Daniel Ichich Chon, referred to in some media reports as Adolfo Chon Pacay, was a member of the Peasant and Community Unity Committee of San Rafael Corozal Village. He was killed on 20 July 2018 when armed men entered his community in Purulhá, Baja Verapaz and shot at the population. These violent acts reveal an alarming increase in direct aggressions against human rights defenders who focus on land and territory, the rights of peasants, indigenous peoples and social organisations. The more highly organised and politically active organisations are particularly hard-hit; these include the CUC, CCDA and CODECA.
In 2015, Mr. Byron Thomae filed a complaint for aggravated usurpation and other offences against 34 people in the communities of Los Ángeles, Dos Fuentes, and Washington. The ensuing criminal process has been moving forward since then and, on 15 August 2018, public hearings in the trial of seven of the accused began in the Sentencing Tribunal of Salamá. They face charges of aggravated usurpation and coercion.
The Public Prosecutor and the plaintiff nevertheless sought an eviction order that was granted without delay by the judge of the Salamá Criminal Court of First Instance. This was done without waiting for trial and sentencing to give clarity on the facts and, consequently, property rights to the land.
The eviction was set for 20 July, however it was suspended and postponed for several reasons. The conditions would not have permitted the eviction to be carried out in a way that respects the protocols of Guatemala’s Public Prosecutor and Human Rights Ombudsperson, or international provisions with which Guatemala must comply. No new date has been given for the eviction.
The suspension appears to have generated discontent among some, presumably people who work for Byron Thomae, who released cattle into the community of Dos Fuentes, destroying a large part of the crops that had been planted. They also fired shots at the community, causing chaos and panic. As a result of this premeditated and violent action, Daniel Ichich Chon died and Porfirio Pérez was gravely injured.
These very serious acts show that for some people, the laws and actions hailing from the times of Ubico are still in force and that shooting and killing someone found on one’s property is permitted – even if there is no certainty that these lands belong to Mr. Thomae.
Compiled from reports by Asociación Bufete Jurídico Popular de Rabinal and the Foro de ONGs Internacionales en Guatemala (FONGI)