Inter-American Commission on Human Rights continued to monitor
developments in the status of human rights in Guatemala during the
period covered in this Annual Report.
At its 79th and 80th sessions the Commission decided to start
preparation of a special report on Guatemala, and to study the
advisability of carrying out an on-site observation, in order to
assess the human rights situation in the country.
elections were held on November 11, 1990.
Mr. Jorge Serrano Elías received a majority of 24.1 percent in
the first round on and a majority of 68.8 percent in the second round
held on January 6, 1991. The
campaign was marred by acts of violence that cost twenty politicians and
two journalists their lives. Some
politicians living in exile claimed that they were unable to participate
in the electoral process, because they felt that their lives and
personal integrity could not be guaranteed.
On the occasion
of the visit by the President of Guatemala to the United States, on
September 30, 1991, the members of the Commission were invited to meet
meeting, President Serrano reported on the measures taken to strengthen
democracy and the effective exercise of human rights.
He claimed that the situation of human rights had been improving
since his assumption of office, citing as examples the law suits against
the members of the military responsible for the Santiago Atitlán
massacre, the resumption of peace negotiations with the guerrillas, and
the Government's formal commitment to respect human rights.
The members of the Commission expressed their concern at the
number of complaints dealing with disappearances, extrajudicial
executions, cases of torture and breaches of the right to personal
freedom by groups connected with the Army as well as intimidatory
actions against the Indian population in rural areas. They also expressed their concern about the need for the
effective and independent functioning of the Judiciary.
Serrano reiterated his determination to carry through the Government's
program for the effective exercise of human rights, assuring the
Commission that its essential aim was to put an end to violations of
that kind and restore the sway of civilian power over that of military
As regards the
new Government's efforts to achieve the pacification of the country
through negotiation with the guerrillas, on April 8, 1991, the
Government proposed the Initiative for the total peace of the Nation,
based on the following four premises:
termination of the armed struggle, greater economic and social
equality, respect for and strengthening of the system of law, and
development of the democratic process by establishment of a total peace
accord and a meeting at which that accord would be signed.
with the "Initiative", a meeting was held in Mexico in April,
1991 between representatives of the Government and of the Guatemalan
National Revolutionary Unity, at which it was agreed to continue with
peace talks. Negotiations
were to continue, with Monsignor Rodolfo Quezada Toruno as Ombudsman,
and under the observation of the Representative of the Secretary General
of the United Nations, Mr. Francesc Vendrell.
A meeting in
Querétaro, Mexico, on July 12, 1991, culminated in the signing of the
accord entitled "Framework on Democratization in the Quest for
Peace by Political Means" or the Querétaro Accord.
Representatives of the Army were included in the Government's
delegation at the peace talks.
1991, Monsignor Quesada Toruno met in New York with Mr. Javier Pérez de
Cuéllar, the UN Secretary General, to assess the peace talks and
discuss their continuation.
President Serrano's efforts to improve the human rights situation in the
country in the Governmental Accord of July 12, 1991, the Government
undertook to restructure the Human Rights Advisory Commission of the
Office of the President. Basically,
its function was to coordinate measures for the effective exercise and
protection of human rights, in cooperation with the President, the
Judiciary and the Attorney for Human Rights.
the Government announced the formation of the National Peace Front (FONAPAZ),
to support the policy for catering to the needs of the refugees and the
supports any initiative aimed at the effective exercise of human rights
and hopes that both the peace process and the other expedients used will
result in the genuine protection of human rights.
In June 1991,
the Attorney for Human Rights submitted his quarterly report on the
human rights situation. He stated that 3,906 complaints had been received, of which
only 1,159 had been declared admissible since they fell within the
competence of his office, and related to situations affecting
civil and political, economic and social rights.
The report gave an account of the mediation, educational and
other activities carried out.
As regards the
right to life, various nongovernmental organizations and the Government
supplied the Commission with figures on human rights violations in
Guatemala in 1991. One
nongovernmental organization reported that during the first quarter of
the year there had been complaints of 585 extrajudicial executions and
113 forced disappearances, while another reported 180 extrajudicial
executions and 46 "disappeared" persons during the first
quarter of 1991, and expressed its particular concern over the campaign
of persecution and intimidation against activists of the Council of
Ethnic Communities Runujel Junam (CERJ) and other organizations engaged
in the defense of human rights and against their members' relatives.
In December 1991, the Office of the Archbishop of Guatemala
reported 575 extrajudicial executions, 236 murders and 144 forced
In his report
on the first half of 1991, Guatemala's Attorney for Human Rights
announced 321 accusations of alleged extrajudicial executions (116
categorized as such, 172 under consideration and 33 not categorized as
such), 80 complaints of alleged forced disappearances (27 categorized as
such, 34 under consideration, and others), plus 81 reports of missing
persons (24 of whom were found alive, 2 dead and 55 still missing).
notes with alarm different acts of violence perpetrated against members
of the trade union movement, the Village Resistance Communities, the
press, and the indigenous campesinos, and urges the Government of
Guatemala to investigate them thoroughly.
Rodriguez, a Marist Brother of Spanish origin and curriculum director of
the three Marist Colleges of Guatemala City, was stabbed to death by a
group of unidentified men who burst into his office on the morning of
April 24, 1991.
On April 25,
Dinora Perez Valdez was murdered outside of her home. She was a labor
lawyer and founder of the Guatemalan Workers' Trade Union (UNSITRAGUA).
On July 15,
1991, the leader of the Social Pastoral of El Quiché, Julio Quevedo
Quezada, was murdered there. The complaint was lodged with the Office of the Attorney for
Human Rights by Monsignor Julio Cabrera, Archbishop of El Quiché.
The body of the
journalist Anson Ng Young, correspondent of the "Times" news
agency, was discovered on July 28, 1991, in Guatemala City.
On August 13,
the journalist Byron Barrera, who had survived an attack in November
1990 in which his wife was killed, testified before the Court
prosecuting the case.
1991, the examining magistrate hearing the case against Francisco
Castillo, Carlos Guiovanni Rosales and Ezequiel Trujillo Hernández, for
alleged homicide, reported that the accused bore signs of physical
violence. They had
testified to the Office of the Attorney for Human Rights that they had
confessed to the crime because they had been tortured by members of the
On November 7,
1991, Edin Leonel Sierra Santos, a forensic doctor for the Union of
Workers of the Judicial Body (STOJ) was murdered in the Department of
Zacapa. Six days later,
Rogelio Oswaldo Peñate, a member of STOJ was also murdered by armed men
in Jutiapa, after 10 days' striking for better wages.
On November 24,
1991, Miguel Cobo Carrillo was murdered, and Jacinto Raymundo Terraza
was abducted. They were
both members of Village Resistance Communities of the Sierra.
Soldiers from the Amacchel base were accused of the crimes.
On January 17,
1992, a band of armed men in military dress killed three men and a child
in Ciudad Peronia, Villa Nueva. Two
days later, Captain Julio Alberto Yon Rivera reported that two soldiers
had been arrested and indicted. The
victims are indigenous townspeople from San Pedro Jocopilas, Quiché.
That same day,
January 17, the Commission received reports of new death threats against
people in the indigenous community of El Quiché, in Tunujá, Zacualpa,
specifically Florencio Coj García, Guadalupe Coj García, Manuel Chingo
de la Cruz, Mariano de la Cruz and Luisa Ruiz Saquic, all members of the
Mutual Aid Group. These last three were arrested on January 19, 1992, on
charges of subversion.
progress has been made in the inquiry into the kidnapping, torture and
rape of Sister Diana Ortiz, a United States Catholic nun, despite
President Serrano's campaign promise that serious measures would be
taken to solve the case. By
the end of the period covered in this report, the special prosecutor in
charge of the case had received no official authorization to take any
formal action relating thereto. In
addition, the case was moved from Antigua to Guatemala City. The Army and the Police have ignored the request to provide
the tribunal with the reports on the case.
In the case
concerning death threats to members of the Council of Ethnic Communities
Runujel Junam (CERJ), the Commission asked the Inter-American
Court of Human Rights to adopt precautionary measures for the protection
of the following 14 persons: Diego
Perebal, José Velásquez, Rafaela Carpir, Manuel Suy, José Suy, Amílcar
Méndez, Justina Tzoc, Manuel Mejía, Miguel Sucuqui, Juan Tum, Claudia
Quiñones, Pedro Ixcaya, María A. Torres and Roberto Lemus.
On July 15, 1991, the President of the Court provisionally
granted the request and resolved: "1. To request the Government of
Guatemala to adopt promptly any measures necessary for the protection of
the right to life and to personal integrity of (number indicated) in
strict compliance with the obligation to respect and guarantee the human
rights to which they are committed by virtue of Article 1.1 of the
Convention. 2. To convene
the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to sit from July 29 to
31, 1991 ... (to hear the case). 3.
To invite the Government of Guatemala and the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights ...to a public hearing...on July 29,
repeatedly complained of threats to them.
One such occasion was at press conference attended by the
Minister of the Interior, Fernando Hurtado Prem and the Attorney General
for Human Rights, Ramiro de León Carpio.
of Guatemala asked for the July 29, 1991 hearing to be postponed.
On August 1 the Court confirmed the measures formerly decreed by
the President, extending them to December 3, 1991, and requested the
Government of Guatemala to indicate the measures it had taken.
The Court also invited the Government and the Commission to keep
the Court informed on their implementation.
seriousness and frequency of the threats, Mr. Amílcar Méndez (one of
the subjects of the precautionary measures) decided to leave the country
temporarily in October 1991. Judge
Roberto Lemus Garza also left the country on July 17, 1991.
Mr. Amílcar Méndez visited the Commission and complained of the
continued danger to his personal integrity and the persecution of which
he was victim.
On December 3,
1991, the Court took note of the measures taken by the Government and
declared that the provisions of the August 1, 1991 resolution had ceased
to have effect. On December
16, the Commission requested a new hearing on the Chunimá case and the
reestablishment of the precautionary measures until such time as a new
hearing had been held. The
Commission is eager for the Government of Guatemala to offer adequate
and proper guarantees of the safety of those persons who are the
subjects of the precautionary measures in the Chunimá case and their
In the case of
Mirna Mack, the alleged perpetrator of the murder, Noel Jesus Beteta
Alvarez, was arrested in the city of Los Angeles in the United States,
and brought before the appropriate tribunal in Guatemala on December 4,
1991. Months before, on
August 5, 1991, investigator José Miguel Mérida Escobar, who, together
with Julio César Pérez Ixcajop, had conducted the preliminary
investigation of the Mirna Mack case, was murdered, after endorsing the
initial report on the case, which claimed that Mirna Mack had been
murdered for political reasons.
observation visit to Guatemala, Professor Christian Tomuschat, a United
Nations expert on Guatemala, informed President Jorge Serrano Elías of
his intention to visit the Cavá community, one of the so-called
Village Resistance Communities (CPR).
On October 10, 1991, having informed the military high command
and the local military authorities of his intention, Mr. Tomuschat set
out for Cavá by helicopter, accompanied by Deputy Attorney General
Alvarez Guadamuz. As they
left the helicopter, they noticed that the village was deserted.
A few minutes later some people appeared and warned them to hide
because they had just been attacked by the Army.
They were taken to a hut where an informal meeting was held, and
where signs of the attack, including bullet holes, could be seen.
One of the villagers played back a cassette on which the shots
and the noise of the helicopters that had taken part in the attack on
the village were clearly audible.
Tomuschat dispatched a note of protest to the President, demanding
guarantees that the incident would not be repeated.
As a result of his demand, the Chief of the Air Force was removed
and the Government apologized to Mr. Tomuschat for the incident.
In relation to
the massacre of 13 persons in Santiago Atitlán, referred to in the
previous Report, the Commission was informed that the Government of
Guatemala had ordered the removal of the military base in that village,
a very significant measure in the context of the repeated complaints of
crimes remaining unpunished. This
might be interpreted to suggest that President Serrano's administration
is endeavoring to penalize acts committed by the Armed Forces.
However, the Commission received information regarding the
villagers' fear of further acts of violence in the area that could
justify restoring the army base, at a time when the self-defense
system developed by the villagers of Santiago Atitlán has established
an atmosphere of civic calm in the village.
Inter-American Commission observes with satisfaction any
governmental action aimed at reducing tensions in the area.
It also views as a sign of considerable progress in the
observance of human rights the fact that in November, 1991 the authors
of the massacre at Santiago Atitlán
a lieutenant and a sergeant at the military base that had been
there, were sentenced to four and 16 years' imprisonment respectively
for those crimes. The
ruling of the court of the first instance was appealed, and the Attorney
for Human Rights requested that the sergeant's sentence be increased.
The number of
cases of extrajudicial executions and torture submitted to the
Commission has diminished. All
the same, the Commission will continue to concern itself with the
situation until it is totally eradicated, since it demonstrates that
the legal proceedings against the alleged culprits in this type of crime
are not accompanied by an exhaustive investigation that seeks to
identify and penalize the guilty parties in accordance with the gravity
of the acts. A constant
feature of the various reports on the situation in Guatemala are claims
that the power of the Judicial Branch is not such as to allow it to
carry out the important functions assigned to it.
also notes with concern that the work of the nongovernmental human
rights organizations is undermined by such attacks, acts of harassment
and threats against their members and their relatives.
In the first
half of January 1992, the Commission was informed of death threats
against Roberto Yancor, who is a member of the Workers' Union.
against the members of the Religious Confederation of Guatemala (CONFREGUA)
comprising 111 congregations of the Catholic Church. This organization's
work focuses mainly on providing aid and assistance to the communities
of Quiché, Huehuetenango and the Verapaces.
The President of CONFREGUA, Mr. Marcelino García, complained of
the "existence of groups that would like to see our work of
community service discontinued".
reports, the Commission has paid special attention to the problem of the
indigenous peoples of Guatemala, who constitute not a minority but half
the total population. According
to information received by the Commission, they are the victims of
discrimination and harassment and their fundamental rights are not
the Guatemalan Constitution, the Indians enjoy full protection (Articles
57 and 66 to 70) which ensures respect for their cultural identity,
protection of ethnic groups, and of the land belonging to their farm
cooperatives and the indigenous communities.
But the actual experience of the Guatemalan Indians is often one
of removal from their traditional habitat and their forced resettlement
in so-called development communities, which in fact indicates
nonobservance of the law and the constitutional provisions governing the
rights of minors are particularly vulnerable.
has received information concerning the murder of four street children,
Henry Geovani Contreras, Luis Eduardo Pirir, Eduardo Sandoval, and
Tovito Juárez. Two
policemen are among the accused.
In July 1991,
the sentence against the policemen accused of the murder of the street
child Nahamán Carmona was reversed.
The accused are awaiting retrial.
On July 31,
1991, in Zone 3 of Guatemala City the unidentified corpse of a street
child approximately seven or eight years old was discovered.
The body bore signs of torture.
On August 1,
1991, 15-year old
Esteban Aguilar was kidnapped by two men in uniform and one wearing
plain clothes, according to information received by the Commission.
It is reported that eight days later, in the Puente Amate area, a
patrol car of the Guatemala City police fired on three minors, wounding
Mario Hernández, who was taken by his companions to the Casa Alianza.
On December 18,
1991, Francisco Tziac, 16 years of age, was abducted and beaten by two
men. The youth escaped and
took refuge in Casa Alianza.
On January 20,
1992, the Commission was informed of more recent assaults against Felipe
González (Chiripa), age 14, and José Corrado Mendoza (Olindo), age 18,
who were beaten by two unidentified men.
The incident occurred in Guatemala City.
It has also been reported that no real investigation is being
conducted into the assault.
connection, the American Convention on Human Rights provides for the
right of every minor child to the measures of protection required by his
condition as a minor on the part of his family, society and the state
brought against officers involved in abuses against minors are a
heartening development, as is the recent signature of the
"Convention on Cooperation for the defense and protection of street
children and of abandoned minors or minors living in an irregular
situation" (signed on November 6, 1991), which clearly establishes
the relations between the Public Ministry and "Casa Alianza"--a
branch of Covenant House of New York, which provides protection for
street children--for cooperating in presenting complaints
and in awareness-raising programs relating to the problem.
That institution conducted its task under grave threats to, and
harassment of, its staff during 1991, according to information supplied
to the Commission.
for Human Rights expressed his position "against ... the
recruitment of minors by the Guatemalan Army" (Quarterly report
1991). Government sources were of the view that approximately 5,000
children were living on the streets.
continues to be concerned by the forced participation of the campesino
population in so-called civil self-defense patrols, created
during the dictatorship of General Ríos Montt.
The government authorities and the laws determine that service in
the Civil Patrols is voluntary. The
various NGOs have testified at hearings before the Commission about
cases of violations of the fundamental rights of persons who had refused
to serve in those patrols.
is also monitoring closely the events relating to the Village Resistance
Communities (CPR). In October 1991, the village of El Petén declared itself a
Village Resistance Community, presenting demands similar to those made
in September 1990 by the Sierra CPR, such as recognition as a civilian
noncombatant community, permission for freedom of movement within and
outside the communities, without interference from the Civil Patrols or
information relayed to this Commission,
on November 23 the Sierra CPR complained of acts of repression
against it by the Civil Patrols and the Army in the area.
They reported that four members of the Community had been
murdered between June and November, 1991:
Miguel Cobo Carrillo, Francisco Cedillo Lopez, Matías B. Anay,
and Pedro Raymundo Brito. They also reported the detention and kidnapping of more than
wishes to state its concern over these acts of violence against the
civilian population, provoked among other things by the situation of
domestic conflict prevailing in the country.
that is causing concern to the Commission is the situation of persons
forced to live outside the country.
Some 43,000 people have been categorized as refugees, some of
whom have been living in Mexico for 10 years.
About 90 percent of them are indigenous campesinos who have
relocated in the Mexican departments of Quintana, Campeche and Chiapas.
An initiative to secure the return of these refugees begun with
the arrival of the civilian government in 1986.
Between then and 1990, 5,784 refugees had been repatriated.
In 1987, the
"Permanent Commissions" (CCPP) were established, comprising
representatives of different refugee camps, for the purpose of
instituting dialogue with the government to prepare the conditions for
repatriation on a grand scale.
After some friction concerning the negotiations, the State agreed
in May 1991 to discuss the points proposed by the CCPP on the right of
repatriated persons to return voluntarily, to take possession of their
former land, to enjoy the freedom of organization and association, the
right to personal integrity and life, the right to freedom of movement
and the freedom to be accompanied by national and international
observers. At a meeting in
June 1991 the negotiations were deadlocked.
In October, however, agreement was reached on a gradual return
starting in 1992, including the CCPP in the process.
and May 1991, 770 persons were repatriated, more than the 756
repatriated in 1990. The
Special Commission for Refugees (CEAR) was restructured in 1991, and a
meeting was held in Guatemala on November 15 with representatives of the
refugees. At that meeting
it was agreed to plan for repatriation of approximately 12,000 persons
in 1992 and 20,000 in 1993.
repatriation covers not only some 43,000 persons classified as refugees,
but those not classified as such, who in some cases account for as many
again. The Commission hopes
that the safety conditions will improve and be conducive to the return
of this sector displaced by political violence and by the poor social
and economic conditions prevailing in the country.
As regards the
critical state of justice in the country, the Commission reiterates the
need for urgent legislative reforms, including those of the Penal Code,
so that more flexible modalities for public and oral proceedings may be
applied. The Commission recommends that thought be given to the
advisability of trying military offenders in the common courts.
also wishes to express the view that respect for rights linked to life
and integrity should go hand in hand with improvements in the
population's living standards as regards economic, social and cultural
rights, whose implementation must be a priority in the eyes of the
It also exhorts
the Government of Guatemala to ratify the Additional Protocol to the
American Convention on Human Rights, relating to Economic, Social and
President Jorge Serrano completed his first year in office.
When he presented his report on the work his Administration had
accomplished, he underscored the economic progress made by the country
during that period, and promised to continue the fight on the economic
front and to continue, in 1992, the efforts to deal with the serious
social disparities in Guatemala.
indicators point to a critical economic and social situation in
Guatemala, the Commission is recommending that said situation be given
particular emphasis, inasmuch as it is closely related to the very
serious human rights situation in that country.
It also exhorts him to continue what he terms "the war
against impunity" in which some of the soldiers responsible for
indefensible excesses are being brought to trial.
The Commission, which has championed the consolidation of
democracy in Guatemala, reaffirms its trust that the provisions of the
American Convention on Human Rights will be fully respected and observed
so that this process and the effective exercise of human rights may