GUATEMALA: The Lawyer Esteban Celada is at risk
Esteban Celada is a lawyer and human right defender; he has represented victims of serious human rights violations, especially victims of sexual violence by state agents, as well as ethnic peoples who during the civil war and on an ongoing basis have been victims of crimes against humanity.
Due to the exercise of this profession, Mr. Celada has been subject to monitoring, threats, stigmatization, illegal searches, as well as events that have occurred under strange circumstances, such as the murder of his brother on 7 February 2018, a few blocks from the family home, where the respective judicial authorities seized military material at the scene of the crime. Also, he has been victim of theft of sensitive information related to the judicial proceedings, including from the offices of the Prosecutor’s Office, where relevant pieces of evidence have disappeared without explanation.
Recently, on 22 April 2020, while Mr. Celada was away from his home, he was broken into and vandalized by unknown persons, who broke numerous windows and left signs of hatred in the apartment. This fact adds to two previous attempts to search the apartment, of which the lawyer had already been a victim, and all this would be part of a broader context of conflict in which a serious situation affecting the effective protection of human rights in the country can be appreciated.
Despite the risk situation of Mr. Celada, the competent authorities have not taken effective measures to protect and safeguard his integrity and to guarantee the continuity of his work as a human rights lawyer.
Similarly, despite the evidential evidence, the judicial investigations are in the preliminary stages, and so far there has been no investigation capable of identifying and prosecuting those responsible.
It should be noted that as a protective measure the State has assigned two men from the police force to patrol around his office. However, this measure does not meet the criteria of comprehensiveness, effectiveness and relevance, since the Celada lawyer, in the exercise of his profession, moves from one region to another to carry out judicial proceedings.
The OIAD notes with concern these operations of persecution against lawyer Esteban Celada, as well as the tragic events that occurred against his brother.
The OIAD draws attention to the United Nations Principles on the Role of Lawyers, and in particular Principles 16 and 17 which state:
“Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics”(Principle 16).
“Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities” (Principle 17).
The OIAD has requested the Government of Guatemala to adopt measures to guarantee the comprehensive protection of the Celada lawyer and to proceed to the public recognition of the work done in defense of the rights of women victims of sexual violence, of ethnic peoples and of victims of serious human rights violations.