The situation of human rights defenders is critical and worrisome. The report on attacks on activists in the last twenty years, presented in June 2021 by the Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (UDEFEGUA) shows the continuous increase of attacks on human rights defenders. Specifically, UDEFEGUA recorded, from 2020 to 2022, during the Giammattei administration, 2,646 aggressions against human rights defenders, 45% against women. These data have made it the most dangerous government for those who defend rights.
Justice operators and organizations dedicated to defending the right to justice are the most attacked in Guatemala, followed by those who defend the rights of indigenous peoples and the human right to a healthy environment (land, territory and natural resources), as PBI has been able to confirm through its accompaniment work, especially in the departments of Alta and Baja Verapaz. Also of concern is the increase in murders and the dynamics of criminalization and defamation processes, which are the most registered attacks. Several national and international organizations and agencies have called attention to the improper use of the judicial system to impede or hinder the work in defense of human rights. Among women defenders, the most attacked are justice operators, journalists and women who accompany other defenders through defamation, harassment and unfounded legal complaints. The main aggressors are organized crime, netcenters and the national authorities themselves.
For UDEFEGUA, Guatemala is experiencing a democratic and contradictory setback to human rights that has as its backdrop the institutional capture of the three branches of government, the dismantling of peace and human rights institutions and violence against all that is considered political opposition.
In this unequal struggle, human rights defenders find themselves in great vulnerability due to the State's inability to respond to their security needs and the impunity in which powerful actors such as organized crime act. The difficulty of the state to comply with its constitutional mandate and the penetration of crime at all levels leaves the struggle for the defense of human rights in Guatemala as a high-risk task. Faced with this situation, local and international social organizations have called on the Guatemalan authorities to develop a comprehensive public policy with broad participation of human rights defenders that protects them and allows them to carry out their work in an environment of freedom and security. The adoption of this policy was ordered as early as 2014 by the sentence “Defensor de Derechos Humanos y Otros vs. Guatemala” of the Inter-American Comission for Human Rights.