The International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) calls on Guatemala's authorities to carry out an immediate, full and transparent investigation into the reported armed raid on the home of Ramón Cadena Rámila, the Central America Regional Director of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ).
IBAHRI Co-Chair, Ambassador Hans Corell (ret), stated: 'Ramón Cadena Rámila is one of the most prominent human rights lawyers in Latin America. This targeted attack on his home is part of a series of deplorable events threatening the independence of the legal profession and the protection of human rights in Guatemala. Currently, human rights defenders in the country are unable to carry out their work without fear for their own safety, and for that of their families. The wave of harassment and intimidation taking place against human rights defenders in Guatemala is of grave concern to the IBAHRI, and we call on the relevant authorities to investigate thoroughly the most recent recounted episode.'
At 6am on Monday 15 August 2016, more than a dozen armed men posing as police officers are reported to have ransacked Mr Cadena's house in Guatemala City, forcing his family and the resident security guard to wait outside on their knees while the property was raided. Mr Cadena, who was not at home at the time, has recently been representing Guatemalan communities on behalf of the ICJ, in cases against multi-national mining companies. He has also been involved in a number of prominent human rights cases, including the trial of former President, Efraín Ríos Montt, accused of orchestrating genocide and committing crimes against humanity during Guatemala's civil war.
IBAHRI Co-Chair, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, commented: 'We would like to remind the Guatemalan authorities of their responsibilities according to the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers to safeguard legal professionals so that they may conduct their vital work free from concern of placing themselves and those around them in danger. Both the independence and work of lawyers such as Ramón Cadena is paramount to the protection of citizens' rights in Guatemala. The IBAHRI urges the Guatemalan Government to use its full capacity to protect human rights lawyers and activists who face increasing threats.'
Observers assert that there has been an escalation in the number of incidents involving the harassment and intimidation of prominent human rights defenders across Guatemala since January, when a number of former government and military officers were arrested for alleged crimes against humanity perpetrated during the country's civil war.