The United Nations human rights office today sounded the alarm on the recent killings of public prosecutors in Guatemala and Honduras, as well as the increasing vulnerability of human rights defenders in the two Central American countries.
“We are extremely concerned about an apparent new trend of targeting public prosecutors in Central America, apparently by organized crime groups,” Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), told a news briefing in Geneva.
“Over the past week, public prosecutors have been murdered in both Guatemala and Honduras in the course of their duties, amid growing insecurity and violence in both countries,” he said.
On 24 May in Guatemala, Allan Stwolinsky, the local auxiliary prosecutor in Coban in the Department of Alta Verapaz, was found decapitated in a plastic bag in front of the governor’s house.
Both the Attorney-General and the Interior Minister blamed the murder on the Mexican drug cartel “Los Zetas” and linked it to the seizure of 453 kilograms of cocaine, which had been coordinated by the auxiliary prosecutor.
Mr. Colville noted that this killing took place in the aftermath of the brutal massacre of 27 land workers in Peten, allegedly also by Los Zetas.
“We have expressed our support to the Attorney-General and expressed concern about the possible intention of Los Zetas to spread terror among the inhabitants of Coban and undermine the Attorney-General’s efforts to combat crime and impunity,” he stated.
In Honduras, Raul Reyes Carbajal, a public prosecutor in the city of San Pedro Sula, was gunned down on 28 May by several armed men who shot at him from another vehicle as he was driving home from work.
According to eyewitness reports, after Mr. Reyes was hit in his car, he lost control and crashed into a bus. His attackers then got out of their vehicle and shot him again to ensure he was dead.
Mr. Reyes had been coordinator of the public prosecutor’s office in Puerto Cortes for one month, and had previously coordinated a special unit against organized crime. The killing comes at a time when the public prosecutor’s office in San Pedro Sula had decided to investigate the killings of seven youths, reportedly linked to gangs, during a police operation a few days earlier.
OHCHR also voiced concern about the increasing vulnerability of human rights defenders in both of these countries. In Guatemala, in 2010 alone, 250 human rights defenders were victims of attacks and eight were killed. In Honduras, OHCHR has also been increasingly concerned about the situation of human rights defenders, journalists and members and activists of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.