This post is part of our Write for Rights series.
Norma Cruz has been speaking out against domestic violence in Guatemala for many years. She is the leader of Fundación Sobrevivientes (Survivors’ Foundation), an organization that works to document cases of domestic violence and bring perpetrators to justice. Because of her work, Norma has received numerous death threats and her life is now in grave danger.
Norma began receiving death treats in 2009. These threats have been text messages to her private phone, and voicemails have been left on her home and office phones. One caller stated: “I want you to drop the case of [man's name], you’ve got eight days to drop the case, otherwise you’ll be in serious trouble, I will give you the head of your daughter or son, you bitch.” Threats like this have also been made to her family and colleagues. These messages began appearing after Fundación Sobrevivientes provided legal assistance to a girl who was raped. In fact, relatives of the same girl have been killed for the support they gave her. Norma has been warned of similar consequences if she does not discontinue her organization’s support of the case.
Since 2009, only one man has been charged with threatening Norma’s life. He has since been released on bail. To date, the Public Prosecutor’s Office has not reported any further progress on the investigation into the remaining death threats. No one else has been held accountable. While Guatemalan authorities have provided Norma Cruz, her family and her office with police protection, the threats continue.
Norma Cruz is not the only human right’s defender in Guatemala to be receiving death threats. In fact, many human rights defenders, trade unionists and grassroots political and social activists are in similar circumstances. Like Norma, their cases are not seriously investigated by Public Prosecutor’s Office. In addition, most do not receive any protection from the state. You can help protect activists like Norma and bolster the rule of law by joining AIUSA’s Global Write-a-thon and pressing governments to do the right thing.
Elizabeth Stitt, Campaign for Individuals at Risk, contributed to this post.