Guatemala: the ICJ deeply concerned about the situation of the Laguna Larga displaced community of El Petén

On 25 July, the ICJ visited the displaced persons of the Laguna Larga community, who were forcibly evicted from their homes over a year ago.

These displaced persons are now living in makeshift tents in infra-human conditions in the El Desengaño community, municipality of Candelaria, State of Campeche on the frontier between Guatemala and Mexico.

Their health and well-being are at serious risk.

On 8 September 2017, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted precautionary measures in favour of the evicted and displaced community of Laguna Larga (Resolution 36/2017 Precautionary Measures No 412-17), calling on the Guatemalan authorities to adopt the “necessary measures to protect the rights to life and to personal integrity of the beneficiaries, through measures designed to improve, among other aspects, their sanitary and health conditions, in particular of children, women and the elderly”.

To date, the Guatemalan authorities have taken no action to implement the precautionary measures.

The ICJ was able to observe that the only measure adopted by the Guatemalan State has been to provide the displaced community with two teachers to give classes to the children.

However, the ICJ could also observe that the educational installations are precarious, too hot and very dark, which makes it difficult to give classes.

No sanitary nor health services have been provided by the Guatemalan authorities. On 24 July, a child died only 30 hours after her birth, seemingly a consequence of lack of medical attention.

Neither have other precautionary measures concerning food, access to water and housing been implemented.

The ICJ is deeply concerned that the Guatemalan State has not fulfilled the requirements of the IACHR and that after a year, the rights to life and personal integrity of the displaced community of Laguna Larga is at risk of irreparable harm.

In the face of the inaction of the Guatemalan authorities, members of the Laguna Larga community with the support of Mexican and Guatemalan organizations have managed to implement various projects to provide drinking water, electricity, food and health services.

However, despite these important efforts, this humanitarian support remains insufficient given the serious crisis.

While the efforts of the Laguna Larga community and Mexican and Guatemala non-governmental organizations have been an example of civil society organization, it in no way exonerates, substitutes or reduces the responsibility of the Guatemalan State to guarantee the rights to life and personal integrity of the displaced population and to implement the precautionary measures ordered by the IACHR.

Ramon Cadena, Director of ICJ’s Central American Office, said:

“Given this situation, the ICJ urges the Guatemalan authorities immediately to fulfil the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ precautionary measures 412-17 and to resume the dialogue that was started before the eviction. According to international standards, the State should provide reparations for all the harm and prejudice caused.”