Amílcar Méndez Urizar
1990, Guatemala
Amílcar Méndez Urizar

Amílcar Méndez Urizar became a prominent advocate for human rights in Guatemala in the 1980s. In July 1988 he helped to found the Comunidades Etnicas Runujel Junam (CERJ) (in English: "Council for Ethnic Communities 'We Are All Equal'"), a group that documented human rights violations against Guatemala’s indigenous population. He also directed the Committee on Displaced People of Guatemala and served in the Guatemalan Parliament from 1996-2000.

The 1996 Guatemalan Peace Accords stressed the importance of civilian participation in policymaking in order to ensure social justice. That agreement, however, have yet to be implemented. As a result, the indigenous people of Guatemala continues to suffer from gross discrimination, the denial of education and forced enlistments in Civil Defense Patrols to aid the Guatemalan Army.

According to the Human Rights Watch, Mendez and his family have repeatedly been targets of threats and intimidation. In 2007 Mendez paid the ultimate price when his son, José Emanuel, also an activist, was shot and killed by a group of unidentified assailants.

Undaunted, Amilcar Mendez Urizar continues his work to protect the constitutional and human rights of the indigenous community in Guatemala.