Eighteen former military leaders -- including former generals, a former army chief of staff, and a former military intelligence chief -- were arrested on Jan. 6 on criminal charges related to massacres and disappearances from the internal armed conflict. Fourteen of the arrests pertain to an investigation on a military base known as CREOMPAZ in Cobán (formerly called Military Base 21), where the remains of hundreds of people have been found and where the identities of at least 97 people have been confirmed as individuals disappeared during the 1980s, when the ex-officials were in power. Four of the arrests relate to the disappearance of Marco Antonio Molina Theissen, a minor, in 1981.
The handling of these cases will be a test for president-elect Jimmy Morales, who will take office on Jan. 14. GHRC and other human rights groups have raised concerns that Morales's party is backed by military hard-liners, including one of the accused, Edgar Justino Ovalle Maldonado, who could not be arrested yesterday due to his immunity as an incoming legislator. Attorney General Themla Aldana announced that her office has asked the Supreme Court to consider lifting Ovalle's immunity.
An estimated 45,000 people were forcibly disappeared during the conflict; GHRC has historically supported access to truth and justice for relatives of the disappeared, including members of the Association of Relatives of the Disappeared and Detained of Guatemala (FAMDEGUA) and the Mutual Support Group (GAM). The below video interview with Marcia and Blanca, founding members of FAMDEGUA, includes information about the important exhumation the group spearheaded in Cobán: