Dear Attorney General/Ambassador,
I am writing to express my concern about the criminalization of the human rights defender Bernardo Caal Xol.
For over two years, Bernardo Caal has been unjustly deprived of his liberty. Amnesty International believes that Bernardo is being detained solely because of his views and his work in defence of Indigenous Peoples, and on 16 July 2020, the organization has declared him a prisoner of conscience demanding his immediate and unconditional release.
By reviewing Bernardo’s criminal file, Amnesty International was able to verify that there had been irregularities and negligence in the investigation by the Public Prosecutor’s Office into alleged acts of violence against employees of NETZONE SA, an OXEC contractor, that he has been accused of. These irregularities are consistent with patterns previously documented by the organization which show criminalization against those who those who defend the land, or the environment in the country.
Amnesty International was also able to confirm that Bernardo Caal was subjected to smear campaigns that sought to discredit his work and foster a negative or violent image of him, which may indirectly influence state officials and affect the presumption of innocence in cases of criminalization.
The irregularities in the investigation are having serious consequences for Bernardo Caal’s rights to liberty, the presumption of innocence and a fair trial and to defend human rights. Based on the information presented here, I urge you to:
1. Immediately carry out an internal review of Bernardo Caal’s case file assessing whether officials in the Public Prosecutor’s Office have acted in accordance with the criminal law and the internal regulations of the Public Prosecutor’s Office in this case
2. Due to the fact that there is no evidence against him, take steps to ensure that all charges against Bernardo Caal are dropped so that he is immediately released from prison.
3. Carry out a full, prompt and impartial investigation into the case made against Bernardo Caal and ensure the people responsible for furthering the unfounded accusations against him are held to account.
4. Adopt an internal protocol to address the criminalization of human rights defenders.