Martin Sheen narrates this moving and fascinating documentary which follows an Irish human rights organisation (Front Line Defenders) as their founder Mary Lawlor goes to Guatemala to visit a number of human rights defenders who are risking their lives every day for their work. Dr Yuri Melini survived an assassination attempt on his life in 2008 but continues to fight for the protection of the environment and the rights of indigenous Mayan communities in Guatemala.
Lives on the Line screens tonight at 22.15 on RTÉ One.
On the morning of the 4th September, 2008 Yuri Melini was leaving his mother’s house in the Castillo Lara region in Guatemala City. A stranger called out for his attention before firing 16 shots at him hitting his legs and upper body. He spent 68 days in intensive care and received 18 blood transfusions. Nobody has been charged with the attack.
This is regarded unfortunately as an ‘occupational hazard’ for Dr Melini who is the Director of CALAS, an organisation working for the protection of the collective rights of Guatemala’s natural environment and its indigenous communities.
Four years after the assassination attempt, and despite repeated intimidation and threats on his life and the lives of those closest to him, Yuri continues to fight to give a voice to the voiceless and to stand up to the powerful governmental and multi-national corporations. His mission: to uphold the rights of the Guatemalan people and their environment.
He has been helped in his work by Front Line Defenders, an Irish-based international organisation dedicated to offering practical support to human rights defenders at risk throughout the world. This film follows Mary Lawlor, the head of Front Line Defenders, as she travels to Guatemala to see how Yuri is doing and to find out how his work is progressing.
Lives on the Line throws a spotlight on the extraordinary determination and courage of Yuri Melini and equally of those in his organisation as they fight the dark and often dangerous forces who seek to silence them. Located in one of the most stunningly beautiful countries in the world, the film offers a different perspective into their harsh, frightening and under-reported lives.