Dec 9, 2009

GHRC Updates News

Dec. 10

El Jute Case Sets New Precedent

On December 4, 2009, Marco Antonio Sanchez became the first army officer to be convicted for the crime of forced disappearance in the Guatemalan armed conflict. He was sentenced to 53 years in prison for ordering the forced disappearance of 8 farmers in El Jute, Chiquimula in October 1981. He was convicted along with three former civil defense patrols (PAC members).

Family members of the disappeared, though satisfied with the outcome of the case, fear reprisals. Some have already received threats from retired military personnel present at the trial and others in the community. Though they have been given security guards, the measures are only temporary and have not been adequate. GHRC and other NGOs are following up with the Inter-American Commission to provide improved security for the witnesses.

U.S. Ambassador McFarland attended the trial in Chiquimula and visited with the families of the victims, and the international community has been closely following the case.

Military Document "Operation Sofia" Finally Released

The deliberate massacre of thousands of indigenous Mayans by the Guatemalan army during the summer of 1982 has been verified with internal records and was presented to the Spanish National Court on December 2, 2009. The records on "Operation Sofia," which had previously been "missing" according to the Defense Minister, implicate responsibility for what the UN-sponsored Historical Clarification Commission determined "acts of genocide" in 1999. Kate Doyle of the National Security Archive obtained the records from military intelligence sources in Guatemala and was able to verify their authenticity.

According to the National Security Archives, the appearance of the original documents provides the first public glimpse into secret military files on the counterinsurgency campaign that resulted in massacres of tens of thousands of unarmed Mayan civilians during the early 1980s, and displaced hundreds of thousands more. The records contain explicit references to the killing of unarmed men, women and children, the burning of homes, destruction of crops, slaughter of animals and indiscriminate aerial bombing of refugees trying to escape the violence.

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UPCOMING EVENTS in DC

Dec. 10: International Human Rights Day
10:30-11:30am: Join the Torture Abolition Survivor's Support Coalition (TASSC) for an anti-torture vigil at Lafayette Park in front of the White House to demand justice and accountability from the U.S. government.

6:30-8:30pm: In honor of the 61st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) has announced a public showing of John Carlos Frey's film in the North Congressional Meeting Room of the Capitol Visitor Center, to be followed by a discussion led by both Rep. Grijalva and Director Frey.

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