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2011– Criminalization of community leaders opposed to Escobal mine

In 2011, as opposition to the Escobal mine began to develop in local communities, there were peaceful protests against mining-related construction work. This resulted in a series of unsubstantiated charges being levelled against opposition leaders, including members of the newly formed, Committee in Defence of Life and Peace of San Rafael Las Flores, as well as other local community activists. 

In November 2011, five leaders of the Defence Committee were charged with offences of kidnapping, burglary and terrorism on the basis of a complaint filed by the legal representative of the mining company, Minera San Rafael. The Public Prosecutor’s Office ultimately dropped the case at the request of Minera San Rafael. 

In September 2012, during peaceful protests in front of the mine, private security guards operating with police and military reportedly broke up the demonstration with violence, arresting at least 32 protesters. They were charged with arson, burglary, and terrorism, by the Public Prosecutor’s Office, with Minera San Rafael as joint plaintiff. However, a lower court judge in Cuilapa dismissed the case and they were released. An appeals court ratified this decision, concluding that the Public Prosecutor’s Office had not carried out an adequate investigation. 

Between 2012 and 2015 other leaders of the Xinka Parliament and the Defence Committee were also subject to various arrest warrants by the Public Prosecutor’s Office, primarily on the basis of allegations by mining company officials or those linked to the company. 

In 2014, the Defence Committee and Centre for Environmental and Socio-Legal Action (CALAS) filed a criminal complaint against the Canadian Director of Tahoe Resources for his role in the criminalization of community leaders protesting against the mine. Despite the Public Prosecutor’s Office officially opening an enquiry, and a judge issuing a summons in 2015 for the Director of Tahoe Resources to make a statement in response to the complaint, there is no information available of subsequent steps taken to pursue the investigation (see Rights Action 2015). 

The leaders of the Defence Committee, the Xinka Parliament and other local community leaders continuing the legal and protest movement against Escobal have faced repeated campaigns of stigmatisation, as well as intimidation and threats (See Legal Action entitled “2019- IACHR issues precautionary measures on behalf of Xinka Parliament lawyer”). No one has been held to account for the attacks on those resisting the Escobal mine. 

Type of Action / Tipo de Acción:
Criminal or Regulatory Proceedings
Extractive Project / Proyecto extractivo:
Region / Región:
Central America
Country / País:
Natural Resource / Recurso natural:
Gold, Silver
Jurisdiction / Jurisdicción:
Guatemalan System
Category of Key Actors in Legal Action / Categoría de actores claves en la Acción Legal:
Community Representatives, Non-Governmental Organizations, State Institutions, Company(ies)
Human Rights Violated/Claimed:
Right to defend rights
Key Legal Actors Involved / Actores jurídicos clave involucrados:
Committee in Defence of Life and Peace in San Rafael Las Flores, Centre for Environmental and Socio-Legal Action (CALAS), Xinka Parliament, Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM), Office of Public Prosecutor, Minera San Rafael, S.A., Tahoe Resources Inc.
Year Action Started / Año de inicio:
References / Referencias:

Luis Solano, “Under Siege: Peaceful Resistance to Tahoe Resources and Militarization in Guatemala”, dated 10 November 2015, online:, accessed 21 September 2021.

Rights Action, “Tahoe Resources Chairman Kevin McArthur Ordered To Testify In Court In Guatemala”, dated May 8 2015, online:, accessed 23 September 2021

Mining Watch Canada, “Guatemalan Prosecutor Summons Tahoe Resources CEO to Testify about Criminalization of Community Leaders”, dated 17 October 2014, online:, accessed 22 September 2021.