REPORT Nº 19/00
JOSÉ SUCUNÚ PANJOJ
February 24, 2000
1. On January 18, 1995, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (hereinafter "the Commission") received a communication reporting the forced disappearance of José Sucunú Panjoj on October 29, 1994. Since then, Mr. Sucunú Panjoj’s whereabouts are unknown, despite a number of legal actions and other measures taken in attempts to establish his whereabouts. Mr. Sucunú Panjoj was a member of the Runujel Junam Council of Ethnic Organizations (Consejo de Entidades Étnicas Runujel Junam - CERJ) and was working in that institution’s human rights and public education programs. The petition alleged that the Republic of Guatemala (hereinafter "the State" or "Guatemala") was responsible for violations of Mr. Sucunú Panjoj’s rights under the American Convention on Human Rights (hereinafter "the American Convention"), specifically: the right to life (Article 4), the right to humane treatment (Article 5), the right to personal liberty (Article 7), and the right to judicial protection (Article 25), all in violation of the State’s obligations under Article 1(1) of the Convention.
2. The parties reached a friendly settlement agreement in the present case on December 21, 1999.
3. At 5:00 p.m. on October 29, 1994, Mr. José Sucunú Pajoj said farewell to some family members at the Zone 4 bus station in Guatemala City, and left on a bus for his home in Chichicastenango. He has not been seen or heard from since. At the time of his disappearance, Mr. Sucunú Pajoj was 59, married and the father of 11 children.
4. Mr. Sucunú was working as a luggage handler at the Zone 4 bus station in Guatemala City, and traveled constantly between Guatemala City and his home in the canton of Quiejel, municipality of Chichicastenango, department of El Quiché. He had been a member of the Runujel Junam Council of Ethnic Organizations (CERJ) since 1988 and worked in its human rights and public education programs.
5. The petition stated that Mr. Sucunú Pajoj had been intimidated and criticized on numerous occasions by members of the Civilian Self-defense Patrols (Patrullas de Autodefensa Civil – PAC) and by local military commissioners because of his activities with CERJ. The intimidation included, among other things, false accusations to the effect that he was in the guerrilla movement and death threats against him and his family by a former PAC member, Sebastián Macario Ventura.
6. The family of Mr. Sucunú Pajoj and CERJ instituted numerous legal actions to ascertain his whereabouts. These included two petitions of habeas corpus on behalf of the victim. When these legal measures failed to produce any results, the Sucunú family went to the Judicial Morgue, located in Zone 3 of Guatemala City, to examine the photographic records of persons who died between September 30 and November 4, 1994, but found nothing on Mr. Sucunú.
7. In February of 1995, Mr. Sucunú’s wife filed a criminal complaint against former PAC member Sebastián Macario. That, too, produced no result. Referring to Mr. Sucunú Pajoj, Sebastián Macario was alleged to have said the following in the presence of witnesses: "I got rid of the son. Now I just have to get the father."2 This case was dismissed in July of 1996.
8. The various legal remedies attempted by the family of Mr. José Sucunú Pajoj did nothing to establish his whereabouts or to determine what happened.
III. PROCEEDING WITH THE COMMISSION
9. The Commission opened Case 11.435 on March 1, 1995, and forwarded the pertinent parts of the petition to the Government of Guatemala, with the request that it send its reply within 90 days. The Government responded on June 27, 1995. This information was forwarded to the petitioners, who replied on July 23, 1995. Their reply, in turn, was sent to the Government on August 3, 1995. On October 6, 1995, the Government presented its observations. Subsequently, both the State and the petitioners supplied additional information on the case on numerous occasions.
10. On March 13, 1998, during its 98th regular session, the Commission declared this case admissible and issued admissibility report Nº 21/98. On April 14, 1998, the Government presented its response to the admissibility report to the Commission, and the petitioners presented their response on August 6, 1998.
11. On October 8, 1998, during its 100th regular session, a hearing was held at Commission headquarters, in which both parties were in attendance. There, the parties indicated their willingness to embark upon a process aimed at reaching a friendly settlement.
12. On February 8, 1999, the Commission requested information on the case from both parties, as it had not received any information since the hearing on October 8, 1998. On March 1 and 4, 1999, the Government and the petitioners supplied that information. Both parties continued to supply the Commission with additional information on this case.
13. On October 5, 1999, during its 104th session, the Commission held a hearing at which both parties were present. Its purpose was to move toward a friendly settlement.
14. On December 21, 1999, both parties arrived at a friendly settlement. The Commission was notified on January 18, 2000.
IV. FRIENDLY SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT
15. The friendly settlement agreement signed by the parties states that:
Inasmuch as objectives A and B have yet to be fully achieved, the State will report on its progress to the Commission and the petitioners every two months. Accordingly, the State will transmit this Agreement to the Attorney General of the Republic, so that he might report on the measures undertaken and their results.
16. Based on the foregoing considerations and under the terms of Articles 48(1) and 49 of the American Convention, the Commission wishes to underscore how deeply gratified it is by the friendly settlement agreement reached in the present case and to express its sincere appreciation to the parties for the efforts made to arrive at a friendly settlement based on the American Convention.
17. As the parties have agreed and in keeping with its own practice, the Commission will continue to supervise compliance with each and every point in the friendly settlement agreement reached in the present case.
THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS,
Approved by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights February 24, 2000. (Signed): Hélio Bicudo, Chairman; Claudio Grossman, First Vice-Chairman; Juan E. Méndez, Second Vice-Chairman; Robert K. Goldman; Julio Prado Vallejo and Peter Laurie, Commissioners.
1 The Commissioner Marta Altolaguirre, of Guatemalan nationality, did not participate in the discussion and decision regarding the present report, in accordance with Article 19(2) of the Commission's Regulations.
2 One of Mr. Sucunú Panjoj’s sons was hit by a car on October 27, 1994, and died as a result of his injuries.