December 21, 2011
From Jennifer Harbury: URGENT CALL CAMPAIGN TO WHITE HOUSE
US Lawyer and human rights activist Jennifer Harbury has been pushing for justice in war crimes cases in Guatemala for over 20 years. She writes from Guatemala, calling for action at this key moment to denounce the Guatemalan military's attempts to impede the work of Attorney General Claudia Paz and the judicial proceedings underway in key cases.
I have spent the last many days consulting with the human rights groups and attorneys here in Guatemala. We think that within the next few weeks it is very likely that the army officers facing war crimes charges will push through a de facto amnesty, either by removing Claudia Paz, the amazing attorney general, an illegal congressional amnesty (“punto final”), or through a court ruling canceling international human rights law. (Guatemalan law alone does not even recognize the basic principles of Nuremberg.)
If any of these three things happen, then the war crimes cases will come to a very abrupt end. That, of course, is the goal.
I know we are entering the heart of the holiday season this week, but this is precisely why these dates are the most dangerous in Guatemala. This time of year is also prime time for assassinations and disappearances of human rights leaders, since most of the international community is away.
Given this, we are asking EVERYONE to make an emergency call to the White House comment line this week. (See below.) We need Obama to receive some basic information, and to communicate to the Guatemalan government that the US will not support an amnesty. With the collaboration of GHRC and Rights Action, I will continue advocacy with key US congresspersons after January 1, 2012. We will then also send you information about actions we will be taking with the UN, the OAS, and others.
After you make your call, please recruit a minimum of three additional persons to call the White House Comments line starting Monday Dec. 19. We need 30 or 40 calls a day to get the message sent to the President’s desk. This takes work, but the timing is crucial. If you have classrooms or clubs, this is a great way to get calls in. Family members and friends can also jump in with you.
Once you’ve made your call, please let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can estimate how many calls are going in. We also welcome any comments or feedback from your call.
WHITE HOUSE COMMENTS LINE NUMBER: (202) 456-1111 OR (202) 456-1414
1. As President, Obama has announced he will stand strong in favor of fundamental human rights.
2. We want him to know that the incoming president of Guatemala, former General Otto Perez Molina, is deeply implicated in the past genocide against the Mayan population.
3. For years the people of Guatemala have sought to end the impunity by pressing for Nuremberg trials for the massacres. This year they came very close, thanks to the new attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz.
4. The army is responding by pushing hard for a de facto amnesty, either through the courts or congress, or by removing Claudia Paz from her position. The army has also been presenting bad faith criminal complaints against human rights leaders and journalists.
5. We ask that you take immediate steps to communicate with President Colom and President-elect Otto Perez Molina and make it clear that the United States government will not tolerate any illegal amnesty, direct or indirect, for crimes against humanity, or the bad faith criminalization of human rights leaders.
6. We thank you for attention to this very urgent matter.
A petition has also been set up on the White House website to denounce any illegal amnesty that the military tries to push through. You can add your name here.