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Wife of Disappeared Activist Protected
Precautionary Measures for Impoverished Paulina Mateo Chic, Wife of Disappeared Guatemalan Human Rights Defender
In 1989, Paulina Mateo Chic’s husband, indigenous Guatemalan human rights defender Nicolás Mateo, was disappeared by uniformed military in black face paint in retaliation for his work freeing hundreds of Guatemalans who had been forced to join the country’s Civil Defense Committees without pay. To this day, Nicolás’s whereabouts are unknown, and Paulina’s life has been thrown into complete disarray. The loss of her husband forced Paulina into poverty, which has led her to suffer from chronic malnutrition and severe medical conditions that leave her unable to walk.
Why is This a Key Case?
Human rights defenders are disappeared or murdered in countries around the world with an alarming frequency by regimes intent on silencing dissent. While that silence leaves a void of people doing such work—and intimidates others who might—the families of the victims are often left in untenable circumstances, sometimes forced to flee their homes while constantly facing threats to their lives.
How is RFK Human Rights Supporting Paulina?
The organization, along with partner Consejo de Comunidades Étnicas Runujel Junam, petitioned the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to adopt precautionary measures to protect Paulina’s life and physical integrity. Additionally, both organizations are litigating the case of Nicolás Mateo and the three other human rights defenders forcibly disappeared by the Guatemalan Army in 1989 (see Agapito Pérez Lucas et al. v. Guatemala).
What is the Status of the Case?
On September 1, 2017, the IACHR requested precautionary measures be adopted by Guatemala, including carrying out the necessary medical diagnoses, tests, and care, and ensuring that Paulina has adequate access to food. The government has partially complied with the measures, providing some level of relief to Paulina and her family.
Consejo de Entidades Étnicas Runujel Junam (CERJ)
We work alongside CERJ to protect the rights of indigenuos Guatemalans in cases like Agapito Pérez Lucas et al. v. Guatemala and Precautionary Measures on behalf of Paulina Mateo Chic.
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