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Appendix B JUSTICE AGAINST ALL ODDS Guatemalan Military Officers Finally on Trial for Murder of Myrna Mack Rachel Garst September ~ Ith marks not only the date of a U.S. national Sagely, but in the Central American country of Guatemala is the anniversary of another notorious act of terronsm: the vicious stab- bing murder of social scientist Myoma Mack by Guatemalan state agents. For over a decade the victims family has pushed Guate- mala's almost inoperative legal system to respond to that crime. That struggle has now finally led to one of Latin America's most important challenges to military impunity. Guatemalan anthropologist Myma Mack was murdered on the sidewalk In Wont of the offices of the Guatemalan Association for the advancement ofthe Social Sciences AVANCSO) in fiche 27

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28 HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE MACK CASK early evening of Sept 1 1, 1990. Twelve years later, on September 3, 2002, the high-level military intelligence officers indicted as the suspected plotters of that murder finally went on teal. Retired General Edgar Augusto Godoy Gaitan, Colonel Juan Valencia Osono, and Colonel Juan Guillenno Oliva Carrera are at long last facing the charge of planned assassination in an open, public, civil- ian Guatemalar1 court. And, after years of impunity won through endless legal delays and appeals, the presiding judge just ordered them confined to prison on the grounds that now that they are fi- nally being forced to face justice, they might well attempt to flee. . . . - Noel de Beteta Alverez, the low-level sergeant major who actually wielded the knife against Myrna, was convicted and jailed for that murder in 1993. These further indictments are thus not against the actual killer, but more significantly, against the high- leve] military intelligence officers who apparently masterminded arid ordered her assassination as part of a larger state terror cam- paigrl. According to the official 1998 report of the U.N.-backed Guatemalan Histoncal CIanfication Commission (Guatemala's equivalent of a Truth Commission), an estunated 200,000 Guate- malarls, nearly all civilians, were killed or "disappeared" dunng 36 years of civil war that ended in ~ 996; and some 97/O of these cases were attributed to government forces. ~ the rural areas, according to the Commission, state repression against Indigenous populations reached the level of "genocide." In a county with this degree of state terror, there was noth- ~ng particularly unusual about one more murder of yet another so- cial scientist. But what is special about the Mack case is the tenac- ity and ethical vision we which her family, especially her sister Helen Mack, has pursued basic justice, and successfi~ly mobilized both Guatemalar~ d international support to that end.

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APPENDIX B At the time of Myrna's killing, no military personnel had ever been tned for a human rights violation in Guatemala, and Helen Mack was a 39-year-old Guatemalan business administrator win no prior political involvement or legal experience. Yet when Guatemala's civilian government neglected to adequately investi- gate or prosecute her sister's murder Just as state authorities failed to do in 200,000 other cases) the Mack family decided to pursue justice at all costs. Making use of a provision Guatemalan law that allows pri- vate citizens to sign up in a prosecutorial role ("querellante a&e- siva"), Helen has single-mindedly dedicated the last dozen years of her life to investigating, prosecuting, and publicizing her sister's case, and through that process has evolved into a seasoned, though untitled, lawyer advocate. By 1992, Helen's efforts to bring this case to justice won her Sweden's Right Livelihood Award, also known as the "Alternative Nobel Peace Pnze." This award enabled Helen to establish the Myrna Mack Foundation, which is dedicated to research and advocacy on measures to help reform the justice system in Guatemala. Helen Mack's argument is simple yet unprecedented in a country where the rule of law has been so long ignored: the Gov- e~nent o f Guatemala must credibly investigate this murder and prosecute those responsible, even if the evidence points to the up- per echelons of the aimed forces. Only in this way could the cour~- try's widely heralded "transition to democracy,' begin to have any real meaning. WHO WAS MYRNA MAC K? 29 Myrna Mack was a social anthropologist whose research on refugees and internally displaced populations helped break the si- lence within Guatemala concerning the effects of army cour~tenn- surgency and scorched earth policies on Mayan communities in the highlands.

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~ - 30 HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE MA CK CASE Trained in England, Myrna resumed to Guatemala in the mid 1980s, just abler the height of the anny's war against guerrilla groups and those groups suspected civilian supporters. Rural Gua- temala was in shambles, with, according to a Catholic Church es- timate, up to one niillion people forcibly displaced from their homes. ~ Guatemala City, art entire generation of intellectuals had been either killed or forced into exile. Despite the pervasive fear that existed ~ Guatemala, Myrna was determined to continue her anthropological work by documenting conditions in the coun- tryside. In 1986, following national elections arid the inauguration of a new civilian government, she arid a group of colleagues fourteen a small research institute called the Association for the Advar~cement ofthe Social Sciences (AVANCSO). From 1987 to 1990, Myrna conducted research on the re~nte- ~ation of refugees arid internally displaced Soups, a delicate and politically sensitive topic. As she traveled throughout the courltry- side, Myrna documented the massacres that drove tens of thou- sands into hiding in he mountains, government policies to capture and control displaced populations, and the difficult and slow proc- esses by which villagers were seeking to return to Weir fanner lands (many of which meanwhile had been usurped by others). She shared her research results with Church groups and non- gove~nmental organizations in the capital, and she soon gained recognition as one of the few people In Guatemala City who could accurately describe conditions In the countryside. She worked closely win the Ford Foundation, as well as Georgetown Univer- sity, the University of Califoniia at Berkeley, and the University of Texas. Whereas the Guatemalan refugees in Mexico had begun to re- ceive international attention alla United Nations assistance by the mid 1980s, the situation of the internally displaced was entirely different. Within the borders of Guatemala, extremely difficult pot litical and security conditions made Myrna's held research both ~0

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APPENDIX B 31 dangerous and unprecedented. Her field visits showed the devas- tating social effects of the Guatemalan army's policy of resettling internally displaced populations into "mode! villages." She wrote of how the army viewed the displaced as art issue of national secu- nty and of how assistance to these populations was being stnctly controlled by military authonties, in violation of international hu- mamtanan law. In 1990, small groups of displaced villagers living In remote mountainous and jungle areas outside of army control, called "Communities of Population in Resistance (CPR's)" began orga- n~zing to seek national and international hum~tanan assistance. Many of these people, which numbered about 25,000 persons and included large numbers of women, children and the elderly, had by then been living hidden in the wilderness for 6-S years or more, with little or no access to clothing or supplies. The army viewed these persons as guerrilla collaborators and fiercely opposed their efforts to live outside military control, responding both with bomb- mg c ampaigns and the forced p olitical reeducation o f t hose t hey were able to capture on their periodic sweeps. On September 7, 1990, the CPR's published a statement in the Guatemalan press protesting army bombings and requesting that, as civilians, they be able to exercise their Constitutional right to live, travel, and freely resettle in peace. . A few days later, on September 1 1, 40-year-old Myoma Mack was stabbed 27 times as she led her office In downtown Guatemala City abler work. Marty interpreted the attack against Myma not just as an army effort to discourage research and documentation of ru- ral atrocities, but also as a message to religious and humanitarian groups to dissuade them from aiding the internally displaced. In reaction to the murder, scholars, religious leaders and human nghts activists from all over the world sent public letters to the Gove~n- ment of Guatemala, Including a protest statement signed by over 500 U.S. university professors.

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32 HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE MACK CASE THE INVESTIGATION AND PROSECUTION OF THE MYRNA MACK MURDER Investigation o f the M yrna M ack murder w as difficult from the beg~nrung. Initial obstacles included official statements with offensive insinuations regarding Myrna's character, in order to suggest a crime with non-political motivations; the loss of key fo- rensic evidence from official custody; and the preparation of a false police report. In 1991, after this fake report came to light, the police homicide detective In charge of the case, Jose Sterna Escobar, was shot and killed shortly after ratifying his ong~nal in- vestigative report (which had implicated the military in this kill- ing), arid another man was jailed for this supposed crime of pas- sion. Yet another police investigator and numerous other witnesses have been forced into temporary or permanent exile, and other witnesses within Guatemala have been subject to repeated threats and harassment. . .~. Despite these obstacles and dangers, the persistence efforts of Helen Mack and her supporters have slowly succeeded in pushing the case forward through the Guatemalan prosecutorial system and courts. ~ 1993, a low-level anny sergeant and intelligence opera- tive, Noel de Jesus Beteta Alvarez, was finally convicted of the Mack killing and sentenced to 25 years in prison. But Helen Mack refused to rest there. At the time of the mur- der, Beteta had been In the employ of an infamous military ~ntelli- gence unit long operating within the offices of the Guatemalan Presidency, known as the Presidential General Staff (Estado Mayor Presidencial-EMP) and popularly called the "Archivo." With the argument that B eteta was almost certainly acting under orders, for the last Iiine years Helen Mack has pursued charges against Beteta's superiors In the EMP as the apparent "intellectual authors" of the crime. The second phase of this case has also been fraught with in- timidation against witnesses, prosecutors and judges, as well as

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APPENDIX B 33 every mariner of legal roadblocks. Dozens of judges arid courts have passed the case around like a hot potato, and lawyers for the military defendants have filed appeal after appeal, first to try to get the case held in military courts and then to simply delay it ever get- ting to trial. Indeed, so blatant and numerous have been the obsta- cles to justice that on August I, 2001, the Inter-Amencan Human Rights Court in Costa Rica agreed to hear a case against the Gov- ernment of Guatemala for its failure to ensure the timely applica- tion of justice for the Mack family. That separate case, not against the particular defendants but against the state itself, will take place starting November 19, 2002, in San Jose, Costa Rica. Meanwhile, the case has continued to wend forward in a country where a real transition to democracy and justice still hangs in the balance. The 1985-6 elections and, a decade later, the 1996 peace accords (signed between the Government of Guatemala and that cour~try's tiny and largely ineffectual guernIla movement) helped t o ~ argely e nd ~ ecades o f s tate-sponsored r epression. B y now, the guemIlas have all been reincorporated into civilian life and Church and sem~-official "Truth Commissions" have provided a partial accounting of the worse of state repression. Yet those re- sponsible for We estimated 200,000 civilian deaths and disappear- ances are still unnamed, and at large. Furthennore, art repentant military still wields enormous power and influence; arid the current civilian government of Alfonso Portillo is marked by massive ~n- stability and ongoing tensions within the government itself. Worse, as the current UN Hum art Rights Mission to Guatemala winds down and as the Mack case and other similar judicial cases finally make it to trial, attacks against human rights advocates are once again on the nse. President Portillo, who cultivates an image as a populist and a reformer, was brought to power by an extreme nght-w~ng party led by the infamous retired General Efrain Rios Montt, who had been dictator o f Guatemala in ~ 982-83 during the p enod o f the worst repression and massacres. Under the current Portillo government, where Rios Montt has been able to exercise substantial leadership

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34 HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE MACK CASE as President of Congress, the ruling Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG3 leadership has repeatedly shown a blatant disregard for the rule of law. Current accusations against top FRG leaders include the illegal alteration of legislation already voted on by Congress, the use of government printing presses to print anonymous flyers discrediting political opponents, and the illegal appropriation of millions of dollars in state funds. Over the last two years there has also been a marked increase in threats and attacks on human rights workers. These have in- cluded a rash o f o ffice break-ins (which u sually involve s tealing the computers and data bases of the nonpro fits Gus targeted); the apparently political murder of a U.S. nun in a staged car robbery; arid abduction attempts against a visiting Amnesty international representative and last October, against Matilde Gonzalez, an AVANCSO employee. Wntten threats have also been received at the Mack Foundation office, and in Curie 2002 AVANCSO director Clara Arenas was included on a death threat naming I! human rights activists and journalists and signed by a death squad. At the end of August Helen's lawyer also received serious threats. . ..0 This wave of persecution coincides with the advance of nu- merous legal suits brought In recent years against both active-duty arid retired Guatemalan government officials (including Rios Montt himself). One of the most important cases was the trial of ex-EMP members accused of the 1998 murder of Guatemalan Bishop Juan Gerardi, head of the Catholic Church human rights office. Just days after releasing a Church report on the history of human rights violations In Guatemala, Bishop Gerardi was found in his garage with his head beaten in with a piece of cement block. June 2001, an unprecedented judicial ruling found two military intelligence officers -one a retired colonel and the other a captain- as well as a former member of the presidential guard who was also an anny-tra~ned hit main, guilty of planning and executing Bishop Gerardi's murder. (The Bishop's housemate, a Catholic priest, was also convicted as an accomplice). The prosecutors, witnesses arid judge in this case fled the country after the verdict. 6

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APPENDIX B 35 Meanwhile, the infamous EMP--which in theory is to be a se- cret service but in practice has been a military intelligence office at the service of the presidency--has repeatedly been targeted for a recomb that just never seems to happen. Each one of the last four civilian presidents has vowed to disband it, but each seems to end up relying on its services. President Portillo has proved to be no exception. Upon taking office in January 2001, Portillo had an- nounced his refonn plans to the Guatemalan and international community, including the gradual dissolution of the EMP and its replacement by a new civilian secret service (for protection) and a Secretariat of Strategic Analysis-SAE (to generate analysis to guide presidential decision-making). Shortly thereafter, the new civilian head of the new SAE announced the discovery of art illegal file of 650,000 Guatemalans (presumably authored by the Ems found in the presidency's computers. To date, however, there has been no credible investigation of this illegal political archive and President P ortillo n ot o nly h as b acktracked o n t he d issolution o f the EMP, but he has increased its budget and thereby the Presi- dency's access to soft monies. The Mack case, if successful, could provide one more pressure point to help finally force the dissolu- tion of this militarized presidential intelligence unit. The Histoncal CIanfication Commission called the Myrna Mack case -a paradigm of justice failure in Guatemala, and cited it as evidence of the existence of a parallel, shadowy intelligence ap- paratus that blocks effective investigation and prosecution of po- litical cnmes. The Guatemalan military and police have yet to be brought to account for their murders of thousands upon thousands of Guatemalan citizens, and individuals clearly implicated in these crimes continue to hold high legislative and executive office. For- mally, there is rule of law, but In practice, there has been near total impunity for the crimes of the past. ~ addition, there are clear and ongoing attempts to subvert the effective application of justice through the intimidation of witnesses, prosecutors, and judges.

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36 HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE MA CK CASE Nevertheless, the Mack case remains as proof that signifi- cant progress can be made and democratic spaces opened up, when citizens refused to be intimidated and demand that justice be done. Sept 6, 2002 . 6