The 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.


          Presidential 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 with him.


          At that 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.


          President 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 power.


          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.


          In connection 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.


          In November 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.


          As regards 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.


          In addition, 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 repatriated population.


          The Commission 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 disappearances.


          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).


          The Commission 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.


          Moises Cisneros 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.


          In September 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 National Police.


          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.


          No significant 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 a public hearing...on July 29, 1991..."


          CERJ members 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.


          The Government 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.


          Given the 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 relatives.


          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.


          During his 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.


          Professor 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.


          The 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.


          The Commission 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.


          Threats persist 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".


          In previous 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 guaranteed.


          According to 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 matter.


          The fundamental rights of minors are particularly vulnerable.


          The Commission 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.


          In this 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 (Article 19).


          The trials 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.


          The Attorney 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.


          The Commission 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.


          The Commission 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 the Army.


          According to 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 ten persons.


          The Commission 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.


          Another topic 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.


          Between January 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.


          The 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.


          The Commission 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 State.


          It also exhorts the Government of Guatemala to ratify the Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights, relating to Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.


          Recently, 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.


          Since the 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 become institutionalized.



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