Guatemala must break cycle of discrimination against indigenous peoples, says UN expert

GENEVA, May 11, 2018 –  UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, has expressed concerns over the discrimination and marginalisation of indigenous peoples in Guatemala, referring to extreme poverty, malnutrition, forced evictions and criminal prosecutions.

At the end of a 10-day visit to the country, the UN human rights expert urged the Government to reconstruct its relationship with indigenous peoples. She also called on the Government to ensure accountability and reparations with respect to Guatemala’s civil war from 1960 to 1996.

The number of people living in poverty in Guatemala has increased 22 per cent in the last 10 years, she said. Around 40 per cent of indigenous peoples live in extreme poverty and more than half of all indigenous children are malnourished.

“I am extremely concerned over the increasing inequalities in the country and over the failure of the Government to address structural discrimination and allocate funds to address the grave situation of indigenous peoples,” Tauli-Corpuz said.

“The escalating incidence of forced evictions and the abuse of criminal proceedings against indigenous peoples who seek to defend their lands was repeatedly raised as a key concern in the various regions that I visited.

“While I was in the country I met numerous indigenous peoples who had been forcibly evicted without the provision of any humanitarian assistance. I also visited several indigenous leaders in prison who have been charged with criminal offences which appear to be inflated and who have been subjected to lengthy pre-trial detention.

“The root cause of the situation is land tenure insecurity. Guatemala has not adopted legislation nor a mechanism for the adjudication of the rights of indigenous peoples to lands, territories and natural resources. Many are left in a situation of total vulnerability in the face of competing interests and numerous projects that are carried out without consultations or the consent of the peoples concerned.

“The criminalisation of indigenous leaders who seek specific and legal solutions to land disputes will only increase tensions in society. It is necessary that Guatemala identifies, confronts and starts to work towards the resolution of these structural problems.”

Tauli-Corpuz held meetings in Guatemala City, San Marcos, Chiquimula, Alta Verapaz and Santa Rosa. Some 10’000 indigenous peoples attended the meetings with the Special Rapporteur.

‘Finally, I wish to emphasise that Guatemala has a pending debt to its indigenous peoples who were victims in the internal armed conflict,” she said. “While some steps have been taken towards accountability, such as the landmark Sepur Zarco judgment, a high level of impunity remains and reparations are outstanding.”

The full report from her mission will be presented to the Human Rights Council in September 2018.

Ms Victoria Tauli-Corpuz (The Philippines), the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, is an indigenous leader from the Kankana-ey Igorot people of the Cordillera Region in the Philippines. As an indigenous leader, she has worked for over three decades on building movement among indigenous peoples and as an advocate for women’s rights.  Ms. Tauli-Corpuz is the former Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (2005-2010). She was actively engaged in drafting and adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007.

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Guatemala

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