Reverend José Pilar Álvarez, of the Association to protect Las Granadillas Mountain (APMG), was in London from 28-31 May, seeking to increase awareness and support for the work of APMG and other environmental human rights defenders in Guatemala who are similarly threatened because of their work.
Rev. Pilar helped local residents establish APMG in 2004. Deforestation, monoculture, and large-scale cattle farming by private landowners was depleting fresh water supplies, endangering local forest flora and fauna, and threatening the livelihood of local communities.
The Association campaigns for the designation of Las Granadillas Mountain as a protected area, and teaches local schools and communities about sustainable development.
In London, he met with members of both of the Houses of Parliament, and representatives of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as well as lawyers and several international human rights and environmental nongovernmental organisations.
Former High Court Judge and PBI patron Sir Henry Brooke chaired a well-attended public event at Matrix Chambers. Richard Harmer QC and Stephen Hockman QC joined Rev. José Pilar to discuss the phenomenon of criminalisation and its increasing use as a repressive measure against environmental campaigners around the world.
In 2011, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission ordered Guatemala to provide Rev. Pilar with protective measures for his security. He and his colleagues have received protective accompaniment from Peace Brigades International since 2008.