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IACHR submits case presented by RFK Human Rights and CERJ on human rights defenders who were disappeared during the internal armed conflict in Guatemala before the Inter-American Court

November 2, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights formally began processing the case of Pérez Lucas et al. v. Guatemala, submitted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on September 26, 2022. The case refers to the forced disappearance of four human rights defenders in 1989 whose whereabouts are unknown to date. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and the Consejo de Comunidades Étnicas “Runujel Junam” (CERJ) represent the victims and their families in litigating the case before the inter-American human rights system.

Human rights defenders Agapito Perez Lucas, Nicolas Mateo, Macario Pú Chivalán and Luis Ruiz Luis were active members of the CERJ. Within the framework of their work, they contributed to the liberation of peasants forcibly recruited by the Civil Defense Committees during the armed conflict in Guatemala that was still going on in 1989, the year in which the events occurred. Due to their work promoting human rights, the four defenders were subjected to threats and persecution, which culminated in their arbitrary detention and forced disappearance by members of the Guatemalan Army. Despite the public denunciations of the CERJ and international organizations, as well as the filing of numerous habeas corpus actions, the Guatemalan authorities never disclosed the whereabouts of the disappeared defenders and to date the events remain in absolute impunity.

The case of the four disappeared defenders is emblematic of the serious abuses committed by the Guatemalan Army during the internal armed conflict in the country which culminated in the signing of the Peace Accords in 1996. The case is also illustrative of impunity in Guatemala and the persistent debt of the Guatemalan State with the thousands of victims of serious human rights violations. Submitting the Pérez Lucas et al. case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights is a crucial step in clarifying the facts and claiming the rights of the victims and their families at a time when the rule of law and the commitment of the State of Guatemala with its international obligations in matters of justice and human rights is being questioned.

In addition, the case represents a new opportunity for the Inter-American Court to continue and consolidate the development of its jurisprudence on serious human rights violations that occurred in the context of internal armed conflicts, as well as the protection of human rights defenders and their right to defend.

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights continues to fight alongside the CERJ and the families of the victims in this new stage of litigation before the inter-American human rights system to obtain the truth, justice and reparation that Guatemala has denied them for more than three decades.