Safety fears grow for Guatemalan judges

CONCERN is growing over the safety of three judges in Guatemala City who have been subjected to threats and other intimidation.

Judge Maria Villasenor, Judge Hector Orellana and Judge Mario Jiminez, all of the third chamber of the Court of Appeal in the Guatemala City, have all recently reviewed appeals in controversial human rights cases, particularly the Hunapu case.

This case implicates 30 members of the security forces in the murder of a university student and the wounding of seven others.

Recently, unidentified individuals were seen outside Orellana's and Villasenor's homes. Male voices outside Villasenor's home said they were going to kill her. Orellana's car was shot at when he was leaving a relative's home with his wife and children.

The judges reported the incidents to the Supreme Court and a few weeks later threatening calls were made to the Court of Appeal and Villasenor's car tyres were slashed.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights requested the Guatemalan government to take measures to protect the judges' lives.

As a result a police officer was assigned to Villesenor. But Amnesty's most recent report says the officer disappeared unexpectedly.

It was later reported that he had been stopped and interrogated about the judge's activities, assaulted and advised to leave his job.