Report Findings

The Special Rapporteur was particularly disturbed to observe the dire situation of indigenous defenders in Guatemala during her most recent official country visit in May 2018. A staggering seven indigenous leaders were killed during and shortly after her visit. They were killed in different locations by different means: some were shot in the head or the back while others were stabbed in the throat and their bodies mutilated by machetes. All were representatives of two indigenous farmers’ organizations advocating for land rights and political participation. The killings took place in a broader national context of pernicious closing of spaces for civil society. The President of Guatemala has been publicly hostile to human rights organizations; draft legislation in Parliament seeks to restrict the work of non-governmental organizations; and social media, driven by private actors, stigmatizes Indigenous Peoples defending their rights, labelling them as “criminals” and “terrorists” who are “anti-development.”


Added to this context is the escalating number of criminal charges, reportedly in the hundreds, being filed in Guatemala against indigenous leaders and community members. The active participation of private entities in pressing charges signals the collusion between prosecutors and judges with companies and landowners in some of these cases. While in Guatemala, the Special Rapporteur visited several indigenous leaders in prison in retaliation for their land rights advocacy and attempts to litigate against large-scale projects on their territories. Arrest warrants have been issued for vague charges and in some instances on the basis of uncorroborated witness testimonies. The repeated suspension of hearings and the long periods of preventive detention violate fair trials guarantees. 



Consejo de Pueblos K’iche’ por la Defensa de la Vida, Madre Naturaleza, Tierra y Territorio (Council of K'iche' People for the Defense of Life, Mother Nature, Land and Territory)


Aura Lolita Chávez Ixcaquic

Notable Quotes

0:00: “The current situation, with widespread impunity and ongoing violation of our rights is very problematic. We are not only attacked because we are social leaders. Crimes against us are not considered attacks, but merely an offence which is forwarded to the Juzgados de Paz, through which we are expected to reach an agreement with the perpetrators of these crimes. This happens very often in Guatemala. On the other hand, when we are accused of something and we go to jail, they claim that the crimes they accused us of are real. Moreover, when our sisters are put in jail they are sexually assaulted. I face this particular risk, because there is no penitentiary in my territory, so if I were accused of something, I would have to be transferred to a jail outside of my community, where all of this police mafia is.”

© 2018 by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), a global coalition of 15 Partners, 7 Affiliated Networks, 14 International Fellows, and more than 150 collaborating international, regional, and community organizations dedicated to advancing the forestland and resource rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. The views presented on this site are not necessarily shared by the agencies that have generously supported this work, nor by all the Partners and Affiliated Networks of the Coalition. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License CC BY 4.0. View our privacy policy,


© 2018 por la Iniciativa para los derechos y recursos (Rights and Resources Initiative, o RRI por sus siglas en inglés). RRI es una coalición mundial de 15 socios principales, 7 redes afiliadas, 14 miembros internacionales y más de 150 organizaciones colaboradoras a nivel internacional, regional y comunitario, que se dedica a
fomentar los derechos de los pueblos indígenas y las comunidades locales sobre la tierra y los recursos forestales. Los puntos de vista presentados aquí no necesariamente los comparten los organismos que generosamente patrocinaron el presente trabajo o todos los socios y redes afiliadas de la coalición RRI. Este trabajo es bajo Creative Commons License Atribución Creativa CC BY 4.0.