Survivors of the Armed Conflict Demand Compliance with Peace Accords

Survivors of the thirty-six-year internal armed conflict have asked the Guatemalan government to comply with the peace accords signed in 1996 and approve a budget for reparations. Presenting a report evaluating the impact of the accords, survivors of the armed conflict requested “profound reforms” to combat poverty, racism, and discrimination.
The conflict claimed 250,000 victims, including those dead and disappeared, and left more than a million people internally displaced.  The survivors asked Congress to create the National Commission on Forced Disappeareances aimed at searching for the victims, as well as to approve a budget of 50 million quetzals for reparations.

“We believe in peace and that the authorities must have the political will to solve the structural problems that led to the war,” Miguel Quiej, who represents survivors, told EFE.

Quiej was one of the paricipants in the presentation to the three branches of government of the report on the impact of the accords. The peace accords were signed by the government and the guerrilla forces twenty years ago.

Here are those of us who suffered bombings and machine gun strafings and the contempt of the state, to demand that the commitments acquired in the peace accords be taken up again and fulfilled.”

In the opinion of Feliciana Macaria, another representative of the survivors, the government “has not shown sufficient will to comply with the commitments and protect the rights of the victims.” The report, titled “The Impact of the Peace Accords on the Victims of the Internal Armed Conflict 1996-2016,” was presented on the Patio of Peace.

The analysis states that the government has not complied with guaranteeing the victims’ rights to truth, justice, and just reparations, nor has it searched for the more than 45,000 disappeared, among them 1,000 children.

“It is lamentable that the government continues not to recognize the veracity of the Historical Clarification Commission’s report, which determined that acts of genocide were committed against the indigenous peoples, indiscriminately killing children, women, and campesinos,” the report states. In the report, the three organizations representing victims find that on balance, compliance with the peace accords has been “negative.” The groups add that refusing to look for the disappeared and put into practice and exhumation and burial policy “only serves to protect those responsible for the violations and prolongs the anguish of the families.” Indigenous peoples and women have confronted numerous obstacles to justice and many communities do not even have Public Ministry and Judiciary offices, the report explains.

The groups emphasize that the recognize the valiant work of the prosecutors and judges who have issued nineteen sentences against those responsible for serious violations committed during the conflict, but add that these are “small efforts in light of the magnitude of the violations.”

The survivors also assert that they have not received reparations. In thirteen years, only 16,000 applications have been processed and the support received has been only a small economic compensation.

“The victims and survivors continue living in conditions of extreme poverty and marginalization” because the government has not implemented policies to reduce inequality,” they point out. They note that all the governments following the signing of the accords have relegated the peace agenda to the back burner and have prioritized their political plans.

The groups ask the executive branch to strengthen the capacities of the police and to limit the army’s work to guarding the borders, as well as to implement policies to eliminate racism and discrimination.

They urge the judicial branch to investigate, prosecute, and punish the intellectual and material authors of the grave human rights violations committed during the armed conflict.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Guatemala News: August 6 – August 12

US Deports Former Guatemalan Soldier Wanted in 1982 Massacre

On Wednesday, August 10th, Santos Lopez Alonzo was deported by the United States to Guatemala. Alonzo, a Guatemalan military official who served during the internal armed conflict, is wanted for his participation in the Dos Erres massacre of 1982 in which over 200 residents of Dos Erres were brutally murdered.

Illegal Arrest of Guatemala Indigenous Authority Sparks Outrage

Oscar Sanchez, an Indigenous authority from the town of San Pablo in the San Marcos department, was reportedly arrested without a warrant on August 4th on the charges of kidnapping and illicit association. Sanchez’s arrest follows a pattern of Indigenous rights activists facing trumped-up legal charges against them because of their work on behalf of their community and because they have also been vocal opponents of hydroelectric projects in the region.

Guatemalans’ Fight Against Rogue Canadian Mining Giant Heats Up

This week, California-based NGO the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA), and the Guatemalan Diocesan Committee in Defense of Nature (CODIDENA), provided the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission with a report that provides evidence that the mining company Tahoe Resources had lied to investors. The report showed that the company had failed to acknowledge to investors that the company’s mining project in Guatemala had been continually opposed by Indigenous communities.

Guatemala News Update: April 3-23

Justice

Update: Rios Montt Genocide Case

The Guatemalan court hearing the case against Rios Montt will be moved to Santa Maria Nebaj in western Guatemala for three days to hear 15 elderly witnesses who are too unwell to travel to the capital. They will testify on the murders, displacement, and the burning of their fields that occurred during the civil war.

Guatemalan Congressman tied to war crimes

BaudilioHichos, who was a member of the Guatemalan Congress for 25 years, has been linked to a “white van unit.” These units, also known as “white van” death squad, were tied to Guatemala’s Treasury Police during the Guatemalan civil war. These units were used to disappear citizens at all hours of the day, and became a form of psychological terror. Hichos spent approximately 12 years as a part of the Treasury Police.

Suspension of Molina Theissen Case

The intermediate-stage hearing scheduled for April 19 in the Molina Theissen case, an emblematic case GHRC and international partners have been closely monitoring. Yet it was suspended by the presiding judge before it began. As the trial was set to begin the judge stated she had processed an appeal filed by one of the accused, Letona Linares, challenging a prior ruling from March 1, 2016 denying application of the National Reconciliation Law (“amnesty law”). In sharing her decision, she said that although the law required the hearing to move forward, she considered it necessary to suspend the opening of the hearing to avoid later rulings that could force the repetition of previous stages of the trial. The judge’s decision allows for more delay tactics which violates the right to access to justice for the victims of serious human rights violations, and was immediately denounced by the Molina Theissen family.

Land & Water Rights

March for Water

The Popular and Social Assembly planned a march in defense of water, drawing hundreds of supporters, which began on April 11thin Tecún Umán, San Marcos and will conclude on Earth Day, April 22nd, in Guatemala City’s Constitutional Plaza. The objectives of the march, as stated by the Quetzaltenango Maya K’iche’ Council are to demand the return and protection of the rivers, lakes, lagoons, and coastal areas from economic purposes, fortify their fight in defense of water, denounce criminalization and political persecution of water rights defenders, and raise awareness among the Guatemalan public on these issues.

Lawsuit against Canadian mining company to move forward

Thousands of documents will be handed over to the lawyers of numerous Guatemalans whom have filed negligence Margarita Caal Caal who along with 10 other women from her village were reportedly raped in 2007 when being evicted from her land by men saying that the land belonged to a Canadian mining company. The lawsuit, filed in Canada against Hudbay Mineral, Inc, is the first of its kind since previously Canadian courts have claimed to not have jurisdiction over cases where the incident occurred in another country. In addition to the claims of rape, Hudbay is also facing claims over the death of local leader Adolfo IchChaman and the shooting and paralysis of a bystander German Chub in 2009.

Dam threatens to displace communities in Mexico and Guatemala

60 communities from both sides of the Mexico-Guatemala border are opposing a hydroelectric project that would potentially displace those communities. The Boca del Cerro dam is just one of five hydroelectric projects planned for the Usumacinta River which runs between the two countries.

Guatemala called on to suspend the granting of mining licenses

On April 7, environmental analysts from the US, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Guatemala reported on Guatemala’s extractive industries and called on Guatemala to stop awarding mining licenses as well as begin consultation processes to determine how best to regulate the industry. The study shows that due to legal and institutional weaknesses, the Guatemalan government “runs the risk that the holders of mining titles will not assume their responsibilities” and public money and resources will have to be used to finance the expenses of mine rehabilitation and closure.

14 accused of forcing farmers to sell their land

In early April, 14 people were arrested on suspicion of forcing poor farmers to sell their land at cut-rate prices. Approximately 28 farms were bought in this way and then resold at market prices. This land had originally been given to the farmers as part of the 1996 Peace Accords.

1 killed in tunnel collapse at Marlin mine

On April 14, a tunnel collapsed inside Goldcorp’s Marlin mine. Originally reported as missing and likely trapped underground, 26 year old Jaime Lopez has since been reported dead. The National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction, David de Leon, has assured that the accident occurred to seismic activity and the rescue teams had followed all rescue procedures. A family member of one of the miners said the managers of the mining company took away their cell phones so they wouldn’t publicize the incident.

Indigenous Rights

UN Meets with Jimmy Morales over Indigenous Issues

Indigenous leaders are meeting with the United Nations this week to plan a meeting on global indigenous issues.

President Jimmy Morales has a poor record on indigenous rights issues, having mocked them in his past occupation as a comedian and his failure to halt large scale extraction projects and agriculture that lead to indigenous displacement.

Nevertheless, sixteen representatives from indigenous communities around the world met with leaders like President Morales and to discuss issues important to indigenous groups, such as cultural, social, and economic rights, as well as education, health and the environment.

Protests continue in Guatemala over lack of changes

President Jimmy Morales took office almost 100 days ago on a platform calling for change in corrupt practices, however Guatemalans claim that they have seen little changes in administrative practices. This comes in addition to the Observatory of Guatemala’s Indigenous Communities claimed that the new government under Jimmy Morales was “racist,” “discriminatory,” and “aimless.” They stated that they had seen “100 days of political backsliding and 100 days of growing corruption and poverty.”

Corruption

President Jimmy Morales requests extension of CICIG

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales requested an extension of the anti-corruption body, the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, this week on his first visit to the United Nations in New York. While the mandate had already been extended by former President Otto Perez Molina (ousted due to corruption charges last year) to last until 2017, President Morales’s new request stretches the Commission’s mandate until 2019.

Ex-President Otto Perez Molina accepted bribes from Spanish Company

The Spanish company, Group TCB, paid the former president and vice president of Guatemala approximately $25 million in bribes in exchange for securing a 25 year contract for building and managing a new port terminal. While the president stated that Group TCB offered the best deal for the country, there were no competing bids. These charges will be added to those that the former president and vice president are facing for their involvement in the customs corruption scandal known as La Linea, or the Line. Other government officials who were in office during Perez Molina’s presidency have also been linked to the corruption scandals.

 

2 Found Guilty in Historic Sepur Zarco Sexual Slavery Case

On Friday, February 26, 2016 Judge Jassmin Barrios read a summary of the verdict in the historic case of sexual and domestic slavery against Maya Q´eqchi´ women in 1982-83.

The Guatemalan court found both Colonel Esteelmer Reyes and Military Commissioner Heriberto Valdez Asij GUILTY of Crimes Against Humanity for abuses that include sexual violence, sexual slavery, domestic slavery, and cruel and degrading treatment, and sentenced them to 30 years in prison.

Additionally, the court found Reyes guilty on murder charges, adding 90 years to his sentence, 30 years for each of 3 victims. The court also found Asij guilty of enforced disappearance, adding 210 years to his sentence, 30 years for each of 7 men. In the parallel civil process for economic reparation, the men were ordered to pay indemnization to the victims and their families.

1hkmnqvgqiwgdgrpby5vdjq

The trial took place over four intense week of testimony of survivors and expert witnesses, who detailed the pattern of military operations in the area, and the lasting impacts of the violence suffered by the women.

“The day of the sentence was so important for justice in Guatemala,” said Dania Rodriguez, GHRC’s representative in Guatemala who observed much of the trial. “The verdict was to be read at 4pm, but some people began waiting in line hours before to ensure they could be present in the courtroom.”

As Judge Barrios read the sentence, a palpable silence fell over the crowded room. She detailed the violence the women suffered, reiterating their innocence, and explaining the evidence that confirmed the command responsibility of the two accused.

1czu1lebbrw6iwks21vk5ba

“This isn’t only about the victims,” the sentence concludes, “but about all of society. These acts should not be repeated.”

When the judge finished reading, a moment of silence hung in air, before the room erupted in applause, and chants of “Justice.”

“We all felt the gravity of the moment, the long-awaited response of the justice system for these brave women,” said Rodriguez.

The following week, on March 2, the court heard arguments for reparations. Colonel Reyes was ordered to pay a total of 5.5 million Quetzales ($732,700 USD) to the 11 women. Military Commissioner Valdez Asij was ordered to pay a total of 1.7 million Quetzales ($226,500 USD) to the families of the 7 men who were disappeared.

The court also ordered the sentence be translated into 24 Mayan languages, that information about the case be included in school curricula, that monuments be built to honor the women who suffered sexual violence by the army, and that the Defense Ministry give trainings on human rights and violence against women.

GHRC celebrates this important ruling and reiterates our solidarity with the brave women who came forward to tell their testimonies.

International organizations applaud the initiation of the Sepur Zarco trial

[Abajo en español]

International organizations applaud the initiation of the first trial for sexual slavery and violence during the armed conflict in Guatemala: the Sepur Zarco Case

Guatemala, Washington D.C. and San José, February 1, 2016.- Today the trial begins in the “Sepur Zarco” case of acts of sexual violence and domestic and sexual slavery committed from 1982 to 1986 by members of the Guatemalan army against Maya Q’eqchi’ women and the forced disappearance of several men. The accused in the case are former soldier Esteelmer Francisco Reyes Girón and former military commissioner Heriberto Valdez Asig.

This will be the first time in the world that a national court has tried a case of wartime sexual slavery case – other cases have been heard in international criminal tribunals – and the first time in Guatemala that crimes of sexual violence have been tried as international crimes. “The Guatemalan judicial system has been a pioneer in investigating complex crimes, demonstrating to other countries that confront similar challenges that it can be done,” stated Leonor Arteaga, a program officer with the Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF). Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: January 25-29

Emblematic cases of wartime atrocities move forward in Guatemala Courts

Sepur Zarco: The Case of sexual and domestic slavery against 15 Q’eqchi’ women at the Sepur Zarco military outpost goes to trial on Feb. 1, more than 30 years after the crimes were committed. GHRC’s recent post shares background and resources to stay up-to-date as the trial moves forward.

CREOMPAZ: A recent article from NACLA looks at the recent arrests of 18 former military, most of whom were arrested for their connections with crimes committed at the CREOMPAZ base in Coban. 12 of accused had been students at the US School of the Americas. Another suspect, Congressman Edgar Justino Ovalle of the President’s FCN Nation political party, enjoys immunity from prosecution, a protection recently upheld by the Guatemala Supreme Court.

Evicted Families ask the President to comply with the IACHR measures

Representatives of families of the Polochic Valley who were violently evicted in 2011 have asked President Jimmy Morales to comply with the precautionary measures granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The measures have been in place since 2011 when close to 800 families from 12 communities were violently and forcibly evicted. Only 140 families have been formally resettled, while most continue to live in precarious conditions, some returning to squat on land owned by the sugar cane refinery Chabil Utzaj, who has threatened a new wave of evictions. Families have asked for suspension of all evictions until the adoption of legislation that prevents forced evictions and that in his role as head of state, President Morales fulfills the state’s commitment to grant land and provide decent resettlement conditions for the 578 remaining families waiting for land. Continue reading

Trial Begins Feb. 1 in Historic Sepur Zarco Sexual Slavery Case

After 30 years of impunity, the case of sexual and domestic slavery at the Sepur Zarco military outpost will finally be heard in a court of law on Monday, February 1. This is a landmark case — the first time a domestic court has heard a case on wartime sexual slavery.

GHRC will be observing the trial and you can follow progress via our live tweets by following @GHRCUSA. There should be a link to a live stream available; see GHRC’s facebook and twitter for updates on Monday.

The Sepur Zarco case is the result of extensive work by three Guatemalan organizations that form the Alliance for Breaking the Silence and Ending Impunity, which worked with women victims in the region for years to build the case and provide psycosocial support to the women. A criminal suit was filed in Guatemalan courts on September 30, 2011. Continue reading