Victims of Guatemala's dictatorship ask for justice



In the hills of Chimaltenango, 2 hours from Guatemala City, no one has forgotten the 36 years of civil war nor the crimes committed by the military regime of former president Efrain Rios Montt, between 1982 and 1983.

Human rights activist Juana Chavajay’s family was killed during a massacre in 1982 which left 201 villagers dead.

Her hopes for justice were shattered when Guatemala's Constitutional Court overturned the genocide conviction of the former president.

She hopes this new trial could finally heal the victims’ wounds.

SOUNDBITE 1 Juana Chavajay (woman), Human rights activist, (Spanish, 17 sec):

“Symbolically this is a very important trial. I regret that it is not resolved, and that there is no end to this situation because it is important that the people who died get to rest in peace through this trial.”

(IN SPANISH)“Simbólicamente es muy importante este juicio. Lamento que no se determina, no hay un fin con esta situación porque si es importante que nuestros muertos descansen en paz con este juicio.”

In May, a court sentenced Ríos Montt to 80 years in prison, but the verdict was overturned

Under his reign of terror, the army massacred a Mayan community of Ixil ethnicity.

Close to 1,800 people were killed - supposedly for supporting the opposing Marxist guerrillas.

The new trial scheduled for January 15, 2015 has given hope to some but has also encountered opposition. The current president Otto Perez Molina himself denies that a genocide ever took place.

But naysayers will now have to face Guatemala’s first woman attorney general Claudia Paz y Paz, who is strongly in favor of a new trial.

SOUNDBITE 2 Claudia Paz y Paz, (woman), attorney general of Guatemala, (Spanish, 11 sec)

“The possibility for victims to be heard is an essential part of the healing process, and getting access to truth and justice are the victims’ two fundamental rights.”

(IN SPANISH)“Para las victimas la posibilidad de ser escuchadas es fundamental como parte de la reparación y el acceso a la verdad y a la justicia son dos derechos fundamentales de las víctimas.”

Part of the process to get the truth is through the identification of the bodies buried in mass graves which have recently been discovered, with the help of the European Union and the U.N.

In total, the conflict left 200,000 people dead or missing.

SOUNDBITE 3 Estuardo Solare (man), Inacif genetics laboratory, (Spanish, 16 sec)

"The bodies were highly degraded, but we managed to get the DNA to make the comparisons and to deliver the samples to the families."

(IN SPANISH) “Los cuerpos estaban altamente degradados, pero nosotros logramos obtener el ADN para poder hacer las comparaciones y poder entregar a familiares sus muestras.”

Guatemalan and international NGOs, including Amnesty International, have criticized the lateness of the new trial’s date. But they hope that this time nothing will interrupt the course of justice.




- VAR of the hills around Chimaltenango

- VAR of the local population

- VAR of Juana Chavajay


- VAR of Guatemala city

- VAR of the palace of justice

- VAR of President Otto Perez Molina

- VAR of Claudia Paz y Paz during a press conference


- VAR of the Institute of Legal Medicine


- VAR of Chimaltenango



AFP text story


Remains of 163 Guatemala massacre dead given to families

GUATEMALA CITY, Dec 7, 2013 (AFP) - The skeletal remains of 163 people massacred in one of the worst atrocities of Guatemala's bloody civil war were handed over to surviving relatives on Saturday, officials said.

Families of victims of the 1982 Dos Erres massacre, in which 201 villagers died, wept as they shouldered wooden coffins containing their loved ones and took them to a local cemetery.

The massacre, which unfolded in Dos Erres between December 6 and 8, 1982 during the decades-long civil war, occurred under the military regime of former dictator Efrain Rios Montt, who faces trial for genocide.

The killings happened when the army sought to recover 40 guns that a guerrilla unit stole the previous October. Dos Erres was targeted because the villagers were suspected of sympathizing with guerrillas.

The exhumation of the victims also provided evidence in the trial of five soldiers who were involved in the incident and sentenced to 6,000 years in prison, even though Guatemala's maximum sentence is 50 years.

The conviction was the first in Guatemalan history against the military, although 12 members of the patrol linked to the massacre remain at large.

Another soldier linked to the killings, Jorge Sosa, was arrested in the United States for lying to immigration authorities there and could be repatriated to Guatemala for trial.

A UN-sponsored truth commission documented 669 massacres during the civil war, of which 626 were attributed to state forces. The majority were committed during a brief but particularly gruesome stretch under Rios Montt and the de facto government of Oscar Mejia Victores from 1982 to 1986.

The Guatemalan conflict, which began in 1960, dragged on for 36 years and left around 200,000 people dead or missing, according to a 1999 UN-sponsored report.


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