I am aware of the situation to which the Deputy refers, and of the difficult situation more generally that currently exists for human rights defenders, activists and social leaders in Guatemala.
Ireland is fully committed to supporting the promotion and protection of human rights and open civil society space globally and I would like to take this opportunity to strongly condemn any threats, intimidation or violence against those defending human rights and exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
Recent actions taken by the Government of Guatemala have served to increase tensions regarding the status of the rule of law and democracy in the country. Ireland, along with our EU partners, has expressed alarm over the increasing number of attacks and killings of human rights defenders over the past year, as reported by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and calls on the government of Guatemala to uphold fundamental democratic principles and respect human rights.
Ireland regularly engages on the situation in Guatemala at EU level. I fully support the statement by EU High Representative Mogherini of 26 March last which voiced concern regarding the proposed amendments to the National Reconciliation Law in Guatemala, which would result in an immediate amnesty for perpetrators of grave human rights violations during the civil war. The proposed amendments to the law governing non-governmental organisations would also impede these groups' work and curtail the activities of human rights defenders.
Ireland, along with our EU colleagues, deeply regrets the decision of the Government of Guatemala to terminate the 2006 Agreement with the UN establishing the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).
Since its establishment, the CICIG has been working effectively to combat corruption and impunity and to strengthen the rule of law in Guatemala. I would like to again urge the Guatemalan Government to allow CICIG to continue its important work until the end of the current mandate in September 2019, respecting the integrity of CICIG national and international personnel and affording them all necessary protection.
Officials at my Department in Dublin, and at our Embassy in Mexico, which has responsibility for our relations with Guatemala, are monitoring events in Guatemala closely and meet regularly with civil society and human rights groups to discuss the very concerning situation for human rights defenders in the country.
Officials recently met with representatives of the organisation referred to by the Deputy, along with representatives from Peace Brigades International (PBI), a civil society organisation that receives funding from the Department. PBI provides protection measures to human rights defenders in Guatemala, including members of the 'New Day Ch'orti' Campesino Central Coordinator (CCCND), and my Department is pleased to support PBI in this important work.
Support for human rights defenders is a long established priority of Ireland’s foreign policy and we proudly play an active role in championing the promotion and protection of such activists, and indeed of open civil society space globally.
Officials at my Department will continue to monitor developments in Guatemala closely and to engage on the human rights situation in the country with our EU, international and civil society partners.