REPORT OF THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
Case 7378 (GUATEMALA)
June 25, 1981
1. In a
communication of June 19, 1980, the Inter-American Commission on Human
received the following denunciation:
December 20, 1979, Father Carlos Stetter, parish priest of the Ixcán
region, was virtually abducted when he landed in the airport of the city
of Huehuetenango in the small plane that regularly transported sick
persons, as well as medicines and building materials.
few hours before his expulsion, the authorities denied having any
knowledge of his whereabouts, both to church leaders and to German
diplomats, thus violating provisions of the constitution and bilateral
agreements between the Federal Republic of Germany and our country.
to a decision of the General Migration Department, dated December 12
(which he was not informed of until the day he was arbitrarily taken into
custody and expelled from the country), he was taken by armed men dressed
in civilian clothes to Valle Nuevo, on the Salvadoran border, without
having been given the opportunity to gather his belongings or to
communicate with his superiors and his ambassador.
Carlos Stetter was born in Jagst, Allwangen, Germany, on March 9, 1941,
and was ordained a priest on July 10, 1966. He arrived in Guatemala in
1971 and later became a resident after complying with the formalities
required by law.
the first five years, he was a priest in the community of CANTEL,
Department of Quezaltenango. His religious work included the following: he
unified the work of the State Parochial Clinic, built the churches of
Estancia and Xecam, built a medical clinic, helped to form cooperatives,
provided assistance in the electrification of Xecam, supported the
parochial school, and provided valuable assistance to sports programs.
Quetzaltenango, he founded Radio Fraternidad and, since he was an amateur
radio operator, he was one of the first to transmit abroad notice of the
tragedy suffered by the Guatemalan people in the 1976 earthquake.
Immediately after the earthquake, he helped set up Operation Fraternity,
in which more than 1,000 persons worked, and traveled to Germany to raise
funds for building more than 2,500 housing units in the communities of
Santa Cruz Balanya, patzún patzicia, Tecpán and San Juan Comalapa.
the death of Father Guillermo Woods (a case that to date has not been
explained), Father Stetter requested transfer to the Ixcán region, which
has 12,600 inhabitants, because he felt it was one of the most neglected
areas and because the people repeatedly asked for a priest to be sent
Ixcán, he developed cooperatives and transported sick persons, medicines
and building supplies in a small plane. He organized groups of catechists
and "delegates of the word," Adopting a very broad approach to
his ministry, he took the first steps to build a school at the request of
the people of the area, and to found a radio station and a clinic. These
works have remained unfinished because of his expulsion.
Huehuetenango Diocese where Father Stetter worked has always been one of
the most peaceful departments in the country, but it has not escaped the
wave of repression afflicting the Guatemalan people, because in recent
months the people have been shocked by the murder of union leader Mario
Mujia Córdova, who worked in the past on projects in the Diocese and in
the Ixcán region; and the brutal attack on Mrs. Leticia Chávez de
Rodriguez, a national hospital worker in Huehuetenango and mother of a
member of a Guatemalan religious order, who lost an arm in an atack and
remains in critical condition; in addition, numerous denunciations have
been made by campesinos throughout the Ixcán region, concerning the
abduction of local leaders, cooperative leaders, catechists, and
"delegates of the word." Moreover, lists of threatened persons
expulsion of father Stetter is one of a number of similar cases, such as
the expulsion of Sister Raymunda Alonso Queralt and the murder of Father
Hermógenes López, which have constituted direct attacks on the church in
is also a list of over 20 foreign members of religious orders whose
expulsion from Guatemala is sought. Some religious residing in Guatemala
for 20 years have had their temporary visas renewed for only a six-month
nonextendable period, with no justification given.
this case, the vague accusation of "foreign undesirable" was
made against Father Carlos Stetter without stating why, and he was accused
vaguely of "having violated the laws of the country," without
stipulating which laws.
was later expelled from the country without any hearing, which is a
violation of Article 53 of the constitution that provides: "No one
may be sentenced without having been summoned, heard, tried and convicted
in legal proceedings.
Stetter was detained without having committed any crime or offense, so
that his captors are responsible for violating Article 45, which provides
that "all citizens have the right to do anything not prohibited by
law." Therefore, it is his captors and those who expelled him who
violated the law, since they committed the crime of abduction (Article 201
of the Penal Code) and also the crime of abuse of authority (Article 418
of the Penal Code)."
2. In a note of
June 25, 1980, the Commission transmitted the pertinent portions of this
denunciation to the Guatemalan Government, and asked for information on
notes of December 16, 1980, and April 20, 1981, the Commission again sent
a communication to the Guatemalan Government, repeating its request for
1. To date, the
Guatemalan Government has not replied to the Commission's requests for
39 of the Commission's Regulations provides as follows:
1. The facts
reported in the petition whose pertinent parts have been transmitted to
the government of the state in reference shall be presumed to be true if,
during the maximum period set by the Commission under the provisions of
Article 31 paragraph 5, the government has not provided the pertinent
information, as long as other evidence does not lead to a different
INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
1. Based on
Article 39 of its Regulations, to presume to be true the events reported
in the communication of June 19. 1980, referring to the arbitrary
detention and later expulsion from the country of Father Carlos Stetter.
2. To declare that
the Government of Guatemala violated Articles 7 (right to personal
liberty), 8 (right to a fair trial), 22 (right to freedom of movement and
residence) and 25 (right to judicial protection), of the American
Convention on Human Rights.
3. To recommend to
the Government of Guatemala: a) that Father Carlos Stetter be permitted to
return to the territory of Guatemala and to reside in that country if he
so desires; b) that it investigate the acts reported and punish those
responsible for them; and c) that it inform the Commission in 60 days on
the measures taken to implement these recommendations.
4. To transmit
this resolution to the Government of Guatemala and to the claimants.
5. To include this
resolution in the Commission's Annual Report to the General Assembly of
the Organization of American States pursuant to Article 18 (f), of the
Statute and Article 59 (g) of the Regulations of the Commission.
Dr. Francisco Bertrand Galindo declined to hear and decide on this case because he was living in Guatemala when the reported events occurred.