Dianna Ortiz, OSU, died on February 19, 2021, at 62 years old. She fought for the rights of all and fought bravely. We are proud and honored to have had her on staff and in our hearts at GHRC.
Dianna worked at the Guatemala Human Rights Commission from 1994 to 2002. A survivor of torture in Guatemala, Dianna bravely pursued her case through the Guatemalan court system in the early 90s, to no avail, and bravely continued fighting for the rights of survivors of torture, founding the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition in 1998, as a project of GHRC. TASSC operated as a project of GHRC until it received its own 501(c)(3) status in 2002. In 1996 Dianna conducted a highly publicized vigil and hunger strike in front of the White House to request the declassification of all US government documents related to cases of human rights abuse in Guatemala since 1954. The State Department made a voluntary release of thousands of pages of documents that illustrated US complicity with the Guatemalan government in its brutal and genocidal campaign against the Mayan indigenous and against armed insurgents, human rights defenders, and others working for change.
Dianna first came to Washington to participate in GHRC’s 1992 conference against torture in Guatemala, giving the keynote speech. As a result of her work with an indigenous community, teaching Mayan children as a missionary in San Miguel Acatan, Dianna had been abducted and tortured by Guatemalan security forces in 1989. GHRC’s founding director, Sister Alice Zachmann, fought for Dianna’s release and was instrumental in connecting her with a torture treatment center in Chicago, the Marjorie Kovler Center. A couple of years later Dianna joined GHRC’s staff of three, advocating for the rights of the Guatemalan people and playing a pivotal role in supporting Jennifer Harbury’s efforts to learn the fate of her husband, Efrain Bamaca Velasquez, efforts that resulted in the disclosure of continued and close US collaboration with and funding of Guatemala’s military death squads.
Dianna was an example of strength, generosity of spirit, and courage. All who knew her were touched by her and all she touched was improved. We are blessed to have had her with us at GHRC and we know she will remain with us in spirit and with all who fight for human rights.
Dianna Ortiz, presente!
Donations in honor of Sister Dianna Ortiz can be made here.
Aquí se pueden hacer donaciones en honor a la hermana Dianna Ortiz.
“I hear the cries of the Guatemalan people twenty-four hours a day, as if their cries are coming from a clandestine grave site. I must never forget that I had so many people to fight for my life—my family, my Ursuline family, my church family, the international community, etc., but what about the people of Guatemala? Who will speak on their behalf?”
∼ Dianna Ortiz, journal entry, 1992, as recounted in her memoir.
“The lessons of my torture didn’t stick. I was supposed to have learned that I am powerless. . .I was supposed to have learned despair. But I can’t help hoping. I have faith in the unexpected, the miraculous, the power of people working together and of God working through us. I have to offer all I have and believe and hope it’s enough. And I do.”
∼Sr. Dianna Ortiz
For more information on the life and legacy of Sr. Dianna Ortiz:
- New York Times: Dianna Ortiz, American Nun Tortured in Guatemala dies at 62
- Global Sister Report: Sr. Dianna Ortiz, Kiddnapping survivor and advocate for torture victims, dies at 62
- TASSC: In Memory of Sr. Dianna Ortiz
- Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph: Sister Dianna Ortiz, OSU: Sept. 2, 1958-Feb. 19, 2021
- Statement on the passing of Dianna Ortiz by Pax Christi