IRREGULAR ARMED GROUPS AND HUMAN RIGHTS
The Commission considers it important to cover this topic since it directly affects the human rights situation in Guatemala. It has done this in the rest of this report when the specific topic required it, especially in Chapter III on the rights of Guatemalan Maya-Quiché, and in Chapters V, VI, VII and VIII on forced military recruitment, the CVACs, refugees and internal displaced persons, and communities of population in resistance.
During its visit to Guatemala in October 1992, high military authorities informed the Commission that at that time there were between 600 to 1,000 guerrillas who were armed members of various groups united in the URNG, confined to some few isolated areas of the country, and virtually defeated militarily by an army of approximately 45,000 men.
Terrorist activities of the URNG
The COPREDEH Presidential Commission also reported that in 1992, the URNG forces have carried out
- sporadic but persistent acts of sabotage and terrorism in towns that do not have military detachments, such as Colombia, Nuevo San Carlos, La Gomera, San Felipe Retalheu, and
- have established assault and "collection" posts on routes blocking traffic and threatening passengers and cargo.
- have attacked telephone installations in El Peten and powerlines in four departments of the country.
- in the first six months of the year--according to COPREDEH data-- they have caused more than 100 deaths either of army members, or subversive and civilian combatants; and have wounded inhabitants of rural areas with Claymore buried mines that blow up the legs of anyone stepping on them.
- in June in Chajul, Department of El Quiché, more than 5,000 Ixil men and women marched to demand reparations from the URNG of Q.1.5 million (US$300,000), requesting the legal assistance of the Attorney Deputy in this effort.
The IACHR condemns the crimes and terrorism of insurgent groups and recognizes the right and duty of a democratic and constitutional State to combat them with all of the rigor of the law.
In light of the foregoing, the Commission can state that successful conclusion of the peace talks now under way between the government and the URNG representatives would help to create conditions more favorable to the full observance of human rights in Guatemala.
The Commission bases its above views on a number of factors. First, the armed concentration even in isolated areas can produce collateral damage to the civilian population and reprisals against them so that ending it reduces that possibility.
On the other hand, it is a matter of common knowledge that the continued existence of pockets of guerilla activity is used as an argument by those who seek to maintain the present military involvement in rural areas and in important sectors of Guatemalan life, creating widespread fear, reducing the power of the civilian government, hampering the work of the justice system, preventing normal resettlement of displaced persons and refugees, and finally, sabotaging the full enjoyment of the human rights of Guatemalans in various areas of the country.
The Commission does not believe that its duties include making an overall assessment of the Total Peace Initiative for the Nation presented by President Serrano in April 1991, nor of the proposals subsequently exchanged, particularly the one presented by the government on January 12, 1993 in the negotiations with the URNG, which are under way in Mexico.
However, since these proposals primarily and substantively involve the first chronological step in the negotiation of human rights, the Commission wishes to point out that the points for an agreement on human rights signed by both parties, with regard to the general commitment on them are (point 1), international verification, (point 2) the commitment to strengthen the procedures for protecting human rights, (point 3) and the commitment against impunity and of amnesty that would confirm it; provide firm, viable and satisfactory bases for an effective agreement on the end of confrontations and the resolution of additional problems until peace is established.
Moreover, the Commission cannot fail to point out here its concern that, according to the analysis made in the previous chapters, the conclusion appears to be that as the human rights violations that are a consequence of situations connected with the confrontation with the guerilla groups disappear, threats and violations against the leaders and institutions using legitimate forms of criticism, protest and claims.
If this situation is not resolved satisfactorily, the bases for the vicious circle of violence is re-established, which justifies the position of those who propose armed force as the only possible way to fight and resolve the serious problems afflicting Guatemala. The State's role through all of its institutions and agents to put an end to this tragic prospect by defending the observance of human rights is one that cannot be replaced or refused.
 The Commission, since its creation, has made it a practice to take into consideration and give an account of the phenomenon of terrorism or the actions of violence of irregular armed groups in its analysis on the observance of human rights. It has done this in its three previous reports on Guatemala (1981, 1983 and 1985), on El Salvador (1978), Argentina (1980), Colombia (1981), Nicaragua (1983) and Peru (1989), among others.