Ottawa— 22 January 2018
The Nobel Peace Laureates of the Nobel Women’s Initiative call on the Guatemalan authorities to cease the harassment of Q’eqchi’ community leader and land defender Maria Choc. Maria Choc was arrested without a warrant on January 17, 2018 in Puerto Barrios while providing translation in a hearing for a community member protecting their land. Although she has been released on bail, she is required to appear to court every month until her trial date, in August 2018, and her movement is greatly restricted.
Maria Choc is a powerful voice for the Mayan Q’eqchi’ communities. She is well-known for her work defending communities in her region from threats posed by mining, mega-plantations, and state violence. She is deeply involved in supporting claimants suing HudBay Minerals in Canada, including her sister Angelica Choc whose husband Adolfo Ich was murdered by the company’s security forces.
The arbitrary arrest and intimidation of Maria Choc is yet another reminder of the enormous injustices faced by women land defenders in Guatemala. Last October, Nobel Peace laureates Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Shirin Ebadi, Jody Williams and Tawakkol Karman met with Maria during the “Women, Land and Peace” delegation to Guatemala. As we heard directly from Maria and other defenders, women human rights defenders experience not only high levels of violence –including sexual violence– they are criminalized for exercising their basic right to protest and organize in response to threats posed by resource extraction to their communities.
We express our deep concern and solidarity to the family of Maria Choc and her community.
We call on the Canadian government to publicly condemn the harassment of Maria Choc and apply its guidelines for human rights defenders, and on Guatemalan authorities to drop the charges against her.