Letter to the Ambassador of Guatemala Concerning the Assassination of Sr. Barbara Ann Ford

Wednesday, May 16 2001

His Excellency Señor Carlos Jimenez Licona
Ambassador of Guatemala
1010 – 130 Albert Street
Ottawa, ON K1P 5G4
Fax: (613) 233-0135

Your Excellency:

We have received the sad news that Sister Barbara Ann Ford, a member of the Sisters of St. Vincent, was shot down in the streets of Guatemala City on May 5. According to the Human Rights Office of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese (ODHAG), there are indications that this crime was politically motivated. Sister Ford’s participation in the Recuperating the Historic Memory Project (REMHI), the same project that was led by Most Reverend Juan Gerardi before his assassination on April 26, 1998, may well have been a pretext for this gruesome and senseless murder.

Unfortunately, this despicable attack on a woman religious is seen as part of a larger pattern of human rights abuses occuring in your country. The human rights organization CEIBAS has had its offices ransacked four times and its staff have received 15 threats in the past year. Two leaders of FAMDEGUA (Association of Relatives of the Disappeared) were abducted by armed men on May 4. Nobel Prize Laureate Rigoberta Menchu has recently claimed that such violations of human rights are part of a policy implemented by the Guatemalan state.

We request that you inform us of the efforts of the Government of Guatemala to bring Sister Ford’s assassins to justice. Just as representatives of the Episcopal Conference of Canada met on several occasions with your predecessor, Señor Jorge Skinner-Klee, to receive updates on the progress in the case of Bishop Gerardi, we also ask you to keep us informed of your government’s action to stop the escalation of human rights abuses in Guatemala.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Rev. V. James Weisgerber
Archbishop of Winnipeg
Chairman, Human Rights Committee

c.c. The Honourable John Manley
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade