I have 35 years of experience working for Human Rights, political analysis and democratic development; violence prevention, conflict management, negotiation and resolution; I am also an educator, University Professor and Lecturer. My experience includes having been a Founder and Director of a Non-governmental Human Rights Organization which filed cases before the Inter American Human Rights Commission and Court; I was a member of the Government Cabinet in my country Guatemala, as Presidential Secretary for Human Rights; and Advisor to the Foreign Ministry. I have been a radio journalist and currently write a weekly column in a major newspaper of my country. At present, I hold the Mandate as UN Special Rapporteur for the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression of the UNH-RC.
AREAS OF EXPERTISE
Human Rights experience:I have worked on the promotion and protection of Human Rights over the past 35 years.Legal Advisor to the National Workers Central Union- CNT – Guatemala, 1975-1981;
CNT was the largest workers Union formed in Guatemala during the 1970’s at a time when union activists were being persecuted by paramilitary organizations.
On June 21st 1980 the CNT headquarters were raided by military personnel and twenty seven leaders were abducted and disappeared. To date, this case remains unsolved and in impunity. This event forced me into exile and focused my work towards Guatemala´s Human Rights on issues related to the disappeared and other gross violations.Senior Fellow at the Commission on US-Latin American Relations - Washington DC, 1982-1990
After leaving Guatemala I based myself in Washington and worked as Senior Fellow at the Commission on US-Latin American Relations, an NGO that promoted the dialogue and understanding between policy makers and political actors of the US with relevant leaders of Latin America.Founder of the Center for Human Right’s Legal Action - Washington DC, 1990-1993
This Center became the first Guatemalan NGO to file petitions before the Inter-American Human Rights System. I founded this NGO, while in Washington, to defend the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples and to denounce crime against humanity committed during the Armed Conflict in my country.Founder and Director of the “Centro para la Acción Legal en Derechos Humanos – CALDH – Guatemala, 1993 – 2004
In 1993 when I returned to live in my country, Guatemala, I also transferred the Center for Human Right’s Legal Action to Guatemala as “CALDH”, where I worked as Director until January 2004. With this team I was able to work on different thematic areas such as Women’s Rights, where we challenged the Penal Code on issues related to the lack of equal rights for women and eventually reached a resolution of the Constitutional Court eliminating the crime of adultery, which only existed for women. We also coordinated with the organizations of the Social Movement on Children´s Rights to promote the Law for the Protection of Children and Adolescents.
We pioneered in the work for the Rights of people with disability and participated with different self-help associations to promote the National Law of People with Disabilities which established the National Council for people with disability – CONADI (in Spanish), and since then I have kept close relation with this topic, being visually impaired myself.
In this capacity, I directed in the year 2000, the first case of genocide against General Rios Montt and military dictators in Guatemalan Courts which was brought to oral trail in 2013.It was for all this work that I was nominated to the Nobel Peace Prize in September 2003.
As CALDH’s Executive Director, I also served as a delegate to the Civil Society Assembly, convened by the Mediator in the Guatemalan Peace Negotiation process.I was one of the founders and Executive Director of the National Movement on Human Rights – Guatemala, 1990-2004
This was the broadest coalition of Human Rights NGO´s developed in Guatemala, from where, I promoted the creation of the Unit for Human Rights Defenders (Unidad de Defensores de Derechos Humanos -UDEFEGUA).Member of the Government’s Cabinet, as Presidential Secretary for Human Rights (Comisión Presidencial Coordinadora de la Política del Ejecutivo en materia de Derechos Humanos -COPREDEH-) Guatemala, 2004-2008
I broke with the State’s Policy of denial of the past, and adopted a policy of full recognition of the Truth and State’s responsibility on Human Rights violations, and promoted a National Plan of Reparations. In this capacity I managed to conclude, with either a full compliance of the State to decisions of the Inter-American Human Rights System or through friendly settlements, 90% of the cases that for years had been pending.
During this period in government my Office promoted the signing of an Agreement between the government and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish an Office in the Country. I was later requested by the Vice-president to conduct consultations with the different sectors of the society and then draft the mandate of the International Commissioner against Impunity –CICIG-, a UN Body established to carry out investigations on clandestine and illegal groups in Guatemala.
I also accompanied the process of negotiations between the government and the office of the UN Secretary General on this matter, which concluded with the Agreement, signed on 12 December 2006 that established it.
Development of Policies: I worked in the promotion of social development policies, guidelines and standards for working with indigenous people and minorities. These include the National Policy on Human Rights, The National Policy for Education on Human Rights, The Youth Violence Prevention.President of the Board of Directors of DEMOS Institute - Guatemala, 2008- to date Demos is an NGO that promotes and strengthens women, children, youth and indigenous people´s organizations, committed to the development of democratic processes at local, national and regional level in Central America. Demos Institute is also a research and training center with the goal of influencing public policies from the perspective and the promotion of Human Rights and through this, also promoting social and economic development. We have developed a methodology of participation and exercise of freedom of expression through theater and, for the last eight years; have organized the annual National Theater Festival on Human Rights. As President of the Board of Directors, I am responsible for the strategic direction of all of DEMOS programs. I hold the of UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, to which I was appointed on 2008 by the UN Human Rights Council. In this position I developed a methodology to open a dialogue with State experts, academics and civil society organizations through regional consultations or experts meetings on the topics that I developed for the reports that I presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council and the United Nations General Assembly, which allowed me to have a closer contact with people and networks to have a better understanding of the reality of Human Rights in the different regions of the world, enabling me to make more effective recommendations in my reports. These consultations were also a mechanism to receive feedback, to disseminate past reports and to follow up on the compliance of the recommendations. All the reports were written addressing crucial issues of Freedom of Expression, responding to the new challenges of the world, and all of them were later discussed and complemented in the regional consultations, some of them have been crucial in setting principles and standards for emerging issues from a Human Rights perspective, such as on Internet. Reports presented during my mandate:
June 2009: Annual report to the UNHRC on limitations to the right to freedom of expression, safety and protection of journalists and media professionals in conflict zones.
June 2010: Annual report to the UNHRC on groups in need of attention and the role of freedom of expression in combating discrimination, permissible restrictions and limitations on freedom of expression, and protection of journalists and freedom of the press.
June 2011: Annual Report to the UNHRC on key trends and challenges to the right of all individuals to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds through the Internet.
October 2011: Annual Report to the UNGA on the right to freedom of opinion and expression exercised through the Internet.These two reports presented on 2011 set the general principles in which internet can be understood from a Human Rights perspective. This is crucial because it had only been seen under the technical and economic perspective. Internet is today the most important instrument to communication, for access to information as well as for expression and dissemination of information, ideas and opinions and therefore it has become the most important channel for exercising Freedom of Expression, citizen participation and strengthening of democracy. The first report focuses on the general Human Rights principles that should be apply to the use of internet and the second report focuses on the need of States to guarantee access to internet in two dimensions: a) to content without censorship and b) access to connectivity and infrastructure and equipment.
June 2012: Annual report to the UNHRC on the protection of journalists and media freedom. This report deal with the protection of journalists in countries where there is systematic violence and journalist encounter serious danger even if they are not technically in a situation of armed conflict. This report develops a recommendation of establishing a mechanism of protection for journalists and human rights defenders in all dangerous countries, that later was transferred to the UN interagency plan of action coordinated by UNESCO.As a consequence of this proposal I was invited to make a presentation on this topic to the UN Security Council on Dec. 2013.
October 2012: Annual report to the UNGA Freedom of opinion and expression in prevention of Hate Speech. As a consequence of the xenophobia expressed against migrants in several countries as well as homophobic speech and aggression during electoral campaign in others. This report was followed by the initiative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to hold four regional consultations that later concluded in the Rabat Plan of Action.
June 2013: Annual Report to the UNGA on the sensitive topic of on the implications of States’ surveillance of communications on the exercise of the human rights to privacy and to freedom of opinion and expression. This report generated intense interest which was developed even further with the Snowden revelations.
October 2013: Annual report to the UNHRC on the topic of the Right to Truth and Access to Information and had the purpose of closing a circle in the development of the Right to Truth of Human Rights violations from the perspective of access to public information and Foe, and also highlights the Tshwane Principles as an important contribution.I also have two reports in progress which will be presented this year:
October 2014: Annual report to the UNGA, on Freedom Expression, children and adolescents and the use of internet.From my own mandate I worked closely with mandate holders of other Rapporteurships with whom we have issued several joint statements such as:
Sept. 2012: Statement by the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations present at the seminar "Human Rights Defenders and Peaceful Protests" held in Oslo on 6-8 June 2012; on the issues of: Human rights defenders, Freedom of association, and Freedom of opinion and expression.This statement was signed by: the SR on the situation of human rights defenders, the SR on freedom of expression, and the SR on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.
August 2011: UN Independent Experts urge States to comply with their International obligations to respect, protect and fulfill women’s rights; on the issues of: Adequate housing, Summary or arbitrary executions, Freedom of opinion and expression, Human rights defenders, Independence of judiciary, Migrant workers, Traffic in persons, and Enforced or involuntary disappearances.This statement was signed by: the SR on occupied Palestine, the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, the SR on the right to adequate housing, the SR on summary executions, SR on freedom of expression, the SR on the situation of human rights defenders, the SR on independence of judges and lawyers, the SR on trafficking in persons especially women and children, and the Working Group on Disappearances.
May 2010: Human rights and cultural diversity go hand in hand”, say UN experts; on the issues of: Freedom of opinion and expression, Racism and racial discrimination, Indigenous people, Violence against women, Education, Religious intolerance and Cultural rights.This statement was signed by: the SR in the field of cultural rights, the SR on freedom of expression, the SR on Racial Discrimination, the SR on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, the SR on violence against women, the SR on the right to education, and the SR on freedom of religion or belief. Also during my mandate I have joined other International Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Opinion and Expression to make annual joint statements on relevant issues affecting this right, such as: Dec. 2008: Joint Declaration on defamation of religions, and anti-terrorism, and anti-extremism legislation May 2009: Joint Statement on the Media and Elections Feb. 2010: Four tenors: 10 key challenges to freedom of expression in the next decade June 2011: Joint declaration on freedom of expression and the internet June 2012: Joint declaration on crimes against freedom of expression April 2013: Joint declaration on the protection of freedom of expression and diversity in the digital terrestrial transition II. Teaching: Over ten years working with students both in academic and in non-formal education settings. I have had experience with rural youth leaders building capacities and citizenship, as well and with women organizations, especially indigenous women. I have been part of teams designing the curricula and developing training courses on Human Rights, Freedom of Expression, Social Communication, inter-cultural relations, management and local development, decentralization and de-concentration, social audit, advocacy, Culture of Peace, and the implementation of creative methodology as theater and street theater. I have also taught Human Rights courses at different universities such as the Human Rights Master program of Universidad Rafael Landivar-Guatemala; the HR summer course at American University, Washington D.C. and the summer course of the University of Oxford and George Washington University and I am permanent lecturer at the yearly inaugural class for the Communications Master Program at the University of San Giovanni Lateran in Rome; at the Robert Kennedy Foundation´s Human Rights Seminars in Florence, Italy. III. Management and Administration: I have been responsible of directing and managing different institutions, from NGOs to government institutions, as well as Social Development Programs in Guatemala such as the Program to Combat the Exclusion of Rural-Indigenous Women from the EU 2006-2008; Dialogue for a Culture of Peace, from the Cooperation of the Netherlands 2005-2007; OBRA-Program which was a youth violence prevention program with the support of the USAID 2011-2012; Program of Young Leadership building Democracy with Cooperation of ASDI-Sweden 2011-2013. In these capacities I have: raised funds, promoted human resources policies, multicultural approaches, environmental and gender equity policies; I have designed, organized and developed result-based evaluations of different programs and have been responsible of the strategic planning and budgetary management. IV. Journalism:
I have been a producer presenter of two TV programs “Contrasts” (2003), and All Rights to All People which is currently still being transmitted.
Weekly columnist of the column “Reflexiones” Published by Prensa Libre, since 2008.I was the Director of the Monthly Magazine “DEBATE” 1998-2004. Director and producer of the Weekly Radio Programs “Legal Talk- 2001-2002; With Voice and Vote 2002-2003; and The Right to Know your Rights 2004-2008. I am a member of the National Press Association of Guatemala – APG, and of the chamber of radio speakers of Guatemala.
OTHER SKILLSLanguages: Native Spanish and Native English Computer: Knowledge of windows environment, Office and network software.
EDUCATION1965 – 1970 High School –School “Liceo Javier”, Guatemala 1971 – 1975 Law Studies School of Law at San Carlos University, Guatemala 1985 – 1986 Courses on US Foreign Policy School of Advanced International Studies- SAIS Johns Hopkins U. Washington, D.C., U.S.A. 1987 – 1988 Human Rights and the Inter-American System Washington College of Law, American University Washington DC, U.S.A. 1994 Alternative Conflict Resolution Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, VA CONFERENCES I have been invited as a Keynote Speaker among them the following: United States: - American University – Washington, D.C. - Johns Hopkins SAIS – Washington, D.C. - George Mason University – VA - Virginia State University, VA - Richmond University and Virginia Commonwealth University , Richmond, VA - Berkeley University – California - Columbia University – New York - New York University – New York - Harvard University – Human Rights Program-MA - Duke University – NC Canada: - York University - Carlton University Europe: - University of London – ILAS - Human Rights Institute, University of Ireland in Galway - England Bar Association - Scotland Bar Association - University of Friburg – Switzerland - UNESCO - Universidad Complutense, Madrid - University of Lund, Sweden - Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, Italy South America: - Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina - Universidad Córdoba, Argentina - National University of Uruguay - National University of Chile Africa: - Cairo University - University of Pretoria, South Africa Others: - UN University of Peace, San José Costa Rica - University of Bangkok, Thailand - University of the Philippines RESEARCH AND PUBLICATIONS I have published several articles on specialized magazines and book such as a chapter in the book of internet and Human Rights edited by Peter Mollnar, Central European University; interview for the book of “Military Strategy in Guatemala” by Jennifer Schirmer and also wrote an article on Human Rights and Poverty that was published by FLACSO Guatemala in the summer of 2007. The Right to Peaceful Demonstrations book edited by Eleonora Rabinovich, ADC, Argentina Interviews published on issues such as peaceful demonstrations on Freedom of Expression, Limitations on Freedom of Expression 2010. My reports on Freedom of Expression and Internet have generated a new approach to this issue adding Human Rights perspective to Internet and developing the importance of Access as an important and fundamental element to exercise freedom of expression and several other Rights which has become a generally accepted position at the UN General Assembly and in the debate of the MDG’s. Several articles on genocide in Guatemala