Yesterday, 22nd March, was World Water Day, and we wanted to bring attention to the case of Bernardo Caal Xol, who has been unjustly detained for three years now.
Since 2015, Bernardo Caal has defended the rights of the communities of Santa María Cahabón, affected by the construction of the OXEC hydroelectric plant on the Oxec and Cahabón rivers in the department of Alta Verapaz. He filed a series of injunctions against the project and, in 2017, the high courts acknowledged that the right to free, prior, and informed consultation of the Indigenous communities had been violated.
The Human Rights Defenders Project recently featured Bernardo in response to his having been in unjust detention for three years. Robert Mercatante wrote the following:
Bernardo Caal Xol, a water and environmental defender, has been in prison for exactly three years. He is an innocent man.
Today, January 30, marks the third anniversary of the unjust detention of Bernardo Caal Xol, a professor and indigenous Mayan Q’eqchi’ human rights defender. The Human Rights Defenders Project wishes to express our grave concern and dismay that the courts continue to delay the judicial review of his case. This despite the overwhelming evidence that Bernardo is innocent of the crimes for which he was accused and sentenced to 7 years and 4 months in prison. We feel that this malicious delay is a perverse way to keep him imprisoned and away from his family, his people, and his work in defense of the environment.
Bernardo has denounced that it was for defending the rights of his community and protecting the Cahabón River –considered sacred for the Q’eqchi’ people– that powerful actors have sought to silence his voice and disrupt his work. He affirms that the OXEC Hydroelectric Company, financed by investors in Spain and Guatemala, has sought to make an example of him for daring to oppose the massive dams and their disruptive environmental impact.
On July 16, 2020, Amnesty International declared the defender Bernardo Caal Xol “a prisoner of conscience.” In a letter to Consuelo Porras, Attorney General of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, Amnesty stated that it had access to the criminal case file and was able to verify serious irregularities, negligence, and lack of grounds in the investigation carried out by the Public Prosecutor’s Office.
Amnesty Canada have a petition to Take Action in defense of Bernardo, and you can add your name here, Free Indigenous Prisoner of Conscience Bernardo Caal Xol.
GSN featured a piece, last year, about the case here, Bernardo Caal Xol is a prisoner of conscience – Amnesty International.
You can also read the release from Amnesty International in which they confirm Bernardo Caal Xol as a Prisoner of Conscience here, Amnesty International declares Bernardo Caal Xol a prisoner of conscience.
Categories: Accompaniment, Criminalisation, Environment, Guatemala, Human Rights, Indigenous peoples, Justice, Land, Legal, Lobbying, Poverty, Resource Extraction, Solidarity in Action, Solidarity in Action/Guatemala, Violence