PBI has accompanied human rights defenders who have been attacked or who are under threat over the last 30 years across a variety of countries. We respond to petitions for help made by people and civil society organisations who request international accompaniment whilst carrying out non-violent work in promoting and defending human rights, particularly when those human rights have been violated or when they are under threat.

The accompaniment that PBI has developed in Guatemala is implemented in accordance with the principles of non-violence, non-interference and non-partisanship. We practice physical accompaniment, the lobbying of authorities as well as of the diplomatic community and publish information on the work undertaken by the PBI field team and on relevant aspects of Guatemalan news. Whilst respecting the principle of non-interference in the affairs of state, we express our concerns about the proper implementation of human rights and on the right to defend such legal standards.

The work of PBI is carried out with the full knowledge and support of Guatemalan public institutions, of the international community and of civil society, and acts in strict compliance with national law. Our organisation is a legally registered entity in Guatemala, and we abide by all of the existing legal requirements that enable the proper functioning of the organisation in the country.

Representatives of international and national institutions, and of civil society organisations from across the world have repeatedly expressed the value of PBI’s work in protecting human rights defenders, and in creating spaces within which conflicts can be resolved peacefully.

PBI has never taken part in ‘illegal land occupations’, and has never used funds aimed at such ends 3. The facts that detail the occurrences that took place mid-March in the Valle del Polochic area of the department of Alta Verapaz, and regarding which PBI and other Guatemalan organisations are mentioned in the previously cited press releases, relate to the eviction of various communities, resulting in the injury of several people as well as in the death of one person, among other consequences. Two PBI volunteers were present in the area accompanying the Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders of Guatemala (UDEFEGUA) on its work of verifying threats and violations of human rights. During this accompaniment PBI observed, along with other international institutions, such as the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and national institutions, such as the Human Rights Ombudsman (PDH) and the Presidential Commission for Human Rights (COPREDEH), various moments of the eviction of the community of Quinich on the 16 th of March, having positioned ourselves at the entrance that leads into the aforementioned community.

PBI would like to emphasise that we profoundly respect the right and the ability of Guatemalan communities, civil society and human rights organisations to promote, develop and practice the defence of human rights, as well as the right of the same actors to request accompaniment from other organisations when these rights have been violated or when they are under threat due to the work that Guatemala civil society undertakes.

We therefore wish to clarify, through this letter, the work that PBI carries out in Guatemala, and correct the erroneous and uninformed claims set out in the opinion article of the 26 th of March. We would also like to express our profound concern that such mistaken information can discredit the work and risk the security of PBI’s volunteers.

In addition to this we are concerned that such claims can affect the work of international accompaniment in Guatemala, in turn diminishing the ability to protect those who defend and promote human rights across the country. In a context of rising violence and aggression, protective accompaniment continues to be desired by human rights defenders, communities, organisations and individuals who struggle peacefully for the proper implementation of human rights and whom denounce the vulnerability of those same rights.

We therefore request that the relevant authorities, the international community and civil society:

  • be attentive to erroneous affirmations which relate to the work of Guatemalan and international organisations, whilst ensuring that such affirmations are not reproduced, so as to safeguard the security and integrity of the members of those organisations.
  • publicly support the work of international accompaniment as well as the community of human rights defenders in Guatemala.

We thank you for your time and attention.
Yours sincerely,

Peace Brigades International

<media 7533>Full letter with references (pdf)</media>

<media 7534>Further information (pdf)</media>