment]…[The] prison, where he is held, is overcrowded, and has poor infrastructure, food and health services…These…conditions have [worsened] during the…pandemic.

"The Government…should take immediate and effective measures to protect the health and safety of Mr. Caal Xól…" the experts said, "and to guarantee his personal, physical and mental integrity."

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