On October 4, 2012, Indigenous Authorities organized a protest that mobilized thousands across the 48 Cantones de Totonicapan. At La Cumbre de Alaska, eighty-nine armed soldiers–under the command of Juan Chiroy–arrived on the scene with orders to break up the protest. Eight soldiers opened fire on the protesters, leaving six dead, forty injured, and one disappeared. Nine years later, the widows and victims of this tragedy continue their search for justice.
Progression of the Case
Immediately following the massacre, Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz ordered an investigation that resulted in the arrest of commander Juan Chiroy and eight soldiers: Edín Adolfo Agustín Vásquez, Dimas García Pérez, Marcos Chun Sacul, Abner Enrique Cruz Pérez, Abraham Gua Cojoc, Felipe Chuc Coc, Manuel Lima Vásquez, and Ana Cervantes. Since the arrest, the case has been continually stalled and fraught with irregularities.
In 2013, High Risk Court Judge Carol Patricia Flores changed the charges against the accused from extrajudicial killing to breach of duty. Next, a 2015 evidentiary hearing violated due process when crucial evidence from the ballistics report in the initial investigation was not permitted. The trial faced yet another slowdown after Flores was recused from the case. She eventually faced charges from the CICIG for illicit enrichment and ruling on cases without sufficient evidence.
The High Risk Court replaced Flores with Judge Claudia Domínguez, who in 2019 released the accused from prison, where they had been awaiting their trial for over six years. While Dominguez has consistently assigned pretrial detention to criminalized human rights defenders throughout her tenure as judge, she broke precedent, claiming the extended pretrial detention violated the human rights of the accused. Now, with the soldiers free as they await trial, families and survivors fear the former soldiers could use their connections within the armed forces to retaliate against them.
Finally, the evidentiary stage resumed this August and finished on September 3. After viewing the evidence presented by both the defense and prosecution, Dominguez ruled to send the accused to trial for the charges of extrajudicial killing. The date of the next hearing in the trial has not been announced yet.
The Importance of Justice
At the onset of these events nine years ago, this incident was the first massacre perpetrated by the military since the signing of the Peace Accords in 1996. As is the case with state-sponsored killings that occurred during the internal armed conflict, justice in this case is essential for the long- term protection of human rights in Guatemala.
The GHRC team in Guatemala has monitored the case since 2012 and will continue accompanying the families and survivors of the massacre. We condemn the use of force by the Guatemalan military and demand justice for the families and survivors of this tragic massacre.