[WHRD ALERT] GUATEMALA / Persecution, threats, and theft of work equipment belonging to defender and communicator María Laura González following her coverage of the Case of Our Lady of the Assumption Orphanage.

After covering a hearing on the Case of the Our Lady of the Assumption Orphanage, defender María Laura González, a communicator of the 8 Tijax Collective, was pursued and forced to hand over the camera and cell phone with which she had documented the hearing.

The incident took place soon after the defender left the courtroom. She was even pursued in the TransMetro and compelled, under threat with a deadly weapon, to hand over her work equipment.

The criminal justice process in the Case of Our Lady of the Assumption Orphanage has moved forward slowly, and the initiation of public, oral arguments has been postponed several times, thereby limiting the right to the swift and effective justice that the families deserve.

We recall the fire that broke out in a small classroom of the shelter on March 8, 2017, where 56 girls and adolescents were held under protection of the State.  As many as 41 lost their lives in the blaze, while 15 survivors suffered irreparable damage.

Given these antecedents, the 8 Tijax Collective, to which the rights defender and communicator María Laura González belongs, has accompanied the families ever since the day of the fire; during these years, members have experienced numerous threats and forms of intimidation.

We of the National Network of Women Human Rights Defenders of Guatemala and  IM-Defensoras condemn these actions that risk the physical, psychological, and emotional integrity of defender María Laura González, and that of the other members of the 8 Tijax Collective.

Likewise, we demand that the appropriate authorities act on the complaint and that they conduct the necessary investigations in order to identify those responsible for this direct attack on defender María Laura González and on the pursuit of justice itself.

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