Photo: National Committee of Guatemalan Widows

Guatemala

Priority Issues

  • Rights of Indigenous Communities
  • Land and Resource Rights
  • Women's Rights
  • Rule of Law
  • Security of Human Rights Defenders

Began Program: 2003

For thirty-six years, Guatemala was engaged in a bloody civil war. From 1960 to 1996, thousands of rural and indigenous people were violently displaced, systematically tortured, and raped, and over 200,000 people were killed in 626 documented massacres—most perpetrated by the government against indigenous peoples.

By 2003, the year the Fund began work in Guatemala, the war had been over for six years; however human rights conditions on the ground had improved only marginally. Human rights defenders were being attacked and intimidated, violence against vulnerable populations continued, and none of the military or government officials responsible for the atrocities during the war had been brought to justice. To address these issues, we began supporting organizations that promote the rule of law and protect vulnerable populations. Through these efforts, for the first time in over a half-century, signs of major progress are emerging, and justice has been served in several landmark legal cases.

“I have survived four attempts on my life, countless threats against me and my kids, and a defamation campaign. The Fund has stood by me through it all, supporting not only my human rights work, but also my security and health.”
Claudia Samayoa, Human Rights Defenders Protection Unit, Guatemala

Our Strategy

Our strategy in Guatemala hinges on ensuring that the justice system is functioning properly and human rights activists have the protection they need to work in the face of ongoing threats, harassment, criminalization, and defamation. With that in mind, we are working to promote the rule of law by making sure that past and current perpetrators of human rights abuses are brought to justice through landmark legal cases charging military and government officials with crimes against humanity, genocide, and other serious crimes. We are continuing our efforts to promote and defend land and resource rights, particularly for indigenous peoples, and to protect the rights of women. We are carrying out these strategies by funding established organizations in Guatemala City as well as smaller community organizations in rural areas throughout the country.