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Monthly appeal - September 2009

septembre 2009


The aftermath of the civil war

On 5 December 1982, Guatemalan security forces entered the village of Dos Erres in the department of Peten. When they left, three days later, more than 250 men, women and children had been massacred. The women were subjected to mass rape before the village was razed to the ground. The official inquiry into these atrocities, which began nearly fifteen years ago, has not led to a single prosecution.

No one knows the exact number of people killed or "disappeared" during the three decades of civil war in Guatemala (1960-1996), but the figure is reported to be at least 200 000, most of them indigenous Mayas. In total, 669 massacres have been recorded and the term genocide has been officially used to describe the acts of violence committed in four regions of the country. The conflict was brought to a close with the signature of peace agreements between the government and the armed opposition groups. Two detailed and comprehensive inquiries into the human rights abuses perpetrated were held ; one on the initiative of the United Nations and the other by the Catholic Church in Guatemala. Both unequivocally attributed responsibility for most of the crimes committed to the Guatemalan army and its allies.

In February 1999, the Comisión de Esclarecimiento Histórico (Truth Commission) published its report Memoria del Silencio (Memory of Silence), containing a series of key recommendations for working towards justice and reparation, with the aim of ensuring that such horrors can never be repeated. However, to date, most of these recommendations have not been acted upon. Of the 626 massacres attributed to the security forces, fewer than five have led to convictions and those convicted are all low-ranking. No high-ranking officers or senior civil servants have been held to account in court for ordering or approving human rights abuses.

On 9 February 2009, following a legal battle lasting almost three years, the Constitutional Court ordered the Guatemalan authorities to hand over certain military files containing information on crimes committed during the civil war. The Minister for Defence partially complied with this ruling by supplying two of the four requested documents, but stated that the remaining documents had disappeared.

ACAT calls upon the President of Guatemala to keep his promise of March 2008 to make public all military files concerning the internal armed conflict, which would represent a significant step towards bringing to justice those accused of the most serious crimes.

Moreover, there is considerable concern with regard to hundreds of Guatemalan human rights organisations which are being threatened because they are campaigning for the publication of these military files. The prosecutor for human rights, who worked on legal files during the civil war, has also fallen prey to threats and attacks and his wife was kidnapped and tortured in March 2009. It is imperative that the security of all these people be guaranteed.


Write to President Álvaro Colom

Fax : +502 2221 4423

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Write until 30 September 2009

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