REPORT N° 16/92
CASES 10.111 AND 10.112, 10.113,
10.120, AND 10.518
February 4, 1992
The content of reports N° 25/91, 26/91, 28/91, and 28/91 on cases N° 10.111 and 10.112, 10.113, 10.120,
and 10.518 respectively, in which the Commission granted a fixed
period to allow the Government of Guatemala to implement its
recommendations and which the Commission indicated that the reports
would be published in due course in its Annual Report pursuant to
Article 48 of the Commission Rules of Procedure;
The Government of Guatemala has failed to implement the
Commission recommendations in each case;
The Government has failed to respond to the Commission's
correspondence in these cases, and
The Commission knows of no new factors which would alter its
original findings in these cases.
THE INTER AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS,
To publish said reports in its 1991 Annual Report.
REPORT N° 25/91
CASES 10.111 AND 10.112
On October 22, l987, the Inter-American Commission on Human
Rights received the following complaint:
Danilo Sergio Mejia, 32, an agronomical engineer who worked for Digesa in region IV Escuintla, assistant to the chair of agronomy, member of the board of the University of the Western AEVO Student Association from l980 to l986, was abducted on Saturday, October 17, l987, at 3:30 p.m., at 7th Street and 13th Ave., Zone 3 of Quetzaltenango. He was taken away in a Corinto pick-up, presumably belonging to the security forces. Relatives filed a petition of habeas corpus, filed reports with the police and with the major's office. He is still missing.
On October 23, l987, the Commission sent a cable to the
Government of Guatemala on the above-mentioned complaint and
requested that the Government provide the Commission with information on
this case, numbered 10.111, as soon as possible.
Also on October 22, l987, the Commission received the following
On October 23, l987, the Commission sent a cable to the
Government of Guatemala on the above mentioned complaint and requested
that the Government provide the Commission with information on this
case, to which it gave the case number 10.112, as soon as possible.
On October 23, l987, the Commission was informed by the
petitioners that the bodies of Danilo Sergio Alvarado Mejia and Rene
Aroldo Leiva Cayax had been found, and that they bore signs that they
had been tortured, strangled, and shot.
On December 3, l987, the Commission received a letter from the
Government of Guatemala stating that the "Minister of the Interior
has stated that the crimes committed against these two university people
are now undergoing an exhaustive investigation and the case will not be
closed until we are certain who the intellectual and material authors of
these crimes were."
In light of the fact that the two cases involve a similar set of
facts they are being consolidated for the purpose of reaching a decision
in this case.
By note received at the Commission, dated January 11, l988, the
Government of Guatemala informed the Commission that:
The Government of President Vinicio Cerezo Arevalo deeply regrets the abduction and assassination of Mr. Danilo Alvarado Mejia and Rene Aroldo Leiva Cayax in mid October this year. As a consequence of these criminal action, the President ordered an exhaustive investigation of both cases, which resulted in the detention of six police officers now subject to criminal charges. The individuals under investigation are Catalino Esteban Valiente Alonzo, Head of the National Police in the Department of Quetzaltenango; Cristobal Antonio Martinez Flores; Braulio Herbelio Velasquez Rodas; Eulalio Cabrera y Cabrera; Daniel Flores Tellez, and Jose Luis Ordoņez de Leon.
Last December 4, the Minister of
Interior Juan Jose Rodil Peralta held a press conference in which he
clearly stated: 'The
present Government of Guatemala is not, like in the past, an
institutional partner of violence.'
In accordance with that, Mr. Rodil released information on the
cases above mentioned and referred to the detention of other police
officials involved in crimes that took place from 1980 to l982.
The individuals involved are: Ramon Merida Herrera and Osmundo
Fidencio Zacarias Villacinda.
The Government of Guatemala would like
to take this opportunity to express its confidence in a democratic
process that cannot tolerate abuses of any kind, particularly those
committed by forces intended to protect and preserve human rights.
On February 15, l988, the petitioner submitted additional
information, which also confirmed the information that a number of
police officers had been detained.
This information can be summarized as follows:
Alvarado Mejia, at the time of his kidnapping was the father of
two, and employed by the Ministry of Agriculture.
He was abducted by several armed men, in plainclothes, who were
driving a red vehicle with official government plates, into which he was
put after they threatened to kill him.
The victim had been riding a motorcycle when he was intercepted.
According to the press, the witnesses were too afraid to offer
him any assistance. They
only informed the local authorities as to what had occurred.
The victim's relatives informed the family, moments after he was
captured, that they had his motorcycle.
Leiva Cayax at the time of his kidnapping was 25 years old and
married. He was also
abducted by several plainclothes men, who were heavily armed, and were
driving an official government vehicle.
At the time of his detention, Leiva Cayax was driving his Toyota,
with license plate number P-33591, which subsequently appeared in
the jurisdiction of San Juan Ostuncalco, Department of Quetzaltenango.
When the vehicle appeared, the local Justice of the Peace opened
a case and sent the file to the Quetzaltenango tribunal, which was
processing the complaints regarding the kidnapping of Leiva Cayax.
On October 18, ACAFADE and other human rights groups petitioned
President Cerezo, but to no avail.
On October 19, the students at the Centro Universitario de
Occidente, held protest demonstrations in the city of Quetzaltenango,
demanding the liberation of Alvarado Mejia and Leiva Cayax.
On October 23, Alvarado Mejia's body was found on the road known
as Kilometer 175, Pacific Highway, near Cuyotenango in the Department of
Suchitepequez, with five knife wounds and signs of having been tortured.
On the same day the body of Leiva Cayax was also found, which
revealed that he had been stranged and shot, since the body had six
bullet wounds; Leiva Cayax was found on Kilometer 117, of the
Panamerican Highway, in the jurisdiction of Las Trampas, in the
Department of Solola.
According to press reports, the Ministerio de Gobernaciķn had
revealed that the persons responsible for these two assassinations were
the Chief of the National Police of Quetzaltenango, Catalino Esteban
Valiente Alonza and five policemen whose names are: Cristobal Antonio
Martinez Flores, Braulio Herbilio Velasquez Rodas, Eulalio Cabrera y
Cabrera, Daniel Flores Tellez, and Jose Luis Ordoņez de Leon.
letters dated February 15, l988, the Commission transmitted the
pertinent parts of the petitioner's letter on these cases to the
Government of Guatemala.
note dated May 11, l990, the Government of Guatemala informed the
It was established that those responsible for this abduction and
murder were a number of former agents of the national police.
They were sentenced to 30 years' imprisonment by the First Lower
Court of Quetzaltenango.
In light of the documents enclosed, which demonstrate that those
guilty of the abduction and murder were convicted, I would be most
grateful if you would remove cases N° 10.111 and 10.112 from the list of
cases against the State of Guatemala.
June 25, 1990, the Commission informed the petitioners of the response
of the Government of Guatemala, and requested that it submit whatever
observations it had thereto so that the case could be considered by the
Commission during its next period of session.
letter dated August 30, l990, the petitioners presented the following
observations to the Commission:
We enclose information on Guatemalan cases numbers 10.111 and
10.112, which concern Danilo Sergio Alvarado Mejia and Rene Aroldo Leiva
As you know, the Guatemalan Government's response to the
Commission has been that those responsible for the murders were
convicted to 30 years' imprisonment, this being the only case in
Guatemalan history in which members of the security forces were tried
for human rights violations.
These cases were initially heard by a Quetzaltenango criminal
court. On July 22, l988, it
handed down a guilty verdict against the members of the security forces
(whose names we enclose), sentencing them to 30 years in prison for
kidnapping and murder.
The Eighth Appellate Court nullified this decision and returned
the case for retrial in Quetzaltenango, with another judge presiding.
One year after their conviction, on July 24, l989, the lower
court, with the new judge presiding, cleared the accused of the
kidnapping charge, though the 30-year sentence on the murder
Finally, the case was heard in Guatemala City by the Fourth
Appellate Court, which in early August of this year dismissed all
charges against the members of the security forces who had been accused
of these abductions and murders.
This is an affront to the Alvarado Mejia and Leiva Cayax
families, and to all of us who would like to see justice done in
Guatemala some day.
We are reminded that in l988, Harvard University began a criminal
justice advisory program to assist the Guatemalan Government, and took
the case of the security forces accused of these crimes as a case study
and to prove how the investigative system could function.
However, two weeks before the accused were cleared of the
charges, Harvard University pulled out of the country, saying that the
Guatemalan Government was not disposed to investigate cases of political
violence in that country.
We enclose a copy of the "Harvard Report on Police
Trials," which was published in Guatemala by Inforpress, on page
14, on August 23, l990.
We hope that this information will be useful in following up on
these cases, so that they will not go unchallenged, as the Guatemalan
Government would have it.
September 17, l990, the Commission transmitted the observations of the
petitioners to the Government of Guatemala, and requested that it
present whatever observations it deemed appropriate within a period of
October 22, 1990, the petitioners informed the Commission of a letter
which they had received from Lic. Edmundo Vasquez Martinez, the
President of the Guatemalan Supreme Court. Lic. Vasquez Martinez stated
I received your note of September 10 wherein you request
information on the proceedings in the case involving the abduction and
murder of Aroldo Leiva and Sergio Alvarado.
The case is still before the courts.
The appropriate notifications are being made and the only finding
thus far is the dismissal handed down by the Fourth Appellate Court, to
which I have sent a photocopy of your request and the documents that you
November 8, l990, the Commission communicated this additional
information from the petitioners to the Government of Guatemala, and
requested that it present any further observations within a period of 60
additional observations were received from the petitioners and the
Government of Guatemala has not provided any further information on this
That the complaint meets the formal admissibility requirements
set forth in Article 46 of the American Convention on Human Rights, to
which Guatemala became a party when it deposited its instrument
of ratification on May 25, l978.
That domestic remedies have been exhausted in this case, pursuant
to Article 26.1.a of the American Convention, in that the Government of
Guatemala, by means of a trial court in Quetzaltenango, in July 1988,
convicted Catalino Esteban Valiente Alonzo, the National Police Chief
for the Department of Quetzaltenango, and five other National Police
officers, and sentenced them to 30-year prison terms for the
kidnapping and murder of Danilo Sergio Alvarado Mejia and Rene Aroldo
Leiva Cayax, two agronomists affiliated with the Western University
Center in Quetzaltenango. The
Police Chief was convicted for ordering the crimes and his subordinates
were held responsible for having carried them out.
That the Commission has no information that any other Guatemalan
Army or security force officials have ever been convicted in a criminal
prosecution for human rights violations.
Consequently, this l988 conviction, which was based on evidence
obtained using laboratory techniques taught to police investigators by
the United States under its Administration of Justice program for
Guatemala, was a landmark decision.
For example, hair samples taken from the Toyota jeep at the
disposal of the Chief of Police, were found to be consistent with that
of the victims, which led the trial judge to conclude that the victims
had been held in that vehicle.
That according to information received by the Commission on this
case, from sources other than the parties, the Commission has learned
that the killings were particularly atrocious.
Alvarado suffered head injuries and eight stab wounds in the
thorax; Leiva had his stomach cut open and his organs exposed, he was
strangled and his left arm was broken, as well as having received
injuries on the back caused by an electric saw.
The police interviewed witnesses and carried out laboratory tests
in its efforts to find the perpetrators of the crime.
On July 22, l988, the trial judge sentenced them to 30 years (the
heaviest sentence short of the death penalty).
The case was appealed to the Seventh Appellate Court in
Quezaltenango, which in December 1988 remanded the case to the trial
court for further investigation. A
new judge, at the trial court level, upheld the convictions on murder
but acquitted the defendants on the charges of kidnapping.
They again received sentences of thirty years, and the families
of each victim were awarded damages of 15,000 quetzales each.
The case was appealed again, but the Supreme Court reassigned it
to the Fourth Appellate Court in Guatemala City instead of to the
Seventh Appellate Court in Quetzaltenango.
The Fourth Appellate Court did not dispute the facts established
by the trial court but held that they were insufficient to uphold the
murder convictions. On July
30, l990, the convictions of the six police agents were overturned and
they were all released from detention.
That the appellate court determined that the evidence presented
in this case was insufficient to uphold the murder convictions;
consequently, three years after its commission, the State has been
unable to identify the perpetrators of this heinous crime.
The ultimate responsibility for the identification and punishment
of the perpetrators of this crime lies with the Government of Guatemala
since the Guatemalan authorities have control over the evidence since
the crime took place.
THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS,
To declare that the Government of Guatemala has failed under Art.
1.1 to ensure the full and free enjoyment of the right to life (Article
4), the right to respect for one's physical integrity (Article 5), the
right to personal liberty (Article 7), and the right of access to
justice (Article 25) of the American Convention on Human Rights in the
abduction and assassination of the two Guatemalan agronomists Danilo
Sergio Alvarado Mejia, 32, and Rene Aroldo Leiva Cayax, 28, in
To recommend to the Government of Guatemala, that it order a
thorough investigation in this case in order to clarify the facts and to
bring to justice the persons responsible for this heinous crime so that
they may be punished according to the law.
To request that the Government of Guatemala advise it of the
measures which it has adopted in order to evidence compliance with this
recommendation within a period of 90 days.
To forward this report to the Government of Guatemala, pursuant
to Article 50 of the American Convention.
To consider at the next regular meeting of the Commission whether
the measures taken by the Government of Guatemala are in compliance with
the recommendations set forth above and to decide at that time whether
or not to publish this report.