Lawyers Support Guatemalan Colleague In Fight Against Canadian Silver Mine
Osgoode Professor Shin Imai is available to discuss why Canadian lawyers are pressuring the federal government to help ensure the safety of a Guatemalan colleague
TORONTO, Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018 – Canadian lawyers and international organizations are asking the Canadian and Guatemalan governments to ensure the safety of Guatemalan lawyer Rafael Maldonado in a fight against Canadian mining company Tahoe Resources, said Shin Imai, a professor at Osgoode Hall Law School and counsel to the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project.
Maldonado has actively defended community members concerned about the impacts of Tahoe Resources’ mining operations. He has received death threats, his office has been ransacked and shots were fired at his car earlier this year.
“Canada needs to be seen to be protecting the right to carry out legal representation without being intimidated or murdered,” said Imai.
In June 2017, Maldonado successfully argued that the silver mine should be suspended because the Guatemalan government had ignored the existence of Xinca Indigenous people in the area affected by Tahoe’s Escobal project. Within two days, Tahoe stocks plummeted 40 per cent. Supporters of the Tahoe mine took out advertisements attacking Maldonado’s place of work, the Guatemala Centre for Social and Environmental Legal Action.
“Advertisements like this are very dangerous in a country like Guatemala, which has one of the worst records in the world for the murder of human rights defenders,” said Lisa Rankin, Guatemala coordinator for the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network. Rankin has supported communities around the mine for the last five years.
International organizations such as Frontline Defenders from Ireland and Amnesty International have also profiled Maldonado as a human rights defender in need of protection.
On Dec. 20, 2017, the Canadian Bar Association wrote to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland expressing concern for Maldonado’s safety. Earlier in the fall, the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project, a group located at Osgoode Hall Law School wrote to the Canadian Embassy in Guatemala. Letters were also sent to the president of Guatemala by the Law Society of Upper Canada and the Law Society of England and Wales.
Shin Imai and Lisa Rankin are available to discuss why Canadian lawyers are pressuring the Canadian and Guatemalan governments.
*Backgrounder is available upon request.
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