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World News \ Americas

Guatemala to prosecute former military officers for crimes against humanity

Gianni Magazzeni of the United Nations High Commissioners Office for Human Rights - AP

Gianni Magazzeni of the United Nations High Commissioners Office for Human Rights - AP

21/01/2016 08:57

(Vatican Radio)  The office of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights (UNHCHR) has welcomed the news that 11 former military officers in Guatemala are going to be prosecuted on charges of enforced disappearances and crimes against humanity.

Listen to Peter Kenny's report:

The offences for which they face charges were committed in the 1980s during the Central American country’s civil war and follows years of campaigning by human rights groups.

The decision was taken by a Guatemala judge. It represents an important step forward in establishing truth and ensuring justice in Guatemala for crimes committed during the 36-year conflict.

UNHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said the decision to try the accused follows investigations by the Guatemalan Attorney General’s Office into grave human rights violations. These took place in a military camp known as CREOMPAZ in Coban, in the Department of Alta Verapaz.

“Mass graves were found there containing the remains of at least 500 people who had been blindfolded, gagged and bound, including women and children. Those put on trial include Manuel Benedicto Lucas Garcia, the former military Chief and the brother of the then-President of Guatemala.”

Three other military officers arrested in relation with the same case have are under house arrest pending further investigations by the Guatemala Attorney General.

The full statement by the UNHCHR is below:

Full statement

Guatemala

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:  Ravina Shamdasani

We welcome the news that 11 former military officers in Guatemala are going to be prosecuted on charges of enforced disappearances and crimes against humanity committed in the 1980s during the civil war. The decision, taken by a judge on Monday, represents an important step forward in establishing truth and ensuring justice in Guatemala for crimes committed during the 36-year-long conflict.  

The decision to try the accused follows investigations by the Guatemalan Attorney General’s Office into grave human rights violations which took place in a military camp known as CREOMPAZ in Coban, in the Department of Alta Verapaz. Mass graves were found there containing the remains of at least 500 people who had been blindfolded, gagged and bound, including women and children. Those put on trial include Manuel Benedicto Lucas Garcia, the former military Chief and the brother of the then-President of Guatemala. Three other military officers arrested in relation with the same case have been put under house arrest pending further investigations by the Attorney General.

For the first time in investigations into past abuses, a complete chain of command involved in enforced disappearances and crimes against humanity was identified, from the alleged perpetrators to the instigators of crimes.

Some of the remains were of people killed during the Pambach massacre in 1982, massacres in Rio Negro in 1980 and 1982 of Mayan indigenous who were protesting against a hydroelectric dam and the enforced disappearance of two brothers, Lázaro and Edmundo Salvador Morán.

Four other former military officials were also arrested on 6 January and charged for their involvement in the enforced disappearance of a 15 year-old Marco Molina Theissen, including Manuel Antonio Callejas Callejas, who was Director of the Army Intelligence.

21/01/2016 08:57