University of Minnesota

Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Guatemala, Inter-Am. C.H.R., OEA/Ser.L/V/II.61, Doc. 47 rev. 1 (1983).




A. Background

1. The following is the second report that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issues on the situation of human rights in Guatemala. The First “Report on the Situation of Human Rights in the Republic of Guatemala” (OEA/Ser.L/V/II.53 doc. 21, rev. 2), was approved by the Commission on its 722nd session held on October 13, 1981 and addresses the situation of those rights up to that date.

2. Although this Report is limited exclusively to the human rights situation in Guatemala from March 23, 1982,--the date of the coup d'etat from which the government of President Efrain Ríos Montt would later emerge—this introduction will briefly cover background material (some of which was also included in the previous IACHR Report) for the purpose of fostering a better understanding of the present human rights situation in Guatemala.

3. During the decade of the 60's anti-government insurgent groups such as the Rebel Armed Forces (FAR), the Revolutionary Movement November 13th (MRI 13) and the Guerrilla Front Elder Ibarra (FGEI), emerged aiming their acts of harassment and attacks, at persons as well as private and public institutions. At the same time, paramilitary organizations such as “Mano” (Organized National Anticommunist Movement), “Mano Blanca”, the New Anticommunist Organization, An Eye for an Eye, the Death Squadron and others were also formed. The latter introduced into Guatemala a new way to suppress political opposition using threats, torture, assassination attempts, abductions, and plain murder. The objective and victims of these groups were not only the insurgents and persons identified as members of the political opposition but also persons who were suspected of sympathizing, collaborating or lending assistance to the opposition. Hundreds of innocent persons became victims of the acts of these paramilitary groups and their counter-insurgency terrorism.

4. This spiral of progovernment and antigovernment violence is aggravated, beginning in 1966, by the designation of Colonel Carlos Arana Osorio as Commander of Zapaca and his later rise to the presidency of the Republic in July of 1970. The increased fighting leads the country to the most extreme state of violence, to wit, the establishment of a reign of terror. This constituted a weapon of social repression used against unions, opposition groups, universities, political parties, cooperatives, leagues of peasants and the Church; in other words, against all the institutions and groups critical of the Government.

5. In 1974, two generals vie for the presidency of the Republic: Kjell Laugerud García, candidate for the Government party and José Efrain Ríos Montt, supported by the United Revolutionary Front (FUR), the then Authentic Revolutionary Party (PRA) now named the Socialist Democratic Party (PSD) and the Christian Democratic Party (PDC). General Laugerud García is elected and assumes the Presidency on July 1, 1974, even though the election is challenged by certain political sectors.

6. Some human rights organizations estimate that during the first two years of President Laugerud's term reigned a situation of internal peace and few human rights violations. But, toward the end of his term government terror manifested itself with the same intensity as before although new methods of terrorism were introduced.

During this period, the Death Squadron and the Anticommunist Secret Army (ESA) as well as the guerrilla groups, published lists of persons who had been declared “sentenced” to death, among whom were prominent leaders of the Guatemalan community. As a result of the murder and execution of persons whose names appeared on the mentioned lists, many other persons who were also included in the same lists chose to leave the country. This significant voluntary exodus of important politicians from Guatemala is an example of the effectiveness of the methods of terror utilized to remove, apparently by their own decision, the leaders of the opposition. Also, the paramilitary groups were responsible for executions and disappearances of persons under the most complete silence, without announcing they had taken place nor claiming responsibility for the same.

7. On February of 1976 there is the catastrophe of the earthquake which destroys a large part of Guatemala leaving thousands of people dead. According to statements by important Guatemalan citizens, from that moment on it could be seen that both citizens and organizations were ready to seek other solutions. On the Government's part, there is more flexibility and a political opening. The ratification of the American Convention on Human Rights as well as the publication and dissemination of its text, access to rural credit for the country's Indian population, and the Government's tolerance of the labor movement, constitute examples of the willingness of President Laugerud García's Government to govern by peaceful and democratic means.

8. In 1978 General Fernando Romero Lucas García, who had been Minister of Defense under President Kjell Laugerud, assumes power as a result of what have been described as fraudulent elections. Lucas García faces growing opposition not only from guerrilla groups, which he had promised to combat, but also from political, labor and student organizations and part of the peasantry.

9. Toward the end of the 70's violence increases and two new guerrilla organizations appear: the Poor People's Guerilla Army (EGP) and the Organization of the People in Arms (ORPA).

10. Political violence intensifies with numerous violations to the right to life and other fundamental rights of the human person as described in the first IACHR Report on the human rights situation in Guatemala.1 The situation deteriorates even further with events such as the painful episode at the Embassy of Spain which was occupied by 29 men, among them 23 peasants and 6 leaders of popular organizations in the city of Guatemala. Gregorio Yuca, the only survivor, was taken to a hospital from which he was kidnapped despite the presence of security forces who were guarding the Spanish Ambassador, also in the same hospital. The body of the kidnapped victim was found on the grounds of the San Carlos University. After this and other distressing events, the harassment of universities, labor unions, professionals and churches intensified. Some organizations suffered from government actions that infringed on their right to associate and their freedom to form unions and also from actions which violated the persona safety of their leaders through kidnapping and, in certain cases, by murder. There were also numerous murder and disappearances of people, among them, prominent political personalities of Guatemala.

11. In October of 1981, the IACHR adopts its Report on the situation of human rights in Guatemala. In this report, the following conclusions and recommendations were formulated:


A. Conclusions

1. In light of the background information and considerations set forth in the present report, the overall conclusion of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is that an alarming climate of violence has prevailed in recent years in Guatemala, which violence has either been instigated or tolerated by a Government, unwilling or unable to contain it. The violence has resulted in an excessive loss of life and in a widespread deterioration of the human rights set forth in the American Convention on Human Rights.

2. While the victims of this violence are found in all sectors of society—including even the Armed Forces and those who possess political and economic power--, there is no doubt at all that the sectors most affected have been political leaders of opposition parties, trade unionists, priests, lawyers, journalists, professors and teachers, as well as the thousands of peasants and Indians who have been assassinated.

3. In the large majority of cases, the deaths resulting from this violence were due to illegal executions and to the “disappearances” engineered by the security forces or paramilitary civilian groups acting in close collaboration with the Governmental authorities, which authorities took no steps to conduct proper or effective investigation as to the identities of the perpetrators of these crimes.

4. These illegal executions and disappearances not only violate the right to life, they have created an endemic climate of total alarm, and even terror, which has subverted the role of law, and in practice, has inhibited the observance of most of the rights set forth in the American Convention on Human Rights.

5. The generalized violence in Guatemala has meant, as shown in the various chapters of this Report, that the rights to personal freedom an safety, a fair trial and due process, freedom of conscience and religion, freedom of thought and expression, and freedom of assembly and association, as well as political rights are seriously affected and restricted in fact, despite their formal recognition in the Guatemalan Constitution and laws.

6. The great socio-economic disparities among the various sectors of the Guatemalan population have also contributed to the generalized violence in the country. These disparities are evident in, among other things, the notable lack of correspondence between Guatemala's rates of growth in recent years and the quality of life of approximately half the population, whose economic and social rights—particularly as regards basic needs in the areas of health, nutrition and education—have not been realized.

B. Recommendations

In consideration of the conclusions set forth here the IACHR presents the following recommendations to the Government of Guatemala:

1. That it take the necessary measures to prevent the occurrence of serious violations of the right to life; that it end the participation of an tolerance by, governmental authorities and paramilitary groups in the violence and terrorism, and that it investigate and rigorously punish those responsible for such acts.

2. That it investigate and punish, with the full force of the law, those responsible for the illegal executions, disappearances, arbitrary detentions and torture.

3. That it effectively guarantee freedom of association, the right of assembly and trade-union freedom as set forth in the Guatemalan Constitution and in the American Convention on Human Rights.

4. That it effect a thorough-going and complete reorganization of the judiciary, so that once it has the human and material resources, the judiciary can function in true autonomy and with sufficient powers to effectively and promptly investigate violations of human rights, and to punish those responsible, regardless of who they may be, without fear of reprisals.

5. That it open a broad dialogue with all sectors of Guatemalan society in an effort to end the violence and to find a solution to the social and economic problems through democratic, peaceful means and processes.

12. In spite of these recommendations, Guatemala continued to experience a climate of violence and terror produced by armed political clashes resulting from ideological confrontation.

The paramilitary groups and the death squadrons,--some of them with certain ties to the security forces and tolerated by the Government—continued to operate The Government seemed to have been more interested in maintaining a hard line, which it apparently considered essential to its survival, than in seeking solutions that would lead Guatemala to democratization within the framework of law, order and justice.

B. The Coup d'Etat of March 23, 1982

1. On March 7, 1982 general elections are held from which General Anibal Guevara, former Minister of Defense under President Lucas García, emerged victorious. General Guevara was not able to assume office, however, because on March 23, 1982, young Army officers, alleging that the elections had been fraudulent, stage a coup d'Etat and ask General Efrain Ríos Montt, who at the time was retired from the Army, to take charge of the new government.

2. General Ríos Montt assumed office as President of a Government Military Junta formed by General Horacio Maldonado Schaad and Colonel Francisco Luis Gordillo and announced that the President of the Junta would at the same time serve as Minister of Defense. General Maldonado Schaad would also be Minister of the Interior and Colonel Gordillo, Minister of Communications.

3. On the same day of the coup, the Army makes public a proclamation containing the following 14 fundamental points which the new Junta proposed to achieve:

1. Make the citizenry feel that the authority is there to serve the people and not to be served by the people.

2. Achieve the reconciliation of the Guatemalan family in the interest of peace and national harmony.

3. Achieve individual safety and well being based on an absolute respect for human rights.

4. Recapture individual and national dignity.

5. Achieve a nationalist spirit and create the basis for the integration and participation of the different ethnic groups which comprise our nation.

6. Achieve the recovery of the national economy within the free enterprise system subject to the controls demanded by the country's present situation.

7. Restructure the Judicial Branch with the participation of the Bar Association to make it suitable to the present situation and achieve its ethical, moral and juridical functioning.

8. Eradicate administrative corruption and instill in Government employees a genuine spirit of public service that will constitute the foundation of a National Government.

9. Stimulate within the different pressure groups, representative of national sectors, a new line of thought based on development, reform and nationalism.

10. Strengthen national integration by efficiently taking advantage of the cooperation of other countries and international organizations and by projecting the state's problems toward the outside.

11. Improve the population's standard of living in order to reduce existing contradictions.

12. Restructure the electoral system in order that, as the end result of a true democracy, political participation be respected and popular frustrations avoided.

13. Reorganize the public administration for the purpose of activating government programs, make them efficient, control their operation and avoid administrative anarchy.

14. Reestablish the country's constitutionality within a strict period of time in order for Guatemalans to know and demand their rights and obligations in the free exercise of democracy.2

4. On June 9, General Efrain Ríos Montt dissolved the Military Junta of Government, assumed the country's Presidency and Command of the Armed Forces. Thus, General Horacio Maldonado Schaad and Colonel Francisco Luis Gordillo were stripped of their posts. A week later, General Ríos Montt ordered the substitution of the 324 elected mayors and proceeded to name their replacements. On the 29 of the same month, he centralized all activities relating to official press releases in the Public Relations Office of the Presidency and ordered that only through that Office could authorized official information be released.

The institutional changes that took place within the Government of Guatemala were duly transmitted to the OAS General Secretariat through cable communications.3

C. Invitation by the Government of Guatemala to the IACHR

to visit Guatemala

1. On May 29, 1982, the Military Junta of Government of Guatemala, through its then Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Eduardo Castillo Arriola invited the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, through the OAS Secretary General, to carry out a visit to Guatemala for the purpose of fully examining the human rights situation and to issue a report on the subject. The text of that invitation reads as follows:


I have the honor of addressing Your Excellency with instructions from my Government to inform you that under the policy being implemented by the new authorities of the Junta of Government, with the purpose of achieving the restoration of democracy in my country, aiming to return to the Guatemalan nation the institutions that would guarantee their safety, peace, calm and the reunification of the Guatemalan family, with the solemn commitment to strengthen the dignity and respect for human beings and the full force of civil and social rights, I am formally inviting the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to designate one or ore persons, in its name, to visit Guatemala in the near future on a date to be agreed upon, with the purpose of fully examining the human rights situation and, in due time, present a report to the Commission and thus, facilitate the achievement of the high goals it pursue to insure the full force of human rights in the member States.

I tried to extend this invitation personally in this city taking advantage of the fact that I am here attending the XX Meeting of Consultation of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs which just ended today, but due to the complex and extensive workload dealt with at this meeting and knowing that the Chairman of the Commission is not presently in this city, I am forced to do so in writing, addressed to Professor Tom J. Farer, hereby attached, and kindly request Your Excellency to forward it at the earliest possible time.

Accept, Excellency, the renewed assurances of my highest consideration.

Eduardo Castillo Arriola

Minister of Foreign Affairs

2. On June 4th of the same year 1982, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Alejandro Orfila, answered the note from Minister Eduardo Castillo Arriola in the following terms:


I have the honor of making reference to your note dated May 29th of this year through which Your Excellency, in the name of the enlightened Government of Guatemala, informs me that under the policy being implemented by the new authorities for the purpose of restoring democracy in Guatemala, aiming to return to that nation the institutions that would guarantee their safety, peace, calm and the reunification of the Guatemalan family, with the solemn commitment to strengthen the dignity and respect of human beings and the full force of civil and social rights, has formally invited the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to designate one or more persons in its name to visit Guatemala in the near future on a date to be agreed upon, for the purpose of fully examining the human rights situation and in due time to present a report to that Commission and thus, to facilitate the achievement of the high goals it pursues to insure the full force of human rights in the member States.

Also, Your Excellency enclosed a communication addressed to Professor Tom J. Farer, Chairman of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, containing the invitation of which Your Excellency has so kindly informed me.

Because Prof. Farer is not in Washington, I have brought the above mentioned communication to the attention of the Executive Secretary of the Commission, Dr. Edmundo Vargas Carreño, who has informed me that due to its particular importance, he will immediately forward it to the members of the Commission so that it can be given due consideration when it meets next June 21st.

Accept, Excellency, the renewed assurances of my highest consideration.

Alejandro Orfila

Secretary General

3. For his part, the Chairman of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights answered the invitation from the Foreign Affairs Minister of Guatemala and, by agreement of the members, accepted the invitation through a communication dated June 24th, and whose text follows:


I have the honor of referring to Your Excellency's note dated May 19th, 1982, in which the Government of Guatemala invites the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to visit your country for the purpose of examining the human rights situation there.

In response, it pleases me to inform Your Excellency that the Commission, by the unanimous decision of its members, has decided to accept the honorable invitation as soon as it was received.

At the same time, I wish to inform Your Excellency that the Commission has designated the Executive Secretary, Dr. Edmundo Vargas Carreño, to arrange with the Guatemalan authorities the details relating to the duration of the visit, the most opportune date to initiate the observation, the Commission's schedule of activities during the visit, facilities and cooperation, as well as the security measures that the Government of Guatemala will have to provide the Commission to accomplish its mission in accordance with the Commission's rules governing on-site observations.

Together with our gratitude for the vote of confidence you have granted the Commission, please accept, Excellency, the renewed assurances of my highest consideration.

Marco Gerardo Monroy Cabra


4. In later communications, the Government of Guatemala and the Commission agreed to set the date of the visit by the IACHR to Guatemala for the 21st to the 26th of September of 1982. For the purpose of making the preparations and to reach an agreement with the governmental authorities on the details of the schedule of activities, Dr. David Padilla, Assistant Executive Secretary, traveled to Guatemala City where he remained from August 18th until August 22nd.

5. In accordance with the applicable Regulations, the Special Commission in charge of conducting the on-site observation in Guatemala was named. That Commission consisted of the following Commission members: Dr. Marco Gerardo Monroy Cabra, Chairman of the IACHR; Lic. César Sepúlveda, First-Vice Chairman; Professors Carlos A. Dunshee de Abranches and Tom J. Farer and Dr. Francisco Bertrand Galindo.

6. The Special Commission was accompanied by the following technical personnel from the Executive Secretariat: Dr. Edmundo Vargas Carreño, Executive Secretary of the Commission; Dr. David Padilla, Assistant Executive Secretary; Dr. Manuel Velasco Clark and Dr. Santiago Chaves Escoto, attorneys from the Secretariat and Mrs. Hilda Wicker, Mrs. Elsa Ergueta and Miss Nora Espinoza as administrative personnel.

7. The on-site observation began with the arrival of the main body of the Special Commission on September 21st and concluded on the 26th of the same month Previously, Doctors David Padilla and Manuel Velasco Clark had traveled on the 15th of September of 1982 to make the necessary preparatory arrangements.

D. Activities of the Commission during the on-site observation

1. Upon arriving in Guatemala City, the Commission issued a Press Communique,4 and established offices in the Sheraton Conquistador Hotel.

In accordance with the work schedule previously approved for the on-site observation, the Commission carried out the following activities:

a) Interviews with public authorities

2. The Commission held interviews with authorities at different levels in the course of its activities in Guatemala. On September 21st, it met with the President of Guatemala, General Efrain Ríos Montt at the Palacio de Gobierno. On this visit, the Commission was joined by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, Dr. Eduardo Castillo Arriola whom it had previously interviewed in his office.

3. After welcoming the members of the Commission, General Ríos Montt had a broad and open dialogue with members of the IACHR, renewing his offer to provide all the facilities and security possible in order for it to better accomplish its mission.

4. Also, the Commission met separately with the Minister of Defense, Brigadier General Oscar Humberto Mejía Víctores who was accompanied by the Chief of Staff, General Jorge Mario López Fuentes; with the Minister of the Interior, Colonel Ricardo Méndez Ruiz; with the Attorney General and Chief of the Public Ministry, Dr. Hugo Pellecer Robles; with the Labor Minister, Dr. Otto Palma Figueroa; and with the Executive Director of the National Reconstruction Committee, Brigadier General Luis Federico Fuentes Corado.

5. In addition, the Commission, on September 24th, visited the Council of State, a body whose executive board was composed of Mr. Jorge Antonio Serrano Elías, President, Mr. Ricardo Asturias Valenzuela, Vice-President and by council members Edgar Ponce Villela, Félix Sarazua Patzan and Sonia Regina Martínez Mansilla. On that occasion, there was an exchange of opinions and points of view on the subject of human rights in Guatemala.

6. In the same way, the Commission held meetings with the President of the Supreme Court of Justice, Dr. Ricardo Sagastume Vidaurre, whom it met in his office in the Palace of Justice, and with the Director of the Forensic Medical Service of the Judicial Body, Dr. Abel Girón Ortiz.

b) Interviews with Representatives of Political Organizations

7. The Commission invited all representatives of the political organizations in Guatemala to a dialogue, and the following organizations agreed to meet privately with the Commission: Christian Democrats of Guatemala, National Liberation Movement, Democratic Institutional Party, Social Democratic Party, National Authentic Center, National Renewal Party, and the National United Front.

c) Professional Groups

8. The Commission met with the President of the Executive Board of the Lawyers Association of Guatemala, Dr. Juan José Rodil Peralta and with members of the Executive Board of the Engineers Association, Eng. Fernando Galeech, President of the Association, Eng. César Fernández, Dean of the Engineering School at the University of San Carlos and Eng. Héctor Centeno, member of the same institution.

d) Universities

9. On Wednesday September 22nd, the Commission met with authorities of the University of San Carlos, among them, the Rector, Dr. Eduardo Meyer Maldonado and with the Dean of the School of Economic of the same University, Dr. Vitalino Guion.

The faculties that have most suffered the effects of repression during the last two years have been those of Law, the Humanities and Social Studies. This phenomenon decreased markedly during the current Government, although during the last few months of the year previous to the Commission's visit, several persons with ties to the University had disappeared, among them several professors, students, employees and university workers. The disappearance of Mrs. Graciela Morales Samoyoa, Treasurer of the School of Economics, on September 11th, 1982, was cited describing the numerous efforts made by university authorities before government agencies to learn the whereabouts of those persons, all to no avail.

e) Interviews with Representatives of Religious Organizations

10. The Commission met several times with Guatemalan ecclesiastical authorities of the Catholic Church. Among them we should mention Monsignor Eduardo Fuentes, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Guatemala and Monsignor Gerardo Flores Reyes, Bishop of the Diocese of Alta Verapaz. It also established contact with members of other Christian Churches carrying out catechistic and social work in Guatemala Their testimony was very useful to the Commission.

f) Interviews with Representatives of the Press

11. The Commission, following the same policy and method used in all previous on-site observations, invited the directors of all media organizations: print, radio and television, to a dialogue on the human rights situation in general, and specifically, on the respect or restrictions placed on the freedom of expression as contained in Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights. Yet, some directors did not visit the offices of the Commission.

12. The Commission met personally with the President of the Journalist Association of Guatemala and Director of the “El Independiente”, Mr. Marco Tulio Trejos Pais; with Mr. José Zamora Corleto, Director of the “Tribuna del Aire”; with Mr. Ramiro McDonalds Blanco, Director of “Guatemala Flash”; with Mr. Gonzalo Asturias, Director of “Teleprensa” on Channel 4 and with other representatives of the Guatemalan press.

g) Interviews with Representatives of Indian Organizations

13. In addition to the contact established with the representatives of Indian organizations which are part of the Council of State, the Commission also met with persons with ties to the Guatemalan Indian organizations and with Indians themselves, in the several departments it visited.

h) Meeting with Representatives of Private Business Sector

14. On Friday, September 24th, the Commission met with representatives of the Coordinating Committee of Agricultural, Commercial, Industrial and Financial Associations (CACIF) of Guatemala. Attending that meeting were Mr. Antonio Aycinena, President of CACIF, Dr. Carlos Arias Moselli, Dr. Santiago Pais, Mr. René González Barrios, Col. Arturo Guirola Batres and Dr. Iván Barrera, Secretary General of CACIF.5

i) Visits to Detention Centers and the Police

15. On Friday September 24th, the Commission visited the detention center called Second Corps of Police and following that, the Women's Jail of Santa Teresa, both located in Guatemala City.

j) Trips to the interior of the country

16. On Thursday, September 23rd, the Commission divided into 4 working groups. Group A, consisting of Doctors Marco Gerardo Monroy Cabra and Edmundo Vargas Carreño and Mrs. Elsa Ergueta went to El Quiché and Chichicastenango and the villages of Parraxtut, Pichiquil and El Pajarito. Group B consisting of Dr. César Sepúlveda, Profesor Tom J. Farer and attorney Dr. Manuel Velasco Clark went to the Huehuetenango Department, visiting the city of the same name, where they opened an office to receive complaints in the Saculeu Hotel. At this locality the Sub-Commission met with the Colonel of the departmental government, Dr. Jorge Altuve, visiting at the same time the localities of Nenton and Colotenango village Group C, consisting of Professor Carlos A. Dunshee de Abranches and Dr. David Padilla went to the Alta Verapaz Department with the purpose of visiting Coban, Las Pacayas and Somuc, but bad weather prevented them from landing at any of the chosen localities and forced them to return to Guatemala City without achieving their objective. Group D, consisting of Doctors Francisco Bertrand Galindo and Santiago Chaves Escoto went to the Department of Chimaltenango, visiting the hamlets Estancia de la Virgen in the San Martin Jilotepeque Municipality, and Agua Caliente in the San José de Poaquil Municipality.

17. On September 25th, the Commission concluded its on-site observation, holding a press conference at noon, in its offices at the Sheraton Conquistador Hotel. At the same time, a press release was issued.6 It also paid a visit to the Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr. Eduardo Castillo Arriola, to express its gratitude to the Government of Guatemala for the facilities and cooperation provided so that the Commission could carry out its mission.

18. Upon concluding its visit, the Commission forwarded, through the Foreign Affairs Minister, to the Government of Guatemala a document containing the Preliminary Recommendations reproduced below:

The Inter.-American Commission on Human Rights wishes to acknowledge its gratitude to the Government of Guatemala for the invitation extended to visit this country to observe on-site the human rights situation. At the same time, it wishes to put on the record the cooperation and support provided at all times by the governmental authorities to the Commission.

Having concluded this visit, the Commission, when it meets in its next session, will have the opportunity to submit to the Government of Guatemala final recommendations, once it analyzes, in depth, the situation which has prompted this visit.

Notwithstanding the above, but because of its urgency and importance, the Commission takes this opportunity to submit to the Government the following preliminary recommendations:

1. Due Process

Modify the law creating the Courts of Special Jurisdiction conforming the text to the judicial guarantees indispensable to due process included in the American Convention on Human Rights, which should not be suspended even in emergency situations. To that end, the Commission feels that the Government could appoint a commission of Guatemalan jurists who could assist in the drafting of a new text.

2. Right to Life and Personal Security

a) That, until the preceding recommendation is carried out, all executions of death sentences be suspended.

b) That, with respect to those persons executed pursuant to sentences passed by the Courts of Special Jurisdiction, their bodies be turned over to their relatives.

c) That, based on the rules of humanitarian international law applicable to internal conflicts, the basic principles regarding summary executions and the use of torture on prisoners, and respect for the life and personal security of the non-combatant population, be observed.

d) That, with respect to disappearances, it effect the investigations that would throw light on their situations and that it strictly comply with Resolution 510/80 of the OAS General Assembly, which exhorted the governments of the member states to establish central registers for all persons who have been detained, and that all arrests be made only by the competent authorities duly identified, and that the persons detained be placed in facilities reserved for that purpose.

3. Right to Personal Liberty

a) To suspend the arrests of persons who remain for more than a brief period of time in the custody of security authorities without being formally charged, and without the opportunity to defend themselves, as well as of those other persons of which the Government, at first, claims total ignorance as concerns their whereabouts, which moreover, implies a serious risk for their personal safety.

b) Adopt the provisions that would allow the writ of Habeas Corpus or “personal appearance” to regain full force.

4. State of Siege

To limit its force to the period of time for which it is strictly indispensable, maintaining it exclusively in those Departments where the situation requires it, lifting as soon as possible the restrictions on the liberties and rights contemplated in the Statute of Government and the American Convention on Human Rights, recommending, in any case, that in accordance with that Convention certain rights and liberties cannot be suspended even under a stage of siege.

5. Political Rights

a) To adopt the necessary measures to ensure the political parties freedom to organize and freedom of action as well as adequate representation in the current Guatemalan institutions.

b) To create the circumstances that would permit holding general elections within a reasonably brief period of time.

6. Liberty of Conscience and Religion

To begin talks with representatives of the Catholic Church to overcome the problems and difficulties that have developed between the Government and the Church.

7. Carrying out of previous IACHR recommendations

The IACHR requests the present Government of Guatemala to carry out the recommendations formulated in its previous report dated October 13, 1981, particularly with respect to the need to investigate and punish to the full extent of the law those responsible for illegal executions, disappearances, arbitrary arrests and torture.

E. Activities of the Commission after the on-site visit

1. Taking into consideration that in Guatemala there are no institutions that protect and promote human rights, the Commission during its 58th session held in Washington, the Commission during its 58th session held in Washington on November of 1982, met with several Guatemalan as well as international human rights organizations which provided their views on the human rights situation in Guatemala.

2. At the same time, upon conclusion of the on-site visit to Guatemala and taking into consideration the significant number of Guatemalan Indians who have fled to Mexico, seeking refuge in the territory of the State of Chiapas, alleging the violation of their human rights because of persecution by the Armed Forces of Guatemala and, in many cases, the loss of their houses, possessions, their harvest and their animals due to the destructive and arsonist acts which they attribute to their country's army, the IACHR, with the full knowledge of the Government of Guatemala, requested the Mexican Government's permission so that a delegation from the Executive Secretariat might visit the area where most of these refugees are located, with the purpose of meeting with those wishing to provide testimony regarding human rights violations.

3. On January 2nd of the current year, Doctors David Padilla and Manuel Velasco Clark, Assistant Executive Secretary and IACHR attorney, respectively, traveled to the State of Chiapas in Mexico for that purpose, remaining in that state's territory for one week, visiting along the Guatemalan-Mexican border different refugee camps and rural and urban areas, where most of the Guatemalans who have left their country are presently residing.7

4. On April 8, 1983 while the Commission met in its 59th session in Washington, D.C., it received the visit of a delegation of the Government of Guatemala consisting of the Ambassador to the United Nations, Mr. Mario Quiñones; ex-Ambassador to the Organization of American States, Mr. Gustavo Santiso-Gálvez; the ex-Ambassador to the United States, Dr. Jorge Luis Zelaya Coronado and Col. Pablo Nuila, Chief of Information and Dissemination of the Army. At that time, the delegation handed the Commission the following documents: Position of the Government of Guatemala with respect to Human Rights; Speech by the ex-President of the Republic of Guatemala on March 23, 1983; Decree Law 27-83 on Amnesty; Decree Law 30-83 on the Electoral Supreme Court; Decree Law 32-83 on Political Organizations; “Principles and Objectives of the Present Government” on individual guarantees; refugees and cooperation projects of the Government of Guatemala with international human rights organizations. The Guatemalan delegation made a presentation of the noted documents and showed a videocassette containing the speech given by the ex-President of the Republic of Guatemala and another one given by Lieutenant López Bonilla.

F. Response by the Government of Guatemala to the Report of the IACHR

1. The Government of Guatemala addressed the Commission in Note Nº 13802, dated July 13, 1983, including as an appendix a document entitled “Observations by the Government of Guatemala on the Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the Republic of Guatemala”.

2. The Commission has analyzed and taken into account with great interest and care all the decisions set forth in that document in order to include in the report any observation or change which might stem from the study thereof. Nevertheless, it has not been able to find any observation, of substance or form requiring it to change its contents substantially.

3. With respect to the Government of Guatemala's statements concerning the time period established for formulating its observations, the Commission is of the view that sufficient time was granted to ensure the Government an opportunity to make whatever observations it deemed pertinent.

4. On August 1, 1983, the Government of Guatemala forwarded to the Commission, as a supplement to the government's observations, the views of the Guatemalan Bureau of National Police with regard to the assertions made against it in the aforementioned report. It sated that it was not responsible for the arrest of any of the persons mentioned therein and included certain charts on the incidence of delinquency in the Republic and an account of the persons the Bureau has deemed to have been killed by unknown persons from 1979 to June 30, 1983. After having studied this document carefully, neither can the Commission consider it an answer since it affords no new bases for altering the original report.

G. Method for the preparation of the present report

1. In the preparation of this report, the Commission, following the rules that it has applied in all its previous reports, has used primarily the facts it has obtained on its own, before, during and after the on-site observation, abiding at all times by the applicable rules. In its analysis and study of the human rights situation in Guatemala, limited to the term of government of General Efrain Ríos Montt, the Commission has carefully considered the complaints, testimony and information received and at the same time it has evaluated its own observations and experiences resulting from the same on-site visit.

2. The individual complaints received have followed the process established in the Commission's Rules. The material gathered, as well as the Guatemalan legislation obtained, for the most part due to the collaboration of the Government of Guatemala itself, has also been carefully studied and analyzed and the same with the internal jurisdictional procedures.

3. The Commission has looked at the human rights situation in Guatemala from a global perspective, without separating it from the internal political situation in that country nor treating it as an isolated phenomenon. The frame of reference including the climate of political violence that Guatemala lived prior to the Government of General Efrain Ríos Montt, the existence of an unconventional state of war as a result of the Guatemalan guerrilla activity and the counter-insurgency efforts of the Army of Guatemala to counteract subversion and terrorism and all the other elements forming the context in which the facts of the investigation are presented, have been duly considered by the Commission.

4. The following report includes several chapters which make reference to different aspects of the human rights situation. Some of these chapters include specific cases referring to complaints lodged with the Commission which, in some instances, are still being processed. Bearing that in mind, the Commission wishes to make clear that the inclusion of those cases does not prejudge the decision the Commission will adopt, with respect to those same cases, in accordance with its pertinent rules.


1 See Chapter II of that Report on the Right to Life, page 19 and following pages.

2 This proclamation was communicated to the Member States of the OAS by the Government of Guatemala by way of the Secretary General by note of April 22, 1982.

3 “His Excellency Dr. Alejandro Orfila, Secretary General of the Organization of American States, OAS, Washington, D.C. I have the honor to address Your Excellency to inform you that in a special ceremony held today at eleven a.m. Brigadier General José Efrain Ríos Montt was proclaimed and recognized as President of the Republic of Guatemala and Commander in Chief of the Army, which takes effect beginning at the hour mentioned. Below I transcribe the text of the Proclamation of the Army to the people of Guatemala and of Decree Law Nº 36-82: “The Army of Guatemala, represented by the Commanders of the Land, Sea, and Air Forces, considering: That in the Proclamation addressed to the people of Guatemala, preserving its military hierarchy, would assume the Government of the Republic, through a Military Junta of Government, made up as follows: President: Brigadier General José Efrain Ríos Montt; Member: Brigadier General Horacio Egberto Maldonado Schaad; and Member: Staff Infantry Colonel Luis Gordillo Martínez considering: That today Brigadier General Horacio Egberto Maldonado Schaad and Staff Infantry Colonel Luis Gordilo Martínez have presented to the President of the Military Junta of Government their irrevocable resignations from the posts of Members of that Junta, for the purpose of unifying the command of the Army and so that the Government of the Republic may be exercised exclusively by Brigadier General José Efrain Ríos Montt, in the capacity of President of the Republic, with all the powers, attributes, and privileges established for the aforementioned Junta in the Fundamental Statute of Government, Decree Law Nº 24-82, considering: That Brigadier General José Efrain Ríos Montt has accepted the resignations presented to him by the Members of the Military Junta of Government, having expressed to them his thanks for the determined and patriotic cooperation they gave him during the time they were Members of the aforementioned Junta, now therefore, First: Brigadier General José Efrain Ríos Montt is proclaimed and recognized as President of the Republic of Guatemala and Commander in Chief of the Army, with all the powers, attributes, and privileges that the Fundamental Statute of Government and the military laws and regulations established for the Military Junta of Government. The President of the Republic shall be assisted by the Military advisory group referred to in the last paragraph of Article three of the Fundamental Statute of Government. Second: This proclamation shall be made known to the people of Guatemala immediately by all the communications media and shall be published in the official Gazette. Guatemala City, June 9, 1982.” Decree-Law Nº 36-82 the President of the Republic considering: That today the Army of Guatemala, represented by the Commanders of the Land, Sea and Air Forces, issued the proclamation to the people of Guatemala, through which Brigadier General José Efrain Ríos Montt was proclaimed and recognized as President of the Republic of Guatemala and Commander in Chief of the Army, with the powers, attributes, and privileges that correspond to the Military Junta of Government, on account of the resignations presented by: Brigadier General Horacio Egberto Maldonado Schaad and Staff Infantry Colonel Francisco Luis Gordillo Martínez, as Members of the Military Junta of Government, considering: That on the acceptance of those resignations it becomes necessary partially to modify the Fundamental Statute of Government contained in Decree Law Nº 24-82, now therefore: On the basis of the content of the proclamation of the Army of Guatemala to the people, dated today, and the provisions of Article 118 of the Fundamental Statute of Government, Decree Law Nº 24-82, the Council of Ministers Decrees: The following amendments to the Fundamental Statute of Government, Decree Law Nº 24-82, Article 1: Beginning today, Brigadier General José Efrain Ríos Montt assumes the executive and legislative functions of the State, in the capacity of President of the Republic and Commander in Chief of the Army, with the powers, attributes, and privileges that Decree Law Nº 24-82 gave to the Military Junta of Government. Article 2: Beginning today, the term “Military Junta of Government” contained in the Fundamental Statute of Government shall be understood to be replaced by that of “President of the Republic” in the first regulatory part of that Statute, which term remains changed in everything contradictory to this Decree Law. Article 3: This Decree Law shall enter into force immediately. Shall be published in the Official Gazette and in the general order of Army for Officers. Given in the National Palace in Guatemala City. Ninth day of the month of June of the year one thousand nine hundred eighty-two. Let it be published and obeyed. Brigadier General José Efrain Ríos Montt President of the Republic; there follow the signatures of all Ministers of State.” I request you to take note of this official communication and to order that its text be circulated for purposes of information to all the Permanent Missions of the member countries. Accept, Excellency, the renewed assurances of my highest consideration. Eduardo Castillo Arriola, Minister of Foreign Affairs.”

4 On September 21st, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights composed of its Chairman, Dr. Marco Gerardo Monroy Cabra, its Vice Chairman, Dr. César Sepúlveda and by Members, Professors Carlos A. Dunshee de Abranches and Tom J. Farer and Dr. Francisco Bertrand Galindo, will begin its activities in Guatemalan territory. Also joining the Commission are: Dr. Edmundo Vargas Carreño, Executive Secretary; Dr. David Padilla, Assistant Executive Secretary; Doctors Manuel Velasco Clark and Santiago Chaves Escoto, attorneys with the Secretariat, and will also have the necessary administrative support personnel. The purpose of the visit is to conduct an observation relating to the human rights situation in Guatemala beginning March 23rd of the current year, and to issue a report on whether those rights are in force in accordance with the regulations governing the Commission.

During its stay in Guatemala, the Commission will interview and hold hearings with authorities, institutions and individuals representative of the different groups which make up Guatemalan society. Among them: the political sector, the university sector, the peasant sector, the Indian sector, the professional sector, the religious sector, management, unions, students, labor, humanitarian bodies and the mass communications media.

The Government of Guatemala, in extending the invitation to the Commission to conduct this on-site visit, has given ample assurances that the Commission will enjoy unrestricted freedom to visit the country and interview all individuals and entities it deems necessary. At the same time, it has also guaranteed that individuals and institutions wishing to contact the Commission will be able to do so without restrictions of any kind and without reprisals.

The Commission will carry out its activities in accordance with the program prepared to that effect both in Guatemala City and in other locations around the country. In order to conduct those visits, on Thursday the 23rd of this month, the Commission will divide itself into three groups and will open offices to receive and attend to complaints made, whose location and hours of operation will be made public at the opportune time.

During its stay in Guatemala, the Commission hopes to receive the cooperation of the representatives of the different sectors which constitute Guatemalan society in order to contribute to a better understanding of the Guatemalan reality in the human rights field.

In Guatemala City, the Commission will have its offices at the Sheraton Conquistador Hotel where it will hear complaints on alleged human rights violations from September 20th to September 25th, between 10:00 am. And 6:00 pm.

5 Given the influence of the private sector in Guatemala, the Commission has deemed it useful to give a summary in this footnote, of the main concepts expressed by their representatives at that meeting. Mr. Antonio Aycinena Arrivillaga said: “We do not have any problems with the current Government nor have we had them with the previous ones. We are worried about the working class. The unions have not been strong.” Turning to the peasant situation, speaking as a farmer, he explained that there were two distinct classes of peasants: the independent and the salaried, and that in Guatemala there are approximately 7 thousand small peasant communities of an average of 150 people each, spread over the 325 municipalities that exist in the country and that this is the least favored sector. Dr. Carlos Arias Moselli, President of a banking and industrial institution, stated that the human rights subject was used by former U.S. President Carter for his “utopias” with the following result in Nicaragua: Sandinistas. He said that the main human rights managers in Guatemala have suffered from what has been the lack of personal safety and observed that in spite of the difficulties, they have remained in Guatemala. He mentioned the “campaign of the 1.000 days”, underlining the importance of democracy and economic freedom for the development of Guatemala. He chastised what he called “the international truth campaign” promoted from Washington by former President Carter and those who collaborated with him in his human rights campaign. He mentioned the advantages of the new Code of Word whose approval was blocked by the unions. “Foreign influences affect our human rights” he said and explained that Guatemala, due to the climate of violence, has the largest number of privately owned armored cars. Mr. René González explained that industrialists do not ignore the rights of workers and added, “we are respectful of the laws and we are the ones who pay the most taxes.” He said that not only in Guatemala were human rights stepped on. In reference to the Guatemalan Indian, he said that they were traditionalists and without economic motivation and that they were content to earn one day's wage even if they could earn three. From his perspective, there had been an infiltration process in Guatemala, mainly religious, and even thought there were very few Catholic priests, there has always been religious fervor. He said that Maryknoll congregation had formed guerrilla groups. He added, that at this time the ones really doing church work were the evangelists and that—speaking in commercial terms—the evangelists were making better sales than the Catholics. Col. Arturo Guirola, speaking for the commercial sector, stated that the 1,600 associated members that made up the sector he represented, were frequently the target of terrorist actions. He said that in the countryside, on the farms, there were innumerable assaults on property and persons. He stated that Guatemalan entrepreneurs devoted themselves to work, production and promotion of the country. He said that the private sector had no influence on government in spite of the money it spends on political campaigns. In reference to the Indians, he stated that they actually constitute 22 nations within Guatemala, with whom they cannot communicate due to linguistic barriers. He added that it is not for them to develop those groups. Thereafter, the members of CACIF underlined what was called the “Penny Foundation”, also known as the Guatemala Foundation for Development, which they described as the social arm of the private sector, emphasizing the social function that agency performs and whose Executive Council is presided over by Mr. Antonio Aycinena. At the same time, the members of CACIF noted that another of the channels of social work of their institution was INTREA or Workers Recreation Institute, where in 3 vacation centers, workers freely enjoy the benefits of a private club. They also underscored the importance of INTICAP or Instituto de Capacitación (Technical Institute) 90% supported by the private sector. Finally, they stated that in Guatemala after 40 years of union there are no labor problems now nor have there been in the past and that the majority of the entrepreneurs give their workers more social benefits than the law contemplates. Dr. Iván Barrera, Secretary General of CACIF delivered a handwritten document which in summary expresses: a) managers are exposed to risks, but they remain in Guatemala; b) the business sector has been severely hit by foreign subversion with great costs in terms of human lives, loss of property and sources of employment; c) the private sector obeys the law and contributes to the well being of all citizens.

6 The text of the press release reads as follows:

Today, Saturday, September 25, 1982, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has concluded the on-site observation of the human rights situation in Guatemala that it has been conducting, on the invitation of this country's Government, since the 21st of the present month.

During its stay in Guatemala, the Commission met with the President of the Republic; the ministers of Foreign Affairs, Defense, Interior and Labor; the President of the Supreme Court, the Council of State and the National Reconstruction Committee; the Chief of the Forensic Medicine Service, as well as other civil and military authorities both national and departmental.

The Commission also had meetings with representatives of several political, religious, and humanitarian institutions, the mass media, and professionals, business institutions and universities, from whom it received important testimony on human rights.

The Commission visited the compound at the Santa Teresa Women's Jail and the 2bnd Corps of the National Police in Guatemala City.

Likewise the Commission has maintained an office to receive complaints on alleged human rights violations in the capital at the Sheraton Conquistador Hotel, where it was staying. Those complaints will be processed in accordance with the Statute and Rules of the Commission. The Government of Guatemala has made a commitment to the Commission that it will not take any retaliatory measures against persons lodging complaints with the Commission or against entities and institutions providing information and testimony.

The Commission, divided into different working groups, traveled to the Department of Quiché, Huehuetenango, Chimaltenango and Alta Verapaz, not being able to land at the latter due to inclement weather. In the three Departments visited, the Commission visited different municipalities and villages with the purpose of interviewing the residents of the area as to the human rights situation in each one of the localities.

The Commission cannot put forth any value judgment nor any substantial opinion in terms of the human rights situation in Guatemala. The Commission will meet in Washington during the coming month of November and will take into account the valuable information gathered during the on-site observation, the documents and information provided to it, as well as the other sources available to it, and will draft the corresponding report which will be forwarded to the Government so that it can formulate the observations it deems appropriate. Once those observations have been analyzed, the Commission will forward the report to the appropriate OAS agencies and release it to the public.

Notwithstanding the above, due to its urgency and importance, the Commission has, today, forwarded to the Government of Guatemala a document containing recommendations tending to improve the human rights situation in this country.

The Commission wishes to acknowledge the facilities provided by the Government to carry out its mission and to express its gratitude to the authorities, the communications media, the different institutions representing the Guatemalan community and in general, the people of Guatemala for the hospitality and cooperation offered. Guatemala, September 25th, 1982.

7 The camps visited were Puerto Rico, Boca Chajul, Aguatinta, Cuauhetemoc, El Vértice, Benito Juarez y La Unión.


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