this, as the Commission has found directly, in many cases not even the
armed forces have the necessary combination of willpower and real
ability to control the activities of these armed organs that they have
created. Whether it is
because these organizations are in communities distant from urban
centers and military bases or because they have taken on major local
importance, the military forces prefer to let them act as they will
and tend to block any efforts to disband, change or correct them.
Meanwhile, the unjustified appearances or attacks the
subversives provide a pretext --however inconsistent-- for those who
defend the need for the patrols.
Although the subversives are few and their military capacity
their existence generates fears that have been confirmed by their
local use of explosives to destroy the electricity and road
The Commission has heard consistently in villages that have
discarded the patrols or rejected the reasons for their existence that
ending them is the necessary condition for living in peace.
The patrols constitute a genuine system of involuntary
servitude. They are structured in such a way as to benefit different
parts of the power pyramid. At
the top, the army benefits because it maintains a system of control
over the civilian population and support for its operations.
This control enables the army to maintain a predominant
position in the national government structure.
It gives the army an instrument of national influence that the
weakened representative democratic system cannot compete with.
The political support of the patrols is so important for the
is drawn from the note to the IACHR from the Minister of Defense dated
September 1993--when their presumed antisubversive function
disappears, the idea is to keep the patrols with the presumed
objective of community development as "development
committees," clearly outside military jurisdiction and usurping a
function of civil government.
This system is even used by middle levels of authority. The local civil chiefs of the patrols use them to exercise
power in their areas. They
do this either by competing politically or by preventing the
democratic exercise of government.
They also have economic purposes, generally coinciding with or
in complicity with the local relatively privileged segments of the
The system maintains "order," that is, it uses fear
and violent coercion to prevent legal and open democratic
give-and-take. Local disputes are often resolved by the patrol chiefs on the
basis of their own personal or group interests, thereby supplanting
the legal system of administering justice.
The patrols exercise de facto municipal police power and have
no real supervision, a fact that promotes more violations.
It is not at all uncommon for the patrols to decide that the
people of "their" villages cannot walk the streets after a
certain hour, or cannot go from one village to another except in a
The local elected mayors are allied with the patrols because of
the climate of political fear that the patrols enforce.
When a mayor is independent, he is impotent in the face of the
patrols' power. The
Commission was able to confirm, for example, in the area of San Pedro
Jocopilas, Quiche, that the office of the municipal intendent has only
one person on the police force, who also performs bureaucratic
functions, while the local patrols, under the central power of a
person known as "General Commander," Mr. Francisco Ixcoy
Lopez, have established a curfew which starts at sundown, transport
controls, personal servitude systems, requirements of money
contributions to patrol members and others.
All of these have been established by means of personal
threats, assaults and murders.
One example of this continuing tension and annoyance was
confirmed directly by the Commission in the area of Colotenango, the
department of Huehuetenango, where the patrols keep up a constant
irritating action on the grounds that guerrillas are present in the
The campesinos of Xemal, a nearby village whose people
are tired of putting up with the excesses of the local patrol,
organized a march by the people from several nearby villages to the
small city of Colotenango on August 28, 1993.
Some 5,000 demonstrators, counting men, women and children,
went in an organized manner to Colotenango where they demonstrated and
had meetings with the authorities to request the dissolution of the
patrols, especially the Xemal patrol.
There presence in the city that day was relatively uneventful.
As they left in the evening, they were attacked by rifle fire
from the Colotenango patrolmen at the Los Naranjales bridge.
One old man was killed and several persons were seriously
wounded. At the request
of the Public Ministry,
patrol members have been charged and one has been arrested.
Later on, two campesinos were murdered in Xemal,
allegedly by patrol members. A
few days later, the chief of the Xemal patrol, Efrain Domingo Morales,
was murdered on September 6, as he led a meeting of PACs, in
As a consequence of this, after the PACs had threatened to kill
them, eighty campesinos from Los Naranjales, Colotenango, took
refuge in Mexico. Friction
continues and is getting worse.
2. INADEQUATE PUBLIC
SERVICES LEAD THE PACS TO FILL THE VOID AND TO ABUSES
In many cases, the government is not able to control the PACs
in practice, either through the military force, the local justice
system, local political elected authorities or through the police.
The Commission has also seen that in a certain small number of
cases, the people tend to accept the patrols as the lesser of two
evils, considering the absence of the services and guarantees the
state ought to provide.
The weakness or real absence of public services and democratic
authorities (in health, education, justice, municipal government and
others) in much of the country creates a void that makes it easy for
the patrols to take power. In
a vicious circle, in many cases, the patrols, either for ideological
reasons or to maintain their power, attack or sabotage the few efforts
to create public services either by the communities themselves or the
Commission has received many charges of attacks attributed to the
patrols on health clinics, education services, literacy centers,
municipal authorities and other organizations that want to participate
electorally at the local level.
This example, which is typical of the real situation in
Guatemala, points to a phenomenon that has a two-fold negative effect
on human rights: The
state does not provide a law enforcement service to guarantee
tranquility and order under legal controls and on the other hand, that
void is filled by means of a perverse system that imposes an illegal,
non-democratic authoritarian order which constitutes the real power,
sets up arbitrary rules and hands out vigilante justice.
This uncontrolled, illegal order generates new friction, leads
to cases of violent revenge against patrol members or chiefs, creates
even more disturbance and is a vicious circle of desperation.
It even leads certain parts of the population to support the
patrols as the lesser of two evils.
Patrols have been converted, perversely in most cases, into the
most important public sector presence in many parts of the country.
Their presence and action exceeds violations of life, liberty
and personal integrity. Their
action prevents freedom of commerce and private property and its use,
upsets the rural resettlement of displaced persons and refugees, and,
in a nutshell, constitutes one of the main obstacles to the efforts to
eliminate the socioeconomic structural defects of Guatemala.
PARTICIPATION IN THE PATROLS IS NOT RESPECTED OR ENFORCED BY THE STATE
During this period, attacks have continued against those who do
not want to join the patrols or those who defend the freedom of
association embodied in the American Convention on Human Rights and
the Guatemalan Constitution.[29
Several members of the Runujel Junam Ethnic Communities Council
(CERJ) were assaulted during the second half of 1993.
A CERJ member was kidnapped in front of the National Police
station in Santa Cruz del Quiche by armed men and disappeared without
the police even trying to prevent the abduction.
A campesino named Domingo Caguil was killed in San
Andres Sajcabaja, allegedly by an assistant of the regional military
commissioner who was accused of having committed other crimes and
having sought asylum at a military base in Quiche.
Two brothers, Santos Francisco and Tomas Pantzay Calel (14 and
16 years of age), and their cousin, Fausto Chantzay Chom (19)
disappeared in Chichicastenango.
The chiefs of the patrol told the families of the disappeared
men that they had made this happen since the men did not want to join
the patrol, and warned the family not to tell the authorities about
Civil patrol members from Chel, Chajul, El Quiche, charged that
the army forces them to attack the CPR in Caba and to continue
participating in the civil patrols.
Three campesinos have been murdered in the last three
years, allegedly because they did not want to participate in the
Other charges indicate that the civil patrol members from the
cantons of Xesic, Cucubaj, Chicabracan, 2o. de Santa Cruz del Quiche,
Joyabaj and San Pedro Jocopilas have stepped up their actions since
October and November 1993, and have forced young men to join the civil
In the case of Catalino Chocoy (52 years), Jose Corino Teshen
(31 years) and Abelino Baycaj Chile (40 years), all of whom were farm
workers from the municipality of Santo Domingo Xenacoj, Sacatepequez,
a military commissioner and several armed men in civilian dress who
were driving vehicles with darkened windows wounded them seriously
with gunfire after they tried to recruit them for service in the
militarized patrols, in full view of local witnesses. The COPREDEH Presidential Commission opened the case in
February 1991 and filed suit in the courts.
Two years later, on February 18, 1993, the judge ordered that
the military commissioner be taken into custody as the presumed
responsible party. COPREDEH
said in a letter dated March 18, 1993, that the order came about
"following publicity given to the case by this Commission (COPREDEH)"
but that the order "is still pending execution."
In other words, the court system acted only because COPREDEH
forced it to and was not acting on its own, and the police force has
not carried out the judge's arrest order which was issued two full
years after a crime seen by numerous witnesses had occurred.
The Commission had discussed the case of Santiago Atitlan, a
city which was demilitarized by order of President Serrano in 1991
after the military had attacked the population several times.
The military headquarters were removed from the city.
The people of Santiago Atitlan organized themselves into truly
voluntary patrols which were under civilian authority and succeeded in
establishing a climate of tranquillity and peace.
However, according to charges that have come before the
Commission, the army is installing bases around the city and using
maneuvers to re-create the unrest that had been ended.
A new detachment is to place in Santiago Atitlan, at Cumbre de
Chucha. The local people
protested since they considered this a violation of the degree
prohibiting military personnel from setting up installations in the
area. This decree had
been issued after the December 2, 1990 massacre in which 22 local
people were killed. The
residents maintain that on July 27 and September 15, 1993, heavily
armed soldiers took stations at El Mirador, at the entrance to
Santiago Atitlan. Several
thousand residents prevented them from entering the town itself.
Pamphlets have appeared on the streets explaining the reopening
of the aforementioned military base and soldiers wearing civilian
clothing have been accused of thefts and assaults in the city.
The army wants to justify its actions by stating that the
people of Santiago Atitlan are "guerrilla sympathizers."
These circumstances are of special symbolic importance because
Santiago Atitlan is an example that demilitarization and civilian
resumption of authority in an organized fashion leads to the
disappearance of violence and social unrest.
4. THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD
IMPLEMENT A TIMETABLE FOR DISBANDMENT AND DEMOCRATIC TRANSFORMATION OF
The Commission was informed by the Minister of Government of a
plan to create municipal police forces, trained and reasonably well
equipped, under local authorities and coordinated by the National
In its Declaration on Human Rights of October 1993, the
government stated, "in the future, and if necessary," the
new patrols (CDVCs) will be created only after a democratic decision
is taken by the inhabitants of each village, which decision shall be
done under the supervision of the Office of the Human Rights Attorney.
Later, in January 1994, the President of the Republic sent the
Commission a copy of a message he had sent to President Bill Clinton
of the United States in which he asserted that participation in the
"patrols" was voluntary and the Human Rights Attorney had
the authority to enforce that voluntariness.
President de León Carpio also stated that:
"The Government has given orders for these Defense
Committees to be converted into Peace and Development Committees
independent of military control.
These committees will have no defense function.
We hope to speed up and intensify the process in the areas not
actively threatened by armed groups.
If there is peace, there will be no reason to continue with the
Self-Defense Committees, and they can be converted into Development
Committees, as has already happened in some places where the former
are not needed."
The Commission wishes to touch on the two points of
voluntariness and conversion into Peace and Development Committees.
Regarding voluntariness, it is the Commission's understanding
that, given the illegal power that the patrols have acquired by
virtue of the support and impunity that the Army has given them, many
of their members participate voluntarily in them because they then
enjoy unlimited power over the other inhabitants of their villages,
and are able in many cases to commit abuses and violations.
Because of this, the most important question about this
voluntariness is whether a democratically organized community
maintains its patrols voluntarily or by imposition.
Regarding the conversion of these committees, the Commission is
gratified that the Government has decided to put an end to their
control by the military, and this for two reasons.
Firstly because military control had the practical effect of
allowing the patrols to commit human rights violations and constantly
intimidate the other inhabitants with impunity.
And also because in most cases there was no control at all.
However, the Commission holds that any conversion must take
place, as it has said before, "in the framework of a democratic
society," that is, subject to and with respect for the civilian
authorities and enabling the inhabitants of the village, canton or
municipality to express democratically their choice for disbandment or
conversion, without giving those committees any privileges at the
expense of other civilian associations.
This would be the case if the new Peace and Development
Committees were civilian associations on an equal footing with other
civilian associations legally constituted in the country.
However, given the discretionary authority and record of abuses
of the patrols, any conversion from the present position of power of
these armed groups would entail the issuance of regulations and
highly rigorous measures to ensure that the new name does not conceal
and disguise a continued exercise by them of illegal power that
strikes at human rights.
In the closing chapter the Commission upholds its position on
the disbandment and conversion of the PACs in the framework of a
democratic society, for which it presents specific proposals.
In its Fourth Report the Commission looked into illegal
military recruitment practices, which involved violations of the
rights to liberty and due process and the prohibition of servitude,
and which it considered to be discriminatory against Mayan citizens
and destructive of their culture and dignity.
In his report of January 1994 the Human Rights Attorney
reported 174 complaints of irregular military recruitment in 1993, of
which 57 led to resolution thereof and 117 were resolved by discharge
from the Army. Dr. Jorge
La Guardia asserts that "the situation of irregular recruitment
remains as described in the previous report."
1. Policy decisions do
not coincide with practices
The Minister of Defense assured the Commission in September
1993 that the current policy was to end the abuses and abide by legal
recruitment procedures. The
minister recognized that there could have been excesses or irregular
practices by the military commissioners in rural areas but that they
had been investigated and corrected when charged.
However, in late October 1993, members of the army appeared to
have started a new irregular campaign of forced recruitment.
On October 25, in Coban, Alta Verapaz and Jocotan, Chiquimula,
several young men were taken into custody on the streets and pressed
into the army. On October
28, in San Pedro Sacatequepez, San Marcos, the same occurred with 30
other young men. On
October 31, soldiers stopped buses traveling on the Pan American
highway and forced the young men to get into military trucks.
In none of these cases had any of the young men received the
appropriate military call to service.
General Enriquez, the Minister of Defense, admitted during
statements made to the press on November 17 that cases of irregular
forced recruitment continued to exist.
In fact, some of these involved minors, married men and
students. He gave
assurances that in all cases for which charges had been received at
the Office of the Human Rights Attorney, they had been resolved.
New draft laws
The Minister of Defense pointed out in his interview with the
Commission that the Executive had proposed to the congress a new draft
law which was respectful, in his opinion, of human rights and which
also included measures to prevent discrimination against young Mayan
men. The Widows
Coordination Committee of Guatemala submitted to the Congress a draft
law to eliminate forced military recruitment. This bill had been submitted by congressman Enrique Guillen.
According to the minister of defense, the exceptions provided
for in both bills were in general agreement, although the CONAVIGUA
bill includes "conscientious objection" as grounds for
3. Competence of
military commissioners to detain young men of military age
Many of the practices denounced relate to apprehensions of
persons by military commissioners who are the military delegates in
the local towns. There is
a controversy regarding their jurisdiction and their authority to
conduct forced recruitment. The
minister of defense pointed out to the Commission that directives from
the ministry indicated that a person can be detained for military
conscription only when a competent judge has issued such an order.
However, the President of the Supreme Court, Jorge Rodil
Peralta, has issued formal instructions to the judges to not intervene
when the military commissioners apprehend young men to render military
The Commission believes that individual personal liberty is at
stake here. In the event
of presumed disobedience of military service obligations, there should
exist prior to apprehension or forced recruitment some opposing
procedure of a legal type that would guarantee that the person in
question has been duly summoned and was given the legal opportunity to
avail himself of the exemptions in the law.
V. REFUGEES AND
THEIR RETURN AND PEACEFUL RESETTLEMENT
In its Fourth Report and during its on-site visit to Guatemala,
the Commission had the opportunity to review the process of
repatriation from Mexico where in early 1993, there were 45,000
registered Guatemalan refugees and another number of unregistered
The repatriation took place under the terms of the October 8,
1992 agreements between the Government of Guatemala, through the
National Commission for Repatriates, Refugees and Displaced Persons (CEAR),
and the refugees represented by the Permanent Committees (CP),
through the intervention of the United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees and the Government of Mexico.
Several thousand refugees have returned to Guatemala during
this time, both singly and in organized groups, among them 200
families who returned on January 12, 1994, and similar contingents are
expected in the coming months, which would be settled in different
farms previously set aside for them.
Among the recommendations made by the IACHR in May 1993 are:
a) Respect for the agreements governing the return; b)
government attention to the problem of land adjudication for the
returnees; c) providing citizenship documents to those persons as
citizens and to their children born in Mexico; d) compliance with the
promise of postponing military service for the children of refugees
who are of conscription age; and e) efforts to consolidate a climate
of release and respect for the peaceful return without aggression or
The CEAR (governmental) informed the Commission
regarding the advances and difficulties as of September 1993 in that
process. The repatriates'
organizations, however, continue to make allegations of violations,
especially by the army.
The CEAR points out that from January to August, 1993, 3,675
persons had been repatriated, either in a mass way with the
involvement of the Permanent Commissions or on an individual/family
basis directly through governmental agencies.
Information from non-governmental legal agencies that support
the repatriates informed the Commission, however, that during the
period, approximately 10,000 persons had returned, most of them on an
individual or family basis. The
government reported that the agreement is being respected in terms of
offering the same service benefits to repatriates who came back,
either individually or in a group manner.
According to the government, the freedom of association of the
returnees is being respected. It
offered as a example the case of the Victoria 20 de Enero Community
(returned on that date in 1993) in which the inhabitants have been
organized into development support committees or associations.
The government also reports that military service exemption
cards are being issued. In
all, 406 cards have been issued both to repatriates who came back in a
group fashion or as individual families.
As for the recommendation of identifying documents, the
government reports that 1,068 resident cards and 3,074 birth
certificates were issued in 1993.
Many of these were from the Victoria 20 de Enero Community.
In compliance with the agreements regarding strict observance
of respect for life and personal integrity, the government reports on
the road works and health centers in Santa Clara, Poligono 14, and a
donation of two vehicles for the protection and safety of Santa Clara
and 20 de Enero. It recognized the existence of marihuana plantings and mines
and explosives at the Poligono 14 National Farm, which were there
before the repatriates arrived. These
are being removed and deactivated with the cooperation of military
The government also reports on the advances made in the
projects to support uprooted peoples (Fund for Labor and Productive
Reentry-FORELAP); the economic and social reactivation of the
Usumacinta, La Pasion and La Machaca farm cooperatives; description of
the displaced and repatriated population; and the project and
alternatives for land preparation.
The "Ixil Solidarity" Program (in the Ixil triangle),
which is to benefit 180,000 persons, will be implemented with public
funds. This program
includes health, education, housing support, road infrastructure,
institutional strengthening and production components.
The project seeks to advance the development of rural areas
whose people have been displaced and endangered by the armed conflict.
For their part, refugee representatives have submitted charges
to the Commission during this period alleging harassment by the army
of the settlements in Poligono 14 and in particular Victoria 20 de
Enero, which are called "guerrilla colonies," and they have
also alleged restrictions of their freedom to associate.
In September, the Commission visited some of the communities
and found that, while there are difficulties, the settlements are
progressing and their associations are acting normally and within the
law. Nevertheless, there
is doubtlessly the intermittent presence of military forces as well as
low fly-overs by military aircraft. These are a constant source of tangible anxiety, considering
that not many years ago, the same people suffered terribly the
consequences of the armed conflict and the memory of military excesses
and the presence of subversive elements is still alive in them.
At that time, the situation led to massacres and forced the
people to seek a safe haven in Mexico.
According to the army, their insecurity arises from the mines
that have been placed in the zone and the armed confrontations with
EGP forces, which are part of the URNG, and are active in the zone.
According to military information, the army has had 42
casualties (dead and wounded) in the municipality of Ixcan, close to
Tercer Pueblo, in recent months.
These are the results of mine explosions and skirmishes.
The army and the subversives charge each other with these acts
and deny responsibility for placing the mines in the area.
During its September visit, the Commission received words of
confirmation at the returnee population settlements in Poligono XIV
that the military authorities are prohibiting the returnees from
contacting the local people and are interfering in the free trade of
Refugees who were part of the Ixcan Grande Cooperative planned
on returning to their lands on November 22 and to rebuild their
cooperatives, created two decades ago, are the legal owners of land in
the Ixcan area. The refugees are parts of approximately 14 groups totaling
14,000 persons who are preparing their return.
In the meantime, reduction of international aid is disrupting
the situation of the refugees in Quintana Roo, Campeche and Chiapas,
Despite the difficulties, after a temporary suspension decreed
by President de Leon Carpio in November 1993 based on the belief that
it was not safe to return, 1,291 refugees returned on November 9 to
Pueblo Nuevo Resurrección, Ixcan, Department of Quiché.
Minister Enríquez undertook to withdraw the military
detachment from the urban area of Pueblo Nuevo.
Lots owned by 267 families are allegedly occupied by the army.
In short, the Commission believes:
Despite the real difficulties and fears of different groups,
the refugee return process in furtherance of the Agreements of Mexico
1992 started to become significant in terms of numbers in 1993 and
In general, the government has been shifting its attitude of
mistrust and restriction of the liberty of the refugees, and has begun
to carry out its commitments, both those arising from the special
agreement as well as those that relate to the rights of all citizens.
Proof of this positive attitude by the government are the
monitoring efforts, the basic logistical support for the transfer,
including the acceptance of the symbolic value of their passage
through Guatemala City, personal documents, respect for the commitment
to exemption from military service, land adjudication and development
To the contrary, difficulties were posed by the harassment
committed by a number of military sectors who have continued accusing
the returnees publicly of being subversive accomplices and the little
political willingness to use public resources to facilitate their
resettlement and productive recovery.
A deterrent to return is the militarization of the places where
refugees were returning in organized, peaceful groups.
The presence of subversive elements in the area also
contributes to the climate of tension.
VI. COMMUNITIES OF
PEOPLES IN RESISTANCE
During its on-site visit, the Commission entered into contact
with representatives of the CPR.
It obtained abundant direct information on the actual practice
of human rights for their members.
The Commission confirmed its earlier conclusion
that these people are civilians and that as such, the state must
respect their lives, goods and dignity, even during exercise of its
legitimate right to fight the subversion.
The isolation of the CPRs comes about not only because of their
own fears born in the tragic circumstances of the massacres in the
1980s. The Commission
obtained information on activities by the army and the PACs which keep
these people in isolation by means of harassment of free transit and
free commerce and finally, a policy of verbal attacks accusing the
people of being guerrilla accomplices and making them the direct or
indirect targets of aggression.
The campesinos of the CPRs in the municipalities of
Dolores, La Libertad, Sayaxe and Santa Ana, for example, cannot trade
with neighboring communities because the military forces and the PAC
chiefs prevent local tradesmen from working with them.
They contend that this is the same as collaborating with the
guerrilla warfare. The army chief of staff gave personal assurances to the IACHR
that he would issue orders to respect freedom of trade and transit of
The CPRs have charged that military forces from the nearby
bases of Chajul and Visan, assisted by civil patrol members, prevent
them from visiting their families and the markets of Chajul and Nebaj,
and accuse them of being guerrillas.
The same threats are also made against the parish priests of
the two communities.
The IACHR believes that progress was made toward normalizing
relations with the CPRs by the peaceful and uneventful visit made by
600 of their members in September 1993 to Guatemala City where they
met with the President of the Republic and agreed to initiate a
dialogue. This dialogue
has not been started yet because the Executive states that he will not
do so until the CPRs "accept unconditionally the civilian and
military authorities." For
their part, the CPRs have maintained that they, "are willing to
accept all those legally constituted authorities who act under the
framework of the Constitution of the Republic."
The Commission believes that a government has the obligation to
provide, without discrimination, to the entire population all the
guarantees recognized in the American Convention and that, given the
historical circumstances that led to the formation of the CPRs, the
emphasis that they put on the legality of the actions of the
authorities is fully justified.
The CPRs have achieved a high level of internal organization in
terms of community health, education, religion and local issues.
They have a democratically elect structure of local committees
coordinated by area committees and the coordination commission.
They meet annually in a general assembly, as the highest
authority of the CPRs of the mountain area.
Contrary to what was said by the army which presumes that this
is a "guerrilla organization,"
the Commission believes that as long as these CPRs and their members
do not commit specific crimes, their right of association and their
organization should be respected and even promoted by the Guatemalan
state. In this sense, the
proper thing to do would be to strengthen the municipal authorities of
those areas by means of broad, guaranteed elections.
The Commission believes that one solution that could be
explored would be drawing new municipal boundaries so that these
people would form a homogeneous population, their rights would be
better guaranteed and they would have the full range of political
activity and liberty that the constitution guarantees.
The IACHR likewise reaffirms the position it set out before
which is that the state has the right and the obligation to deal with
subversive movements, and the existence of "guerrilla
warfare" in the zone promotes conditions for ongoing friction
caused by military operations and for threats to the people in general
by the PACs, which are contrary to normal relations among neighbors.
This does not mean, however, that the respect for the CPRs
should begin only "when the armed conflict is resolved."
The Commission recalls that the international commitments of
Guatemala obligate it to respect the civil population even in a
situation of internal conflict. It
calls particular attention to Articles 13 and 14 of Protocol II of the
Geneva Conventions which expressly prohibit, "attacking,
destroying, removing or wasting foods, food producing agricultural
areas, crops, livestock, installations of drinking water and supplies
and irrigation systems," and "the acts or threats of
violence whose principal purpose is the spread terror among the civil
Return and normalization of the CPRs of Ixcan in February
On February 2, 1994, the population of the CPRs of Ixcan
returned peacefully and of their own volition to their original lands,
seeking to reestablish themselves there and enjoy the rights that
inhere in any civilian population.
They have so far accomplished this resettlement without
major incident and in the presence of C.E.A.R officers.
The Commission has been invited by those communities to verify
the observance of human rights in the course of that resettlement, and
has decided to make its visit in March 1994.
The Government of Guatemala has given its official consent to
RIGHT TO JUDICIAL GUARANTEES
1. The state's
obligation with respect to past violations of human rights.
Clarification of the truth
The need to move beyond the tragic historical moments that
Guatemala has been suffering for more than two decades leads the
Commission to insist that the state has the duty to clarify the
violations of human rights perpetrated prior to the establishment of
the democratic regime and those which continued after its
reestablishment in 1986. In
its 1985-86 annual report, the Commission held with respect to another
All societies have the irrefutable right to know the truth of
events, as well as the reasons and circumstances in which such
aberrant crimes come to be committed, so as to prevent such events
from occurring again in the future...
Such access to truth presupposes not cutting off freedom of
expression which--it is clear--must be exercised responsibly; and the
formation of investigation committees whose members and competence are
to be determined in accordance with the corresponding internal law of
each country, or the extension of the necessary measures so that the
judicial branch of government itself can undertake all investigations
that might be necessary.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, for its part, has
ruled in the "Honduran" cases:
With respect to the obligation to investigate... it must have
meaning and be undertaken by the state as a juridical duty of its own
and not as a simple action of private interests which requires the
procedural initiative of the victim or his family members or the
private contribution of probationary elements, without the public
authority effectively looking for the truth.
Several events that have occurred since June 1993 give urgency
and relevance to this topic. The
finding of several secret cemeteries and the charges of the existence
of many others, the presumed revelations that have come up from
members or former members of the armed forces, the announced
destruction of the archives of the Presidential General Staff, which
allegedly contained abundant documents on the illegal repression
mechanisms and the circumstances and names of those responsible for
them all, justified, in the opinion of the Commission, the request of
many organizations to the government to form a "Truth
Commission" which would organize, examine and make public a
complete investigation into the violations of human rights that have
occurred since 1980.
With respect to the possibility of a new amnesty, in response
to a specific question from the Commission, the government pointed out
in a letter dated September 22, "at this time, no draft law of
that nature is being studied by the Executive Branch or the
note also pointed out that the government is taking all actions that
would help to modify those structures that encourage or permit the
violation of human rights within the Executive Branch structure and
"has undertaken actions aimed at suggesting changes in the policy
of other public agencies for the purpose of strengthening the
enforcement of human rights."
2. Judicial sentences
of those who violate human rights
Some court sentences that have been handed down during the
present administration are testimony to the efforts the government has
made to bring impunity to an end.
The Ninth Chamber of the Court of Appeals in Antigua,
Guatemala, decided on July 6, 1993, to revoke the pardon of Manuel
Perbal Ajtzalam and Munuel Leon Lares, as the material perpetrators,
for the murder and serious wounds of Juan Perebal Xigum and Manuel
Perebal Morales, and the injuries to Diego Perebal Leon.
These persons were given a maximum sentence of 30 years in
prison as well as additional penalties, including the payment of civil
liability stemming from the crime, of Q10,000 for each family of the
victims, and suspended their political rights for the term of the
sentence. The court
considered that they had committed these acts as abuses of their
positions as chiefs and members of civil patrols because the victims
had refused to join the civil defense patrol.
In the case of the University of San Carlos students killed by
Hunapu forces, sentences were given to 22 police agents for murder and
to 14 others, for being accomplices in the execution, and the case
opened against Colonel Otto Alfredo Aragon is continuing.
-A high chief of the National Police and four members of the
shock group were sentenced to three years and nine months for abuses
against campesinos as they were being removed from lands in
Cajola, Quetzaltenango in 1992. The
police chief is the highest official sentenced to date for violations
of human rights.
3. Secret cemeteries
Of particular importance in the search for the historical truth
about human rights violations during the past decade is the
investigation into secret common graves. During
the present administration, that task has received greater support
from the government.
The Fourth Report brought out the importance of the positive
attitude taken by justices of the peace in Quiche who used to
advantage the techniques of forensic anthropology for their judicial
Until a short time ago, however, the Guatemalan judicial system
had been reluctant to use this technique.
Since the new administration took office, the action by the
Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Team (EAFG), supported by technicians
from other countries, has found the government most receptive.
In September 1993, the judicial system brought together 100
staff members including judges, investigators and forensic physicians
for a training seminar on exhumation procedures and possible uses of
that technique. Originally the seminar was to be for 30 staff members.
The major case of a secret cemetery investigated during this
period occurred in the village of Rio Negro, Rabinal, Alta Verapaz.
In 1982 this village was inhabited by 600 persons, most of whom
were murdered. A few were
able to hide in the mountains. The
waters of the new Chixoy reservoir covered the abandoned huts.
The excavations which were performed on the order of the
justice of the peace by the EAFG discovered the cadavers of 170
persons, among them 90 children and 50 women.
This finding was one of the 19 mass slaughters that occurred in
the Rabinal area between 1980 and 1983 which took a toll of more than
4,000 dead. This number was 17% of the population living in the
municipality during that time.
According to local people, the Rio Negro massacres began
because the construction in 1981 of the Chixoy hydroelectric plant by
the National Electrification Administration (INDE) required the people
living in that area to move. These
persons did not want to leave and they had the support of the Peasant
Unity Committee (CUC). That Rio Negro village, which was called a "guerrilla
focal point," was the victim of five massacres by army forces and
the civil patrols which were being organized during that time. Charges made by survivors state that in one case, the patrol
members abducted mothers and children from the village and then
offered some of the children the choice of not dying with their
mothers by going to work for them.
Some 15 children decided to save their lives and were held in
servitude for a decade by the murderers of their parents.
Continuing its work in court cases, the EAFG plans an
excavation in February 1994 at Plan de Sanchez where some 300 cadavers
might be found of persons who were murdered and burned collectively by
the army after the women were raped.
For their part, residents of San Andres Sajesbaja, Quiche,
reported the existence of a secret grave in the church which was found
during church reconstruction work.
The Commission believes that this search work should continue
with the support and guarantees of different public sector agencies
and that all facilities should be given to the courts to continue
using the technical and scientific assistance of the EAFG.
4. Accusations by
convicted former military persons regarding institutional structures
for violating human rights
During this period, the Commission has received indirect
information from former military persons and others who say they
belonged to the military regarding their knowledge of the
institutional mechanisms and lines of responsibility of massacres,
secret cemeteries and disappearance campaigns.
Some of these claimants have retracted their statements under
confusing circumstances and the membership of some of them in the
armed forces is denied by the military.
In September 1993, a person named Julio Crescencio Sam Batres
(38 years), who says he was a former specialist in the Guatemalan
army, attached to military zone 13-216, headquartered in Cuyotenango,
in the department of Suchitepequez, since January 1992, and who was an
informant for ten years--according to his own words--revealed the
names of chiefs, agents and persons on lists to be exterminated, as
well as business people and journalists associated with the
repression, and cases of murders and disappearance of suspected
guerrillas. He explained
how he had been trained in capturing, torturing and murdering with
The army reacted to those declarations by denying that the
presumed G2 agent was listed in the files of the institution.
The army maintained that his words are part of a diplomatic
political propaganda plan of the URNG.
For its part, during its visit to Guatemala, the Commission
received direct testimony from several military persons convicted of
murder who offered to reveal the names of the responsible persons and
the circumstances surrounding hundreds of murders carried out by the
death squads, to which they belonged, as well as the intellectual
authors who ordered and carried out the murder of Myrna Mack in the
Presidential General Staff.
Noel de Jesus Gonzalez, convicted of the murder of Myrna Mack,
as well as another convict, Jorge Lemus, and five soldiers sentenced
for the murder of Michel Devine, Francisco Solbal Santay, Tiburcio
Hernandez, Oliverio Orellana, Joaquin Alfaro Avila and Daniel Tolon
Rodriguez, announced that they were willing to testify in this regard.
According to them, on the next day, two members of the military
intelligence force (G2) headed by Captain Sosa Diaz and Claudio Porres
interviewed them at the Pavoncito prison and offered them fifty
thousand dollars, salaries and light work in the prison to not reveal
the locations of the secret cemeteries and the names of the military
commanders involved in murders and the death squads.
After the interview, three of them retracted their words since
they had not received guarantees of safety from the government.
In a note to the Commission, the government stated that the
Public Ministry had contacted the convicted former military men but
that it had not confirmed their charges.
It also gave assurances that these persons had guarantees of
safety in the penal institutions where they were housed.
Maintain the strictest compliance with the decisions included
in the Official Declaration on Human Rights of October 1993, as the
basis for the conduct of all state agencies and agents.
Engage all investigatory and protection resources of the state
to assure the life, personal liberty and freedom of expression of the
leaders of human rights agencies and social and political interest
groups, as well as the press, and guarantees for restoration of the
democratic dialogue among different sectors.
Issue instructions to military and security organizations and
civil self-defense patrols to respect the right of free association
and right of free speech of the people, and to refrain from
intimidating or attacking organizations that serve rural people or
which call for better living conditions and compliance with the law.
End the military control over the actions of the Executive
Branch of government which is exercised by Presidential General Staff,
either by disbanding it or by redefining its functions, since this
staff amounts to an unconstitutional interference with democratically
Recommend to the members of the Legislative Branch that they take
the necessary measures to comply with their constitutional
Commission believes that present state of paralysis in the legislature
has a negative impact on its effective action.
Take all necessary measures to enhance the authenticity and
representativeness of elections, among others, by amending the Electoral
Law in such a way as to allow the existence of departmental political
organizations with the ability to register candidates for election to
A Truth Commission, made up of independent individuals of
recognized moral standing and supported by all public institutions,
should be formed to make a full investigation and report on past
violations of human rights. This
Truth Commission should be formed and should act completely independent
of the peace negotiations with the subversive elements.
The search for truth and justice cannot be a pawn of either side;
it is an international commitment by the state to the international
community and to its own people, its history and its future.
The process of appointing judges and magistrates should be
revised so that it is not political, and to ensure that lower level
judges do not depend on the sponsorship of higher magistrates.
The appointments should be made on the basis of competition or
open and objective examinations.
The Commission recommends the proposal contained in Harvard
Report on the creation of "circuit courts," which would have
officers who speak the local language, and to encourage the training of
Mayan attorneys. These
circuit courts would perform their work on a rotating basis in the group
of villages under their jurisdiction.
They would be supplemented, as in the proposal, by the creating
the position of bailiff, a lower ranking court officer who works as
mediator in minor disputes and as an assistant in the district court.
The bailiffs would be elected by the community as the contact
person with the court system.
MUNICIPAL AND NATIONAL POLICE SERVICES
The establishment of legally approved and controlled police
services, under the jurisdiction and control of local civilian
authorities, and connected functionally to the National Police.
The Commission notes the programs that the Ministry of Government
has initiated to institute the Municipal Police and the example of the
local civilian police established in Santiago Atitlan, which it
recommends be respected.
At the same time that the municipal police forces are created,
the size and budget of the National Police should be expanded so that it
can carry out its mission throughout the entire country, and the
capacity of the municipal police supplemented.
The National Police should also retrieve the equipment and budget
items that were retained by the armed forces but which were for
functions that the National Police perform.
6. THE CIVIL SELF-DEFENSE
PATROLS (DACs OR CVDCs) AND LOCAL POLICE POWER
As presently configured, the patrols should be disbanded through
a scheduled plan based on the free and organic decision of the specific
The process of developing the municipal police force should be
scheduled to begin immediately and should be completed within a
reasonable time. Its start
and implementation should be completely independent of the negotiations
with the URNG.
The local police functions should be assumed legally by some time
type of municipal police force, created or reinforced in each case as
determined by the Law of Municipalities, based on the decision of each
community. The examples
that should be taken are the experience in Santiago Atitlan, and the
plans to create the municipal police force that the Ministry of
Government has started, with the cooperation of international lending
and technical sources.
The decisions regarding the shape that the municipal police
forces would take should be made by the people of each municipality
within existing legal guidelines or those that are issued specifically
for the purpose.
The municipal police forces should be under local civilian
authority and the state should provide the municipalities the funds they
need to maintain the force.
The municipal police forces should be independent in matters
within their competence of the central police authority but should be
coordinated with that central authority, in accordance with existing
rules or those that might be issued for that purpose.
The military authority will have no authority over the municipal
Immediately and until such time as the patrols are dissolved and
replaced by services under civilian authority, strict instructions
should be given to their chiefs and members to refrain from any action
that might amount to a restriction of the human rights of the local
people. The military
authorities that are acting as organ of control over those patrols
should be made responsible for compliance with those instructions and
should dissolve immediately any patrols that do not follow those
The Public Ministry and Office of the National Attorney for Human
Rights should offer all guarantees for voluntary individual
participation in the patrols until they are dissolved, and should take
measures to disband them in the event that the community, in a majority
decision, decides to dissolve them immediately.
If the community freely decides, in an organized, democratic way
guaranteed by the Human Rights Attorney or some other appropriate
authority, not to disband the Self-Defense Committee but to convert it
into a Development Committee or the like, that Committee must be subject
to regulation that places it on an equal footing with all similar
civilian associations under the full jurisdiction of the competent
civilian authorities and with full respect for the laws and the
legally constituted organs of justice and public safety.
In the event of presumed refusal to perform obligatory military
service, there should be a legal objection procedure prior to
apprehension or forced recruitment.
This would guarantee that the person in question has been
properly called to service and has been afforded the possibility of
protection under the exemptions in the law.
Rules should be passed to satisfy the legitimate needs of
military conscription in Guatemala, without discrimination, and should
afford the opportunity to people who have been traumatized by the
internal conflict of recent years to perform public service as a
substitute for military service. The
Commission endorses the Human Rights Attorney's recommendation that
"it is necessary that the Congress of the Republic discuss and
pass a new law on military and public service containing at least
careful regulations of the procedure of and conditions for recruitment,
accepting conscientious objection as a valid exemption from service,
and providing for equal and nondiscriminatory treatment of the
population of indigenous and nonindigenous communities of limited
THE PROBLEM OF REFUGEES AND THEIR RETURN
Demilitarize the repatriation of refugees living in Mexico and
their resettlement. Bearing
in mind the historical wounds, the Commission recommends that the
intervention and contact between military persons and the returned
populations be kept a minimum, and that police services and
democratically elected and supervised justice services be established,
including, if necessary, the drawing of new municipal boundary lines
that would allow effective exercise of political power within the return
COMMUNITIES OF PEOPLES IN RESISTANCE
The Commission recommends strictest compliance by the state of
the standards and guarantees to which the civilian population and every
inhabitant are entitled, even during a situation of struggles against
The public declaration and information campaigns for both CPRs as
well as neighboring populations and people in general and the freedom of
movement and trade should be respected and guaranteed by all state
agents. Strict orders
should be issued by the army in its function of control over the PACs to
see to it that the PACs do not interfere with those liberties or harass
the members of CPRs, and the punishments of those who do interfere
should set examples.
The drawing of municipal district lines to guarantee homogeneity
of interests of their inhabitants and their political representativeness,
and impartial special municipal elections should be held to allow legal
establishment of local authorities fully involved in the legal
Guatemalan state, with all its obligations, rights and guarantees.
Special efforts should be made to consolidate the right of
ownership and functioning of agricultural cooperatives and the members
of the CPRs over their lands, the guarantees for establishment of new
legally established production cooperatives, and the withdrawal or
compensation by the army from the lands that it occupies to which
civilian inhabitants, either as individuals or as groups, have rights.
10. REFUGEES AND THEIR
RETURN AND PEACEFUL RESETTLEMENT
Reinforce the local democratic authorities of the areas where
refugees live, and guarantee that they have access to full participation
in elections and in elective positions.
Guarantee and respect, both by civilian authorities as well as
military, all rights of association, free expression, trade and movement
of refugees. Where no
representation exists, install a local delegate of the Office of the
Attorney for Human Rights, with communications and transportation
Emphasize in declarations from the highest national and local
authorities, both civilian and military, the willingness to respect the
rights of refugees, rights which stem from their status as citizens and
from special agreements. Respect, provide the means (markets, freedom of
transportation, public holidays, common infrastructure projects and
others) and promote normal trade, social and other relations between the
refugees and the inhabitants of nearby areas, including the so-called
Communities of Peoples in Resistance.
Devote the maximum amount of resources and administrative
activity to making progress on the development projects carried out by
the CEAR and other agencies. In
this sense, put special emphasis on recovering the lands of established
cooperatives and encourage the establishment of new cooperatives by
expanding the effort of land adjudication and credit allocation to the
Prevent, investigate and punish, if necessary, any alleged
attacks or threats against refugees by military authorities or members
of civil patrols from nearby areas.
Establish with legal and democratic participation by the local
people, local police forces under the municipal or departmental civilian
authorities and coordinated by the National Police.
Reduce to the essential minimum required by the struggle against
subversion, and in accord with the spirit of the Agreements of Mexico of
1992, the presence or action of military contingents in refugee
resettlement areas, bearing in mind the well grounded and legitimate
fears of these people because of their experiences in recent years.
Cancel completely all activities of a police nature carried out
by military forces in those areas.
Undertake all additional efforts necessary to restore the process
of collective and organized return and guarantee, at the same time, the
possibility of individual or family return.
Finally, the Commission calls upon the parties in the peace
negotiations to establish and consider refugee resettlement areas as
truce zones, free of the presence and combative activity with military
support of any type, and establish multi-party commissions to verify
11. RESPECT FOR SPECIFIC
Right of property: The
state should take measures to recognize and enforce the long standing or
ancestral ownership of lands of Mayan peoples and campesinos in
general. Likewise, massive
plans are necessary to facilitate access to land ownership and
production for the displaced persons and those relocated because of
The right of free association: Maintain
and extend progress made by the present administration in simplifying
the administrative steps needed to obtain legal personality for trade
12. SOCIOECONOMIC AND
Establish and put into practice, if necessary, policies for
investment and public services that avoid special treatment for urban
and higher income areas so as to guarantee all citizens equal
opportunity to such public services.
Accelerate the process of ratifying Convention 169 of the ILO on
the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which is currently being reviewed in
congress, and adopt immediately the measures necessary to accelerate its
Implement throughout the country the 1994-95 Health Policy
Guidelines prepared by the Ministry of Public Health in cooperation with
the Pan American Health Organization.
Accelerate housing and settlement plans, with particular
attention to refugees and internal displaced persons, and take all
necessary measures so that the lands assigned to the BANVI for that
purpose are distributed without any delay to the beneficiary population.
During their visit to the inland parts of the country, military
heads informed the Commission that, for example, in an area of
approximately 100 kilometers by 150 kilometers around Santa Cruz del
Quiche, or 15,000 square kilometers, there are four subversive
squadrons operating, each with 7 to 9 fighters, for a total of 32
official estimates indicate that the total number of combatant
subversives is approximately 800 to 900.
According to testimony given by Sister Dianne Ortiz, who has been
working since 1988 in rural parts of Guatemala, the PAC and the
military forces used to order the people to go on searches for
guerrillas precisely when they intended to get together for a mass
or some celebration or fiesta, so that they would not carry out
Voluntary participation in the patrols is summarized in the
following anecdote, which is typical of the general situation.
A member of Nebaj patrol insisted in 1989 that, in effect,
the patrol had only volunteers.
"What happens," he was asked, "when somebody
refuses to volunteer?" The patrol member responded in all seriousness:
"We punish him."
Quoted by Anne Manuel in IDEELE, Lima, Peru.
President de Leon Carpio announced in August 1993 that the files
would be eliminated. Allegedly,
these files contained photos and names and the written orders given
to detain, torture and murder specific individuals.
In September, when the Human Rights Attorney, Jorge
LaGuardia, indicated that he agreed to receive and maintain the
files for the purposes of his office, the President announced that
the archives had been destroyed.