Guatemala: Demand an Investigation into Attack on "Our Gay Beauty" Event

Summary

On October 18, 2008, two Guatemalan organizations—Amigos contra el Sida and Asociación Gay de Samayac—organized an event called “Our Gay Beauty” in Samayac Suchitepéquez. The event itself was focused on HIV prevention in the context of the campaign by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS. During the evening, someone threw a tear gas bomb into the space where the event was being held. While no one was seriously injured, people fainted, children became excessively tearful, and everyone was affected by the fumes. This is the second time this year that tear gas bombs have been used to attack events held by the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community.

Among the rights violated in this case are:

  • The right to liberty and security of the person
  • The right to be protected as a human rights defender
  • The right to be free from violence
  • The right to freedom of expression
  • The right to effective remedy

Action

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) joins Colectivo Amigos Contra el Sida in requesting that you send emails or faxes asking Guatemalan authorities for a fair and thorough investigation of the case, and to make sure that similar attacks do not occur in the future.

Feel free to cut and paste our letter (enclosed) as a sample and contact the individuals listed below. Please send your letters to:

Ms. María Eugenia Sierra
Procuradora Adjunta de los Derechos Humanos de Guatemala
Human Rights Associate Procurator
E mail: mesierra@pdh.org.gt
Mr. Werner Martinez
Gobernador Departamental de Suchitepéquez
Departmental Governor of Suchitepequez
E mail: gobwernermartinez@hotmail.com
Mr. Edwin Dagoberto Gutiérrez Castillo
Fiscal del Ministerio Publico en Suchitepéquez
Public Ministry Office Attrorney in Suchitepéquez
E mail: fdmazatenango@mp.lex.gob.gt
Deputy Carlos Enrique Bautista Godínez
Presidente Comisión de Derechos Humanos
Congreso de la República de Guatemala
Human Rights Commision President of the Congress of Guatemalan Republic
E mail: cbautista@congreso.gob.gt
Ms. Ruth del Valle
Comisionada Presidencial de Derechos Humanos COPREDEH
Presidential Commisioner on Human Righs
copredeh@copredeh.gob.gt

Please also send a copy of your letter to:

César Galindo Arandi- 
Colectivo Amigos Contra el SIDA
cgalindo@amigoscontraelsida.net
Fernando D'Elio - IGLHRC
fdelio@iglhrc.org

SAMPLE LETTER

Ms. María Eugenia Sierra
Human Rights Associate Procurator

Ms. Sierra,

I write on behalf of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) to express our concern and outrage over a tear gas attack at an HIV prevention event.

On October 18, 2008, two Guatemalan organizations—Amigos contra el Sida and Asociación Gay de Samayac—organized an event called “Our Gay Beauty” in Samayac Suchitepéquez. The event was focused on HIV prevention in the context of the campaign by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS. Although police provided some protection at the start of the event, their presence was transient. After they left, someone threw a tear gas bomb into the event space.

This is not the first time that sexual rights activists have been targeted in Guatemala. A similar tear gas attack occurred at an event last year in La Blanca, Ocos San Marcos. And just last month, activists from Amigos contra el Sida were arrested for distributing condoms in Flores Costa Cuca Quetzaltenango City. Police claimed they were kidnappers.

As a signatory to international declarations and treaties that assure the right to liberty and security of the person, the right to freedom of expression, and the right to non-discrimination, it is it is Guatemala’s obligation to ensure that human rights violations are fully investigated and that perpetrators are brought to justice. This is required in all cases, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Moreover, the Yogyakarta Principles on the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity specify that, “Everyone is entitled to enjoy all human rights without discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation” and that states should, “adopt appropriate legislative and other measures to prohibit and eliminate discrimination in the public and private spheres on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity” (Principle 2).

We ask that you publicly condemn the attack on the “Our Gay Beauty” event on October 18, making it clear that crimes committed on account of peoples’ sexual orientation or gender identity will not be tolerated in Guatemalan society. We also ask that you ensure that authorities make a full and fair investigation into the crime, and guarantee that once the perpetrators have been identified, they will be punished to the full extent of the law. We also request your assurance that adequate police protection will be provided for such events in the future.

We trust that you will give this issue the attention it deserves. I look forward to receiving your response.

Sincerely,

Paula Ettelbrick
Paula Ettelbrick
Executive Director
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
executive_director@iglhrc.org

Cc: Mr. Werner Martinez, Mr. Edwin Dagoberto Gutiérrez Castillo, Deputy Carlos Enrique Bautista Godínez, Ms. Ruth del Valle

Background

On October 18, 2008, two organizations—Amigos contra el Sida and Asociación Gay de Samayac—organized an event called “Our Gay Beauty” in Samayac Suchitepéquez, a town located 158 km. from Guatemala City. The focus of the event was HIV prevention in the context of the campaign by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS. Before the event, organizers asked the mayor if they could use the municipal hall for their purposes. Although the mayor originally agreed to the groups’ request, he later reneged on his commitment after being pressured by local churches. The event ultimately took place in a rental space.

Although the police provided some protection at the start of the event, their presence was transient. After they abandoned the event, someone threw a tear gas bomb into the room where the event was being held. While no one was seriously injured, people fainted, children became excessively tearful, and everyone was affected by the fumes.

This is not the first time an attack of this type has occurred. A similar attack took place last year at an LGBTI festival in La Blanca, Ocos San Marcos, a small town, 300 km. from Guatemala City. LGTBI activists have subsequently been unable to meet in that town. Given that more than 30 activists live in this community, the inability to meet is quite significant.

In line with this apparent policy of persecuting sexual rights activists, just one month ago police in Flores Costa Cuca Quetzaltenango City arrested representatives of Amigos contra el Sida who were distributing condoms. The police claimed they were kidnappers. They were ultimately released after considerable pressure was placed on the authorities.

Despite the fact that complaints have been made to the authorities, there has been no response. Colectivo Amigos contra el Sida has issued a letter denouncing the attack.

LEGAL FRAMEWORK

The right to life (and to liberty and security of the person) is protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), in Article 3, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), in Articles 6 and 9, and the Inter American Convention on Human Rights (IACHR) in Articles 4 and 7

The right to equality before the law and the right to non-discrimination are protected by the Declaration in Articles 2 and 7, the Covenant in Articles 2 and 26, and the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights, in Articles 1 and 24.

The right to Freedom of Expression is protected by UDHR (Article 19), ICCPR (Article 18), and IACHR (Article 13).

The rights of human rights defenders are protected by the UN Declaration on the Rights and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (G.A. res.53/144, U.N. Doc. U.N. Doc. A/RES/53/144 - 1999), which affirms: "Everyone is entitled, individually and in association with others, to be effectively protected under national law in reacting against or opposing, through peaceful means, activities and acts, including those by omission, attributable to States which result in violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms as well as acts of violence perpetrated by groups or individuals that affect the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms." (Article 12.2). It adds that, "In this connection, everyone is entitled, individually and in association with others, to be protected effectively under national law in reacting against or opposing, through peaceful means, activities and acts attributable to States that result in violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as acts of violence perpetrated by groups or individuals that affect the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms" (Article 12.3).

Guatemala ratified the ICCPR in 1992 and the IACHR in 1978.The UDHR is considered part of customary international law, and binding on all member states of the United Nations, including Guatemala.

Article 46 of the Guatemalan Constitution establishes the preeminence of international law and the general principle that human rights treaties and conventions accepted and ratified by Guatemala have precedence over domestic law.