Guatemalan lawyer under attack after representing Indigenous people opposed to controversial Canadian miner Tahoe Resources.
Toronto, January 3, 2018 – Canadian lawyers and international organizations are pressuring the Canadian and Guatemalan governments to ensure the safety of Guatemalan lawyer Rafael Maldonado. The Canadian Bar Association wrote to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland expressing concern for Mr. Maldonado’s safety on December 20, 2017. Earlier in the fall, the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project, a group located at Osgoode Hall Law School wrote to the Canadian Embassy in Guatemala. Letters were also sent to the President of Guatemala by the Law Society of Upper Canada and the Law Society of England and Wales.
Mr. Maldonado has actively defended community members concerned about the impacts of Canadian silver miner Tahoe Resources. He has received death threats, his office has been ransacked and shots were fired at his car earlier this year. The director and founder of the environmental organization where he works, the Guatemala Centre for Social and Environmental Legal Action (CALAS), survived an assassination attempt in 2008, and an employee was murdered in 2016. No one has been charged for any of these crimes.
In June, 2017, Mr. Maldonado successfully argued that the silver mine should be suspended because the Guatemalan government had ignored the existence of Xinca Indigenous people in the area affected by Tahoe’s Escobal project. Within two days, Tahoe stocks plummeted 40%. Supporters of the Tahoe mine took out advertisements attacking Mr. Maldonado’s organization, CALAS.
“Advertisements like this are very dangerous in a country like Guatemala, which has one of the worst records in the world for the murder of human rights defenders,” said Lisa Rankin who has supported communities around the mine for the last five years. International organizations such as Frontline Defenders, from Ireland and Amnesty International have also profiled Mr. Maldonado as a human rights defender in need of protection.
“Canada needs to be seen to be protecting the right to carry out legal representation without being intimidated or murdered” said Shin Imai, a professor at Osgoode Hall Law School and counsel to the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project.
Shin Imai, Justice and Corporate Accountability Project, firstname.lastname@example.org, +1 416 524 2312
Lisa Rankin, Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network, email@example.com, +11 502 4906 5626
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