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Justice and Impunity

May 5, 2010: U.S. rounds up Guatemalans accused of war crimes. U.S. federal agents are today closing in on four former Guatemalan soldiers  accused of taking part in a 1982 massacre, which one law enforcement official called “the most shocking modern-day war crime American authorities have ever investigated.” [...] Read full article from GlobalPost.

April 29, 2010: "Justice Must Prevail": Guatemalan civil society requests fair selection process for new Attorney General. Dozens of Guatemala’s leading civil society organizations – including human rights groups, legal advocacy groups, labor unions, rural and urban women’s groups, and religious groups – announced support for a revision of the selection of the new Attorney General to ensure judicial independence. [...] Read full article.

April 22, 2010: Guatemalan Government Hands over Key File. Guatemala's government handed over a military document on Thursday containing evidence soldiers massacred villagers during the country's civil war which could help prosecute top officials for genocide. [NY Times / Reuters]

April 22, 2010: Leahy addresses Guatemalan election of Attorney General in the U.S. Senate. Guatemala is in the process of electing a new Attorney General, and on April 15, 2010 U.S. Senator Leahy (D-VT) made a statement to the Senate about the significance President Colom's decision will have for human rights and justice in Guatemala. He gave U.S. support to a qualified and committed candidate but warned that, lacking these qualifications, it would be "difficult to justify spending more resources on a fruitless quest for justice reform in Guatemala." The statement comes in the midst of controversy over the short list of six applicants given to President Colom, most of whom received strong criticism from civil society organizations. Read full article and Leahy's comments.

April 20, 2010: Civil society denounces judges selected for short list for Attorney General. The selection committee for Attorney General candidates turned in six names to be considered by President Colom. Two of the candidates were vetoed by the CICIG and four of the six selected were unofficially named before the committee met, prompting accusations of back-room deals and a potential lack of judicial independence if one of those candidates is named. The current Attorney General, Amílcar Velásquez Zárate, who has worked well with civil society and been open to prosecuting cases of human rights abuses, was not included in the list of six. [Siglo XXI][elPeriodico]

March 30, 2010: First jail sentence emitted in Rosenberg Case. Carlos Humberto Aragón Cardona, who collaborated in the murder of Rodrigo Rosenberg, was sentenced to two years in prison for conspiracy to commit murder. The charge was reduced from assassination in return for information on the intellectual and material authors of the crime. [Siglo XXI]

January 30, 2010: Organizations Commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the Burning at the Spanish Embassy. Civil society organizations commemorate the 30th anniversary of the burning of the Spanish Embassy.  The fire has never been investigated and those responsible have never been brought to justice. The fire started when a group of students and farmers occupied the embassy to demand a stop the repression by the military in their communities.  In response to the occupation, security forces encircled the building, throwing bombs and sitting the building on fire.  The fire killed 37 people, including farmers, diplomats and officials.  Among the victims was Vincente Menchú, father of Rigoberta Menchú Tum, the Nobel Prize recipient.  The Spanish ambassador Máximo Cajal survived along with demostrator Gregorio Xujá.  The latter was held in the hospital for third degree burns and after  his death his body was released with signs of torture. [Prensa Libre]

January 7, 2010: New Appropriations Law has Unprecedented Funding to Protect Human Rights Activists. The 2010 Foreign Operations Appropriations Law, approved by Congress late last year, earmarks $2 million for the Guatemalan police and Interior Ministry to fund specific protection programs for human rights defenders, including a ttacks against Human Rights Defenders, officers within the Criminal Investigation Division of the Police who are assigned to work with the Institute, as well as the Department for the Protection of Personalities of the Police and its Unit of Risk Analysis. This funding will enable Guatemala to establish a state-of-the-art and live saving protection program for human rights defenders at risk, such as bullet-proof cars and bodyguards. [Human Rights First]

December 21, 2009: GHRC and partner organizations send a letter to Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom urging him to declassify military archives from 1956-1996. Guatemala's Constitutional Court ordered the release of four important documents in 2008, yet the Department of Defense has not fully complied. The Military Archive Declassification Commission, formed in March 2009, will come to the end of its mandate in January 2010. The documents are important for the prosecution of crimes during the internal armed conflict and Guatemalans' right to truth. [Lea la carta en español.]

December 3, 2009: Indigenous leaders have met with the Supreme Court justices to request increased access to justice. Ricardo Cajas, Executive Director of the Council of Mayan Organizations of Guatemala, explained that indigenous communities have lacked access to justice due to limited state resources and lack of trained personel; in their absence indigenous authorities have tried to maintain peace in their communities through informal measures. Among the requests of indigenous organizations were the incorporation of Indigenous Law, and international agreements pertaining to indigenous rights, into the curriculum for judicial training, as well as bilingual judges. [Prensa Libre]

August 20, 2009: U.S. Court Rejects Appeal. The U.S. Court of Appeals rejected the appeal of seven formerly exiled Guatemalan trade unionists, arguing that there was a lack of jurisdiction in their case against three banana companies. "The district court found that Guatemala had an adequate alternative forum fto resolve their allegations", cites 50pg text. The Court of Appeals in Georgia rejected the claim of the asylum seekers that Guatemala is not safe for them and that the courts are corrupt and unfit to hear the case. Guatemalans Angel Enrique Villeda Jorge Agustin Palma, Oscar Leonel Guerra Evans, Lyionhel McIntosch Rodriguez, Marel Martinez, Gumercindo Loyo Martinez and Rigoberto Hernandez Alvayero sued the companies Del Monte Fresh Produce, Inc., Del Monte Fresh Produce Company and Bandegua. The charges listed are arbitrary detention, crimes against humanity and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. [Prensa Libre]

August 1, 2009: "It is difficult to move forward without justice." Andrew Hudson of Human Rights First said that it is important that Guatemala investigate the crimes that occurred during the internal armed conflict and that justice must punish those responsible for the acts. Hudson reported after spending two weeks in, among other places, Rabinal and Rio Negro, Baja Verapaz, and Coban. Alta Verapaz, and after visiting with various organizations and institutions of the justice sector. He emphasized that "it is difficult to move forward without justice" and listed three points that must be done to move forward. First, Guatemala must investigate and prosecute mass atrocities of the past. Second, the work performed by the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) must be supported on all levels. Third, the situation of human rights defenders must be addressed and improved. Hudson stated, "This is a very dangerous country to defend human rights. Nine union members have already been killed this year."[Prensa Libre]

July 29, 2009. Human Rights First investigates the internal armed conflict. Human Rights First, dedicated to the promotion and protection of fundamental rights at the global level, together with the Convergence for Human Rights, conducted an analysis of the situation after the internal armed conflict. The international organization sought to prosecute the alleged perpetrators of crimes against humanity during the 36 years of armed conflict. It makes special mention of the senior commanders of the Guatemalan army. Among the demands of the organization is the declassification of military archives, the delivery of the archives of the now-defunct military staff, as well as amending the Ley de Amparo. Andrew Hudson of Human Rights First said that it is necessary to clarify all the mass atrocities perpetrated in the past because "the violence now comes from the absence of criminal proceedings against the perpetrators and intellectual authors of these crimes against humanity." He also added that it is necessary to strengthen the Prosecutor for Human Rights as "this only has four prosecutors." [elPeriodico]

June 29, 2009: Organizations demand protection of historical archives. Leaders of human rights and social organizations, as well as former employees of the National Police Archive demanded at a press conference yesterday that President Colom ensure the protection of the historical documents that could clarify crimes that took place during the civil war.  More than 60 organizations and 15 prominent people signed a statement demanding that the government take custody of the archives of the now-extinct National Police.  Mario Minera, Director of the Center for Legal Action on Human Rights, read the statement, which requires that the General Archive of Central America take custody of the uncensored original documents that were delivered to the PDH and that it gives free and open access to the documents. [Prensa Libre]

June 23, 2009: Human Rights Ombudsman demands search for those "disappeared" during the internal armed conflict. The The Human Rights Ombudsman (PDH) remembered yesterday victims of forced disappearances during the armed conflict and said that the state ought to look for them.  Sergio Morales said 30 years after the armed conflict, the number of disappeared numbers at least 45,000, and the state "has not complied with the peace agreement, has not created a search committee, and has not made an effort to perform exhumations." [Prensa Libre]

June 12, 2009: Youth Paint Crosses to Protest Violence and Impunity. Forty-five youth from the National Civic Movement (MCN) painted crosses on the main roads of Guatemala City early yesterday morning as a way to denounce violence and impunity.  Rodrigo Arenas, of the Movement, said that it was done "For all the people who have killed, for the bus drivers, for the girls in Sacatepéquez and for the 17 people who will die today."  Palomo said that about 45 young people volunteered to undertake the project and came to draw and paint the crosses before dawn.  The youth leaders requested that those who attend the demonstrations in the central plazas in Xela and Guatemala City this Sunday at 10am wear white. [Prense Libre] [La Hora] [Jóvenes por Guatemala]

April 2009: Guatemala's police archives take center stage in the search for justice for past crimes. Read more.




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