Activities of the Commission during the on-site observation
Upon arriving in Guatemala City, the Commission issued a Press
and established offices in the Sheraton Conquistador Hotel.
In accordance with the work schedule previously approved for the on-site
observation, the Commission carried out the following activities:
Interviews with public authorities
The Commission held interviews with authorities at different levels in
the course of its activities in Guatemala. On September 21st, it met
with the President of Guatemala, General Efrain Ríos Montt at the Palacio de
Gobierno. On this visit, the Commission was joined by the Minister of
Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, Dr. Eduardo Castillo Arriola whom it had
previously interviewed in his office.
After welcoming the members of the Commission, General Ríos Montt had a
broad and open dialogue with members of the IACHR, renewing his offer to provide
all the facilities and security possible in order for it to better accomplish
Also, the Commission met separately with the Minister of Defense,
Brigadier General Oscar Humberto Mejía Víctores who was accompanied by the
Chief of Staff, General Jorge Mario López Fuentes; with the Minister of the
Interior, Colonel Ricardo Méndez Ruiz; with the Attorney General and Chief of
the Public Ministry, Dr. Hugo Pellecer Robles; with the Labor Minister, Dr. Otto
Palma Figueroa; and with the Executive Director of the National Reconstruction
Committee, Brigadier General Luis Federico Fuentes Corado.
In addition, the Commission, on September 24th, visited the
Council of State, a body whose executive board was composed of Mr. Jorge Antonio
Serrano Elías, President, Mr. Ricardo Asturias Valenzuela, Vice-President and
by council members Edgar Ponce Villela, Félix Sarazua Patzan and Sonia Regina
Martínez Mansilla. On that occasion, there was an exchange of opinions and
points of view on the subject of human rights in Guatemala.
In the same way, the Commission held meetings with the President of the
Supreme Court of Justice, Dr. Ricardo Sagastume Vidaurre, whom it met in his
office in the Palace of Justice, and with the Director of the Forensic Medical
Service of the Judicial Body, Dr. Abel Girón Ortiz.
Interviews with Representatives of Political Organizations
The Commission invited all representatives of the political organizations
in Guatemala to a dialogue, and the following organizations agreed to meet
privately with the Commission: Christian Democrats of Guatemala, National
Liberation Movement, Democratic Institutional Party, Social Democratic Party,
National Authentic Center, National Renewal Party, and the National United
The Commission met with the President of the Executive Board of the
Lawyers Association of Guatemala, Dr. Juan José Rodil Peralta and with members
of the Executive Board of the Engineers Association, Eng. Fernando Galeech,
President of the Association, Eng. César Fernández, Dean of the Engineering
School at the University of San Carlos and Eng. Héctor Centeno, member of the
On Wednesday September 22nd, the Commission met with
authorities of the University of San Carlos, among them, the Rector, Dr. Eduardo
Meyer Maldonado and with the Dean of the School of Economic of the same
University, Dr. Vitalino Guion.
The faculties that have most suffered the effects of repression during
the last two years have been those of Law, the Humanities and Social Studies.
This phenomenon decreased markedly during the current Government, although
during the last few months of the year previous to the Commission's visit,
several persons with ties to the University had disappeared, among them several
professors, students, employees and university workers. The disappearance of
Mrs. Graciela Morales Samoyoa, Treasurer of the School of Economics, on
September 11th, 1982, was cited describing the numerous efforts made
by university authorities before government agencies to learn the whereabouts of
those persons, all to no avail.
Interviews with Representatives of Religious Organizations
The Commission met several times with Guatemalan ecclesiastical
authorities of the Catholic Church. Among them we should mention Monsignor
Eduardo Fuentes, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Guatemala and Monsignor
Gerardo Flores Reyes, Bishop of the Diocese of Alta Verapaz. It also established
contact with members of other Christian Churches carrying out catechistic and
social work in Guatemala Their testimony was very useful to the Commission.
Interviews with Representatives of the Press
The Commission, following the same policy and method used in all previous
on-site observations, invited the directors of all media organizations: print,
radio and television, to a dialogue on the human rights situation in general,
and specifically, on the respect or restrictions placed on the freedom of
expression as contained in Article 13 of the American Convention on Human
Rights. Yet, some directors did not visit the offices of the Commission.
The Commission met personally with the President of the Journalist
Association of Guatemala and Director of the “El Independiente”, Mr. Marco
Tulio Trejos Pais; with Mr. José Zamora Corleto, Director of the “Tribuna del
Aire”; with Mr. Ramiro McDonalds Blanco, Director of “Guatemala Flash”;
with Mr. Gonzalo Asturias, Director of “Teleprensa” on Channel 4 and with
other representatives of the Guatemalan press.
Interviews with Representatives of Indian Organizations
In addition to the contact established with the representatives of Indian
organizations which are part of the Council of State, the Commission also met
with persons with ties to the Guatemalan Indian organizations and with Indians
themselves, in the several departments it visited.
Meeting with Representatives of Private Business Sector
On Friday, September 24th, the Commission met with
representatives of the Coordinating Committee of Agricultural, Commercial,
Industrial and Financial Associations (CACIF) of Guatemala. Attending that
meeting were Mr. Antonio Aycinena, President of CACIF, Dr. Carlos Arias Moselli,
Dr. Santiago Pais, Mr. René González Barrios, Col. Arturo Guirola Batres and
Dr. Iván Barrera, Secretary General of CACIF.5
Visits to Detention Centers and the Police
On Friday September 24th, the Commission visited the detention
center called Second Corps of Police and following that, the Women's Jail of
Santa Teresa, both located in Guatemala City.
Trips to the interior of the country
On Thursday, September 23rd, the Commission divided into 4
working groups. Group A, consisting of Doctors Marco Gerardo Monroy Cabra and
Edmundo Vargas Carreño and Mrs. Elsa Ergueta went to El Quiché and
Chichicastenango and the villages of Parraxtut, Pichiquil and El Pajarito. Group
B consisting of Dr. César Sepúlveda, Profesor Tom J. Farer and attorney Dr.
Manuel Velasco Clark went to the Huehuetenango Department, visiting the city of
the same name, where they opened an office to receive complaints in the Saculeu
Hotel. At this locality the Sub-Commission met with the Colonel of the
departmental government, Dr. Jorge Altuve, visiting at the same time the
localities of Nenton and Colotenango village Group C, consisting of Professor
Carlos A. Dunshee de Abranches and Dr. David Padilla went to the Alta Verapaz
Department with the purpose of visiting Coban, Las Pacayas and Somuc, but bad
weather prevented them from landing at any of the chosen localities and forced
them to return to Guatemala City without achieving their objective. Group D,
consisting of Doctors Francisco Bertrand Galindo and Santiago Chaves Escoto went
to the Department of Chimaltenango, visiting the hamlets Estancia de la Virgen
in the San Martin Jilotepeque Municipality, and Agua Caliente in the San José
de Poaquil Municipality.
On September 25th, the Commission concluded its on-site
observation, holding a press conference at noon, in its offices at the Sheraton
Conquistador Hotel. At the same time, a press release was issued.6
It also paid a visit to the Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr. Eduardo Castillo
Arriola, to express its gratitude to the Government of Guatemala for the
facilities and cooperation provided so that the Commission could carry out its
Upon concluding its visit, the Commission forwarded, through the Foreign
Affairs Minister, to the Government of Guatemala a document containing the
Preliminary Recommendations reproduced below:
The Inter.-American Commission on Human Rights wishes to acknowledge its
gratitude to the Government of Guatemala for the invitation extended to visit
this country to observe on-site the human rights situation. At the same time, it
wishes to put on the record the cooperation and support provided at all times by
the governmental authorities to the Commission.
Having concluded this visit, the Commission, when it meets in its next
session, will have the opportunity to submit to the Government of Guatemala
final recommendations, once it analyzes, in depth, the situation which has
prompted this visit.
Notwithstanding the above, but because of its urgency and importance, the
Commission takes this opportunity to submit to the Government the following
1. Due Process
Modify the law creating the Courts of Special Jurisdiction conforming the
text to the judicial guarantees indispensable to due process included in the
American Convention on Human Rights, which should not be suspended even in
emergency situations. To that end, the Commission feels that the Government
could appoint a commission of Guatemalan jurists who could assist in the
drafting of a new text.
2. Right to Life and Personal
a) That, until the preceding
recommendation is carried out, all executions of death sentences be suspended.
b) That, with respect to those
persons executed pursuant to sentences passed by the Courts of Special
Jurisdiction, their bodies be turned over to their relatives.
c) That, based on the rules of
humanitarian international law applicable to internal conflicts, the basic
principles regarding summary executions and the use of torture on prisoners, and
respect for the life and personal security of the non-combatant population, be
d) That, with respect to
disappearances, it effect the investigations that would throw light on their
situations and that it strictly comply with Resolution 510/80 of the OAS General
Assembly, which exhorted the governments of the member states to establish
central registers for all persons who have been detained, and that all arrests
be made only by the competent authorities duly identified, and that the persons
detained be placed in facilities reserved for that purpose.
3. Right to Personal Liberty
a) To suspend the arrests of persons
who remain for more than a brief period of time in the custody of security
authorities without being formally charged, and without the opportunity to
defend themselves, as well as of those other persons of which the Government, at
first, claims total ignorance as concerns their whereabouts, which moreover,
implies a serious risk for their personal safety.
b) Adopt the provisions that would
allow the writ of Habeas Corpus or “personal appearance” to regain
4. State of Siege
To limit its force to the period of time for which it is strictly
indispensable, maintaining it exclusively in those Departments where the
situation requires it, lifting as soon as possible the restrictions on the
liberties and rights contemplated in the Statute of Government and the American
Convention on Human Rights, recommending, in any case, that in accordance with
that Convention certain rights and liberties cannot be suspended even under a
stage of siege.
5. Political Rights
a) To adopt the necessary measures
to ensure the political parties freedom to organize and freedom of action as
well as adequate representation in the current Guatemalan institutions.
b) To create the circumstances that
would permit holding general elections within a reasonably brief period of time.
6. Liberty of Conscience and
To begin talks with representatives of the Catholic Church to overcome
the problems and difficulties that have developed between the Government and the
7. Carrying out of previous IACHR
The IACHR requests the present Government of Guatemala to carry out the
recommendations formulated in its previous report dated October 13, 1981,
particularly with respect to the need to investigate and punish to the full
extent of the law those responsible for illegal executions, disappearances,
arbitrary arrests and torture.
Activities of the Commission after the on-site visit
Taking into consideration that in Guatemala there are no institutions
that protect and promote human rights, the Commission during its 58th
session held in Washington, the Commission during its 58th session
held in Washington on November of 1982, met with several Guatemalan as well as
international human rights organizations which provided their views on the human
rights situation in Guatemala.
At the same time, upon conclusion of the on-site visit to Guatemala and
taking into consideration the significant number of Guatemalan Indians who have
fled to Mexico, seeking refuge in the territory of the State of Chiapas,
alleging the violation of their human rights because of persecution by the Armed
Forces of Guatemala and, in many cases, the loss of their houses, possessions,
their harvest and their animals due to the destructive and arsonist acts which
they attribute to their country's army, the IACHR, with the full knowledge of
the Government of Guatemala, requested the Mexican Government's permission so
that a delegation from the Executive Secretariat might visit the area where most
of these refugees are located, with the purpose of meeting with those wishing to
provide testimony regarding human rights violations.
On January 2nd of the current year, Doctors David Padilla and
Manuel Velasco Clark, Assistant Executive Secretary and IACHR attorney,
respectively, traveled to the State of Chiapas in Mexico for that purpose,
remaining in that state's territory for one week, visiting along the
Guatemalan-Mexican border different refugee camps and rural and urban areas,
where most of the Guatemalans who have left their country are presently
On April 8, 1983 while the Commission met in its 59th session
in Washington, D.C., it received the visit of a delegation of the Government of
Guatemala consisting of the Ambassador to the United Nations, Mr. Mario Quiñones;
ex-Ambassador to the Organization of American States, Mr. Gustavo Santiso-Gálvez;
the ex-Ambassador to the United States, Dr. Jorge Luis Zelaya Coronado and Col.
Pablo Nuila, Chief of Information and Dissemination of the Army. At that time,
the delegation handed the Commission the following documents: Position of the
Government of Guatemala with respect to Human Rights; Speech by the ex-President
of the Republic of Guatemala on March 23, 1983; Decree Law 27-83 on Amnesty;
Decree Law 30-83 on the Electoral Supreme Court; Decree Law 32-83 on Political
Organizations; “Principles and Objectives of the Present Government” on
individual guarantees; refugees and cooperation projects of the Government of
Guatemala with international human rights organizations. The Guatemalan
delegation made a presentation of the noted documents and showed a videocassette
containing the speech given by the ex-President of the Republic of Guatemala and
another one given by Lieutenant López Bonilla.
Response by the Government of Guatemala to the Report of the IACHR
The Government of Guatemala addressed the Commission in Note Nº 13802,
dated July 13, 1983, including as an appendix a document entitled
“Observations by the Government of Guatemala on the Report of the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the Republic of Guatemala”.
The Commission has analyzed and taken into account with great interest
and care all the decisions set forth in that document in order to include in the
report any observation or change which might stem from the study thereof.
Nevertheless, it has not been able to find any observation, of substance or form
requiring it to change its contents substantially.
With respect to the Government of Guatemala's statements concerning the
time period established for formulating its observations, the Commission is of
the view that sufficient time was granted to ensure the Government an
opportunity to make whatever observations it deemed pertinent.
On August 1, 1983, the Government of Guatemala forwarded to the
Commission, as a supplement to the government's observations, the views of the
Guatemalan Bureau of National Police with regard to the assertions made against
it in the aforementioned report. It sated that it was not responsible for the
arrest of any of the persons mentioned therein and included certain charts on
the incidence of delinquency in the Republic and an account of the persons the
Bureau has deemed to have been killed by unknown persons from 1979 to June 30,
1983. After having studied this document carefully, neither can the Commission
consider it an answer since it affords no new bases for altering the original
Method for the preparation of the present report
In the preparation of this report, the Commission, following the rules
that it has applied in all its previous reports, has used primarily the facts it
has obtained on its own, before, during and after the on-site observation,
abiding at all times by the applicable rules. In its analysis and study of the
human rights situation in Guatemala, limited to the term of government of
General Efrain Ríos Montt, the Commission has carefully considered the
complaints, testimony and information received and at the same time it has
evaluated its own observations and experiences resulting from the same on-site
The individual complaints received have followed the process established
in the Commission's Rules. The material gathered, as well as the Guatemalan
legislation obtained, for the most part due to the collaboration of the
Government of Guatemala itself, has also been carefully studied and analyzed and
the same with the internal jurisdictional procedures.
The Commission has looked at the human rights situation in Guatemala from
a global perspective, without separating it from the internal political
situation in that country nor treating it as an isolated phenomenon. The frame
of reference including the climate of political violence that Guatemala lived
prior to the Government of General Efrain Ríos Montt, the existence of an
unconventional state of war as a result of the Guatemalan guerrilla activity and
the counter-insurgency efforts of the Army of Guatemala to counteract subversion
and terrorism and all the other elements forming the context in which the facts
of the investigation are presented, have been duly considered by the Commission.
The following report includes several chapters which make reference to
different aspects of the human rights situation. Some of these chapters include
specific cases referring to complaints lodged with the Commission which, in some
instances, are still being processed. Bearing that in mind, the Commission
wishes to make clear that the inclusion of those cases does not prejudge the
decision the Commission will adopt, with respect to those same cases, in
accordance with its pertinent rules.
On September 21st, the Inter-American Commission on Human
Rights composed of its Chairman, Dr. Marco Gerardo Monroy Cabra, its Vice
Chairman, Dr. César Sepúlveda and by Members, Professors Carlos A. Dunshee
de Abranches and Tom J. Farer and Dr. Francisco Bertrand Galindo, will begin
its activities in Guatemalan territory. Also joining the Commission are: Dr.
Edmundo Vargas Carreño, Executive Secretary; Dr. David Padilla, Assistant
Executive Secretary; Doctors Manuel Velasco Clark and Santiago Chaves Escoto,
attorneys with the Secretariat, and will also have the necessary
administrative support personnel. The purpose of the visit is to conduct an
observation relating to the human rights situation in Guatemala beginning
March 23rd of the current year, and to issue a report on whether
those rights are in force in accordance with the regulations governing the
its stay in Guatemala, the Commission will interview and hold hearings with
authorities, institutions and individuals representative of the different
groups which make up Guatemalan society. Among them: the political sector,
the university sector, the peasant sector, the Indian sector, the
professional sector, the religious sector, management, unions, students,
labor, humanitarian bodies and the mass communications media.
Government of Guatemala, in extending the invitation to the Commission to
conduct this on-site visit, has given ample assurances that the Commission
will enjoy unrestricted freedom to visit the country and interview all
individuals and entities it deems necessary. At the same time, it has also
guaranteed that individuals and institutions wishing to contact the
Commission will be able to do so without restrictions of any kind and
Commission will carry out its activities in accordance with the program
prepared to that effect both in Guatemala City and in other locations around
the country. In order to conduct those visits, on Thursday the 23rd
of this month, the Commission will divide itself into three groups and will
open offices to receive and attend to complaints made, whose location and
hours of operation will be made public at the opportune time.
its stay in Guatemala, the Commission hopes to receive the cooperation of
the representatives of the different sectors which constitute Guatemalan
society in order to contribute to a better understanding of the Guatemalan
reality in the human rights field.
Guatemala City, the Commission will have its offices at the Sheraton
Conquistador Hotel where it will hear complaints on alleged human rights
violations from September 20th to September 25th,
between 10:00 am. And 6:00 pm.
Given the influence of the private sector in Guatemala, the
Commission has deemed it useful to give a summary in this footnote, of the
main concepts expressed by their representatives at that meeting. Mr.
Antonio Aycinena Arrivillaga said: “We do not have any problems with the
current Government nor have we had them with the previous ones. We are
worried about the working class. The unions have not been strong.” Turning
to the peasant situation, speaking as a farmer, he explained that there were
two distinct classes of peasants: the independent and the salaried, and that
in Guatemala there are approximately 7 thousand small peasant communities of
an average of 150 people each, spread over the 325 municipalities that exist
in the country and that this is the least favored sector. Dr. Carlos Arias
Moselli, President of a banking and industrial institution, stated that the
human rights subject was used by former U.S. President Carter for his
“utopias” with the following result in Nicaragua: Sandinistas. He said
that the main human rights managers in Guatemala have suffered from what has
been the lack of personal safety and observed that in spite of the
difficulties, they have remained in Guatemala. He mentioned the “campaign
of the 1.000 days”, underlining the importance of democracy and economic
freedom for the development of Guatemala. He chastised what he called “the
international truth campaign” promoted from Washington by former President
Carter and those who collaborated with him in his human rights campaign. He
mentioned the advantages of the new Code of Word whose approval was blocked
by the unions. “Foreign influences affect our human rights” he said and
explained that Guatemala, due to the climate of violence, has the largest
number of privately owned armored cars. Mr. René González explained that
industrialists do not ignore the rights of workers and added, “we are
respectful of the laws and we are the ones who pay the most taxes.” He
said that not only in Guatemala were human rights stepped on. In reference
to the Guatemalan Indian, he said that they were traditionalists and without
economic motivation and that they were content to earn one day's wage even
if they could earn three. From his perspective, there had been an
infiltration process in Guatemala, mainly religious, and even thought there
were very few Catholic priests, there has always been religious fervor. He
said that Maryknoll congregation had formed guerrilla groups. He added, that
at this time the ones really doing church work were the evangelists and
that—speaking in commercial terms—the evangelists were making better
sales than the Catholics. Col. Arturo Guirola, speaking for the commercial
sector, stated that the 1,600 associated members that made up the sector he
represented, were frequently the target of terrorist actions. He said that
in the countryside, on the farms, there were innumerable assaults on
property and persons. He stated that Guatemalan entrepreneurs devoted
themselves to work, production and promotion of the country. He said that
the private sector had no influence on government in spite of the money it
spends on political campaigns. In reference to the Indians, he stated that
they actually constitute 22 nations within Guatemala, with whom they cannot
communicate due to linguistic barriers. He added that it is not for them to
develop those groups. Thereafter, the members of CACIF underlined what was
called the “Penny Foundation”, also known as the Guatemala Foundation
for Development, which they described as the social arm of the private
sector, emphasizing the social function that agency performs and whose
Executive Council is presided over by Mr. Antonio Aycinena. At the same
time, the members of CACIF noted that another of the channels of social work
of their institution was INTREA or Workers Recreation Institute, where in 3
vacation centers, workers freely enjoy the benefits of a private club. They
also underscored the importance of INTICAP or Instituto de Capacitación
(Technical Institute) 90% supported by the private sector. Finally, they
stated that in Guatemala after 40 years of union there are no labor problems
now nor have there been in the past and that the majority of the
entrepreneurs give their workers more social benefits than the law
contemplates. Dr. Iván Barrera, Secretary General of CACIF delivered a
handwritten document which in summary expresses: a) managers are exposed to
risks, but they remain in Guatemala; b) the business sector has been
severely hit by foreign subversion with great costs in terms of human lives,
loss of property and sources of employment; c) the private sector obeys the
law and contributes to the well being of all citizens.
The text of the press release reads as follows:
Saturday, September 25, 1982, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
has concluded the on-site observation of the human rights situation in
Guatemala that it has been conducting, on the invitation of this country's
Government, since the 21st of the present month.
its stay in Guatemala, the Commission met with the President of the
Republic; the ministers of Foreign Affairs, Defense, Interior and Labor; the
President of the Supreme Court, the Council of State and the National
Reconstruction Committee; the Chief of the Forensic Medicine Service, as
well as other civil and military authorities both national and departmental.
Commission also had meetings with representatives of several political,
religious, and humanitarian institutions, the mass media, and professionals,
business institutions and universities, from whom it received important
testimony on human rights.
Commission visited the compound at the Santa Teresa Women's Jail and the
2bnd Corps of the National Police in Guatemala City.
the Commission has maintained an office to receive complaints on alleged
human rights violations in the capital at the Sheraton Conquistador Hotel,
where it was staying. Those complaints will be processed in accordance with
the Statute and Rules of the Commission. The Government of Guatemala has
made a commitment to the Commission that it will not take any retaliatory
measures against persons lodging complaints with the Commission or against
entities and institutions providing information and testimony.
Commission, divided into different working groups, traveled to the
Department of Quiché, Huehuetenango, Chimaltenango and Alta Verapaz, not
being able to land at the latter due to inclement weather. In the three
Departments visited, the Commission visited different municipalities and
villages with the purpose of interviewing the residents of the area as to
the human rights situation in each one of the localities.
Commission cannot put forth any value judgment nor any substantial opinion
in terms of the human rights situation in Guatemala. The Commission will
meet in Washington during the coming month of November and will take into
account the valuable information gathered during the on-site observation,
the documents and information provided to it, as well as the other sources
available to it, and will draft the corresponding report which will be
forwarded to the Government so that it can formulate the observations it
deems appropriate. Once those observations have been analyzed, the
Commission will forward the report to the appropriate OAS agencies and
release it to the public.
the above, due to its urgency and importance, the Commission has, today,
forwarded to the Government of Guatemala a document containing
recommendations tending to improve the human rights situation in this
Commission wishes to acknowledge the facilities provided by the Government
to carry out its mission and to express its gratitude to the authorities,
the communications media, the different institutions representing the
Guatemalan community and in general, the people of Guatemala for the
hospitality and cooperation offered. Guatemala, September 25th,
7 The camps visited were Puerto Rico, Boca Chajul, Aguatinta, Cuauhetemoc, El Vértice, Benito Juarez y La Unión.