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Scientists and Human Rights in Guatemala: Report of a Delegation The 1992 Mission TERMS OF REFERENCE On January 24, 1992, CHR chair Eliot Stellar and CHR director Carol Corillon met with the Guatemalan ambassador to the United States, Juan José Caso-Fanjul. They reminded Ambassador Caso-Fanjul of the interest and concern of the CHR and the CHHR regarding human rights abuses in Guatemala and specifically expressed their interest in seeing those responsible for the murder of anthropologist Myrna Mack brought to justice. They also told him that the committees were pleased to hear of the concern felt and expressed by President Serrano regarding abuses of human rights and of their wish to work with Guatemalan government officials to translate this concern into action. Stellar and Corillon gave Ambassador Caso-Fanjul the committees' lists of colleagues who were believed to have been killed for political reasons or who had disappeared, and they requested his permission to travel to Guatemala to express these concerns and present the lists directly to Guatemalan authorities. Ambassador Caso-Fanjul supported the request and suggested that the delegation meet with the highest level officials of the government, police, and armed forces in Guatemala. Ambassador Caso-Fanjul was sent a list of officials with whom the delegation wished to meet and the requested appointments were arranged. The following terms of reference were submitted to Ambassador Caso-Fanjul and to all of the individuals with whom the delegation met during the course of its stay in Guatemala City:
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Scientists and Human Rights in Guatemala: Report of a Delegation to meet and establish a dialogue with government officials; members of the congress, judiciary, military, police, and security forces; human rights, health care, and legal organizations; academics; and individual scientists, engineers, and health professionals in an effort to gain a better understanding of the human rights situation in Guatemala; to express the concerns of the human rights committees of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine to the authorities in Guatemala regarding the physical safety of colleagues in science, engineering, and health care; to learn how the international scientific community might assist those in Guatemala who are trying to end human rights abuses; to present to those with whom the delegation meets the attached lists of 32 scientists, engineers, health professionals, and students of these disciplines, who are reported to have disappeared or to have been murdered—in some cases after being abducted; to verify the information on these lists with reliable and knowledgeable individuals and organizations and to correct or supplement it insofar as possible; to ascertain the status of any investigations into the cases on these lists; to request that the individuals responsible for the abductions, and murders of these colleagues be found and brought to justice; to present the information obtained and insights gained during the mission to the officers of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine; to publish a report of the mission and distribute it to interested individuals and organizations in the United States and abroad. GOVERNMENT PERSPECTIVES This section of the report summarizes information obtained during the delegation's meetings in Guatemala City with officials of government offices, including the police and armed forces, supplemented by information gathered before and after the mission. The delegation did not meet with President Serrano, who was in Costa Rica during part of the delegation's visit and was reportedly involved with the Guatemalan Congress on a tax-reform bill thereafter. The delegation met with the following officials: Fernando Hurtado Prem, Ministro de Gobernación (Minister of the Interior);
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Scientists and Human Rights in Guatemala: Report of a Delegation Miguel Angel Montepeque C., Ministro de Salud Pública y Asistencia Social (Minister of Public Health and Social Assistance); Bernardo Neumann, Presidente de COPREDEH, Comisión Presidencial Coordinadora de la Política del Ejecutivo en Materia de Derechos Humanos (Presidential Coordinating Commission on Human Rights Policies) and members of his staff; Sara Tercero, Secretaria de Relaciones Públicas de la Presidencia de la República (Secretary of Public Relations of the Presidency of the Republic); Acisclo Valladares Molina, Procurador General de la Nación (Attorney General of the Nation); Julio Rivera Clavería, Secretario de la Corte Suprema de Justicia (Secretary of the Supreme Court), and Victor Manuel Rivera Woltke, Secretario de la Corte Suprema de Justicia (Secretary of the Supreme Court); (Juan José Rodil Peralta, Presidente de la Corte Suprema de Justicia [President of the Supreme Court], was in the United States on business at the time of the delegation's visit); General José Domingo García Samayoa, Ministro de la Defensa Nacional (Minister of National Defense), and staff member Colonel Letona; Carlos Enrique Samayoa Cifuentes, Director General de la Policía Nacional (Director General of the National Police), and an aide, Mr. Paniagua; Colonel Marco Antonio Castellanos P., Director General de la Guardia de Hacienda (Director General of the Treasury Police), and an aide, Mr. Barrios; María Eugenia Morales de Sierra, Procuradora Adjunta de los Derechos Humanos (Assistant Human Rights Ombudsman), and Lionel Gómez, a medical doctor with the office of the ombudsman for human rights. During each of the meetings, the delegates expressed their concern for the safety and well-being of scientific colleagues and science students in Guatemala and their ability to carry out their work freely. The delegation also presented its list of disappeared and murdered colleagues with a request that any information on their cases be provided to the committees. The delegation also expressed the committees' concern that those responsible for these disappearances and murders be identified and brought to justice; with regard to the murder of anthropologist Myrna Mack, the delegation urged that the case be fully and thoroughly prosecuted. The delegation stressed repeatedly the importance of the complete and honest resolution of the Mack case to many members of the world scientific community with whom the committees are in contact. The officials were told that a just resolution of this case, which was in the courts at the time, would be seen as an expression by the Guatemalan government that it has the will to end the "culture of violence and impunity." The officials with whom the delegation met expressed support for President
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Scientists and Human Rights in Guatemala: Report of a Delegation Serrano's declarations concerning the need to end human rights abuses. They were cooperative, voiced recognition of abuses, and agreed to provide available information on recent and older cases. They spoke of the need for reforms within the judiciary and security forces and the need for better control over the military ranks and civil patrols, although they stressed the lower ranks rather than those higher up. They spoke of the importance of human rights education within the police and armed forces and of efforts on this topic that are under way. They asked for recognition of the salary limitations for police officials and their consequent susceptibility to corruption. They also spoke of the problems associated with the guerrilla insurgency and the increase in common crimes and terrorism in Guatemala City, specifically mentioning murders committed by thieves and gangs that are made to look like political assassinations. The Mack Case According to Carlos Enrique Samayoa Cifuentes, the director general of the National Police, when a case is transferred to the courts in Guatemala, contrary to the practice in many other countries, the police have nothing further to do with it; the judge is responsible for the investigation. Helen Mack, Myrna Mack's sister, is acting as the ''acusadora particular," or private prosecutor in the case. In the capacity of private prosecutor, Ms. Mack is allowed full access to the court records. In early 1992 she traveled to Geneva to testify before the U.N. Commission on Human Rights regarding the status of her sister's case. Also, a petition was filed before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States charging Guatemala with violations of certain articles of the American Convention with regard to the Mack case. Several sources told the delegation that people in Guatemala City stop Helen Mack on the street to express their admiration and support for her efforts and her strength, to wish her courage, and to thank her for demanding justice for her sister because, in doing so, she helps vindicate all who have been killed. During its visit the delegation learned that Myrna Mack's case had, for a variety of reasons, gone through 9 courts and 11 judges before being referred, on February 17, 1992, to a military court. (See Appendix D for an informal outline of the Guatemalan judicial procedure and the phases and steps of the Mack case to date. It was prepared in consultation with the Human Rights Office of the Archdiocese of Guatemala.) When the delegation asked Attorney General Acisclo Valladares Molina about the seeming irregularities, Valladares said that the Mack case is not unique in the large number of judges and courts involved, and he said that there had been perhaps some 20 other such cases with large numbers of judges and courts in the past year. Specifically, the delegates were told that the first court is responsible for establishing the facts and the second prepares the material to
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Scientists and Human Rights in Guatemala: Report of a Delegation be presented and sends it on to the next court which tries the case. In this case, however, several judges took vacation leave and so the case had to be sent to another court. Valladares also said that one judge asked to be removed from the case because he claimed to have been pressured by Helen Mack and the Ministry of Public Affairs, who had questioned his impartiality. Another judge withdrew at the request of Helen Mack. Although the delegation found Valladares's statements credible, it also believes that fear by the judges for their physical safety and that of their families could be a factor. According to Amnesty International's 1992 report on Guatemala:25 Judges and lawyers were among the victims of reported human rights violations. Former judge, Roberto Lemus Garza, who worked as a lawyer on human rights cases, reported receiving repeated anonymous death threats, as did other judicial officers and lawyers in various parts of the country. The Human Rights Office of the Archdiocese of Guatemala told the delegation that the presiding judge at the time of the delegation's visit, Victor Hugo Navarro Solares, had asked that the local military court assume jurisdiction over the case and that it be tried in a military tribunal. Navarro argued that Noél Jesús Beteta Alvarez, who has been accused of involvement in the murder (see above), was on active duty in the military at the time that Mack was murdered and that Navarro consequently lacked jurisdiction. During the course of their visit, the delegates expressed concerns about this turn of events to all relevant officials. They specifically asked Valladares what the potential outcome of this decision would be. He told the delegation that Judge Navarro's decision had been appealed by the Mack family with a request that the trial remain in the civilian court system and that the appeal was under consideration. (In a May 5, 1992, letter from the Ministry of Defense in response to a CHR inquiry regarding the current court status of the Mack case, General José Luis Quilo Ayuso reported that it was decided on March 27 that, under Article 219, part two, of the Guatemalan Constitution, the trial should be held in a civil penal court and that the third judge of the Court of First Instance of the Penal Sentence was the appropriate person to hear the proceedings against Beteta.26 Beteta was discharged from the army in 1990.) Because of the concern expressed about the safety of potential wit- 25 Amnesty International Report 1992, p. 128. 26 The letter was written in Spanish. The section that was excerpted and translated above reads as follows: "La Sala Cuarta de la Corte de Apelaciones, con fecha 27 de marzo del presente año, resolvió que el Juez Tercero de Primera Instancia Penal de Sentencia es el competente para continuar con la tramitación y resolución del proceso iniciado en contra de NOEL DE JESUS BETETA ALVAREZ ..."
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Scientists and Human Rights in Guatemala: Report of a Delegation nesses in the Mack case and others, the delegates asked the director general of the National Police, Samayoa, whether the police provide protection for potential witnesses in controversial cases. He said that there are not enough resources available to give adequate protection to witnesses and that witness protection and relocation programs do not exist in Guatemala. The delegates specifically asked Samayoa about the murder of Mérida, the police investigator responsible for investigating the Myrna Mack case, who reportedly died of five gunshot wounds. Samayoa said that Mérida had not requested police protection, that he was killed in the police headquarters parking lot, and that two men had been detained in the case. The delegation learned subsequently from human rights sources that Mérida had expressed fear for his physical safety to them and had requested that they help him and his family to leave Guatemala. (In late May the CHR also learned that on April 22 a Guatemalan court found the men accused of Mérida's murder, Gonzalo Cifuentes Estrada and Alfredo Guerra Galindo, not guilty because of lack of evidence. The CHR has been told that the verdict will be reviewed by an appellate court.) Mérida's murder is widely believed to have been committed in an effort to intimidate potential witnesses and those attempting to prosecute the Mack case. Mack's former colleagues confirmed to the delegation that the Mack case is now at one of its most critical and difficult junctures; eyewitnesses, of which there are believed to have been several, must now decide if they are willing to face the risk of testifying. (In late July 1992 the Mack case was assigned to Judge Alcides Sagastume and the next stage of the process, which is roughly analogous to a trial phase [see Appendix D], began in August. The court has been asked by the Mack family to call a number of new witnesses, including members of the military. The court was asked to obtain a large number of records from the army's files that might shed light on the case, and it did so. It is believed that this is the first time that the military has been asked by the courts to provide such evidence.) The delegation also met with Bernardo Neumann, the president of the Presidential Coordinating Commission on Human Rights Policies. The delegation told Neumann of the committees' concern about the large number of judges and courts in the Mack case. Neumann responded that the reason for the case being moved to so many different courts was probably because of threats made against those involved in trying the case. Several individuals working for the courts and involved with the Mack case have reported receiving threats because of their connections with the case. In response to concern expressed by the delegation about the Mack murder, Neumann said that the attorney general has found enough evidence to indicate that the murder was politically motivated. He said that the man who killed Myrna Mack was just "a tool" and that those behind the crime
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Scientists and Human Rights in Guatemala: Report of a Delegation must also be found. He indicated that Mack came from an honest and well-to-do family and that any allegations that the crime was related to black market dealings were wrong. He added that Mack had been a friend of President Serrano and of himself. He also said that the Guatemalan government cannot afford to drop the case because it is internationally known and to do so would be against its principles. When the delegation expressed concern about the ability and willingness of potential witnesses to testify, Neumann reiterated what the chief of police had told the delegation earlier, namely, that Guatemala does not have the funds and staff to have a witness protection program. He asked, rhetorically, ''Who could be trusted to protect any potential witnesses?" Disappearances and Political Killings In the course of their discussions in Guatemala, the delegates attempted to identify criteria that might be used to determine if a murder or disappearance is politically motivated and when it should be described as a crime "indicative of security force involvement." This effort was critical because there is widespread violence in Guatemala, with murders and disappearances also perpetrated by common criminals, street gangs, and the guerrillas. Thus, the source of any particular act of violence is not always apparent, and there is often insufficient evidence on which to make a credible allegation. For example, the following factors are sometimes thought to indicate security force involvement: the use of automatic weapons, because they are available to members of the military; heavily armed individuals; a single gunshot to the back of the victim's head (a coup de grace ); surveillance prior to the crime; receipt of death threats; inquiries about a victim before the crime is committed by individuals dressed in civilian clothes, showing a photograph of the potential victim and asking about the victim's whereabouts; use of unmarked vehicles; use of vehicles with opaque windows. In the opinion of the delegates, however, these factors are not necessarily indicative and certainly not determinative. The factors involved in the profile of the victim that are sometimes thought to indicate security force involvement but, again, that the delegation does not consider determinate, include the following: the victim was a leftist political activist; the victim worked with poor, underprivileged, or internally displaced people; the victim was a teacher or student activist; the victim lived or worked in an area of guerrilla activity; the victim was not known to be a gang member or criminal; the victim was tortured or mutilated. The delegates believe that, although a majority of politically motivated killings and disappearances are accurately believed to be committed by the
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Scientists and Human Rights in Guatemala: Report of a Delegation security forces, allegations of security force involvement must be made carefully and on the basis of a thorough analysis of the criteria indicating political motives and then only when a significant number of criteria are met. The Police and the Armed Forces The 40,000-person army and 3,000-person mobile military police under the minister of defense have primary responsibility for national security. The National Police (about 11,000 members) and the Treasury Police (about 2,000 members) report to the minister of the interior. In addition, there are civil defense committees (CVDC), also known as civil self-defense patrols (PAC), which are made up of an estimated 500,000 persons who are responsible for counterinsurgency and maintenance of law and order. In Guatemala, according to the Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1991, published by the U.S. Department of State:27 The Armed Forces operate with significant institutional legal autonomy, particularly in security and military matters. . . . Despite a constitutional prohibition, membership in the PAC's in conflict zones is often involuntary. The security forces and the PACs committed numerous and serious human rights violations during 1991. According to the Constitution, President Serrano is the head of the armed forces. Since he came to office, he has fired two defense ministers (both generals), the air force chief, and the commander of the Guatemala City Garrison.28 While not denying the responsibility of the Guatemalan government to end human rights abuses, most of the officials with whom the delegates spoke mentioned progress in the ongoing peace talks as a key to diminishing the violence in Guatemala. They also spoke of war-related kidnappings, assassinations, and abuses of alleged right-wing or left-wing sympathizers as major sources of human rights violations by both the military and the insurgents. The attorney general told the delegation that "peace and justice go hand-in-hand; while the conflict exists, the rule of law cannot prevail" and, at the same time, as long as there is no state of law, there will be no end to the conflict. Several officials also emphasized, however, that there has been an increase in criminal and gang violence, with 10 to 12 murders a day in Guatemala City and an estimated 2 million unregistered firearms. The need for funds to revamp the legal and judicial system, provide human 27 Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1991, p. 613. 28 "Central America, Out of the Ditch," The Economist, June 6, 1992, p. 19.
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Scientists and Human Rights in Guatemala: Report of a Delegation rights training, and raise police salaries to reduce corruption was mentioned repeatedly. The salary of a police officer is approximately $80 per month; the minimum wage is about $70 per month. Expenses for a family of four are estimated to be about $150 per month. Several officials mentioned as a positive development the appointment of the minister of the interior, Fernando Hurtado Prem, who oversaw the National Police and the Treasury Police. (Hurtado resigned his position on July 23, 1992, following widespread criticism of alleged arbitrary use of excessive force by the National Police against individuals demonstrating for land rights who had gathered in front of the National Palace in Guatemala City.) Hurtado is an attorney who formerly held the post of deputy ombudsman for human rights and was credited with efforts to demilitarize the interior ministry. Hurtado himself told the delegation of the possibility that the National Police, now headed for the first time by a civilian, and the Treasury Police, headed by a retired colonel, would be consolidated. This action, he said, is being considered because, in the past, treasury policemen have committed abuses relating to human rights, drug trafficking, financial fraud, and cover-ups. When asked who would head such a new police force and whether it would be a civilian, Hurtado responded that the Treasury Police would be subsumed under the National Police and that the head would be a civilian. Hurtado mentioned specifically that the most serious human rights problem in Guatemala is the lack of punishment of those who commit crimes. He called for the end of moral impunity but said that it is difficult, for a variety of reasons, to break the cycle in the face of armed conflict. He stressed the importance of working with the armed forces to accelerate the peace process. With regard to the need for the police forces to respect human rights, Hurtado said that an effort is under way to professionalize the police and said that the police academy, which had been closed, has now reopened. He added that the process of educating the police forces will take time. The delegates were reminded on several occasions that the current chief of police, a lawyer, is the first civilian to be appointed to that post. (The colonel whom he replaced, Mario Paíz Bolaños, was accused by the human rights ombudsman of permitting torture, and he was ordered to resign by President Serrano.) The delegation was told that Police Chief Samayoa has started a campaign to modernize the force and has weeded out more than 1,000 policemen within the department believed to be corrupt. According to a recent report by COPREDEH, 1,000 students enrolled in the national police school on April 1 and would finish their training on June 1. Chief Samayoa told the delegates that the police force is made up of approximately 10,000 members, including about 1,000 women; roughly 40 percent of the members come from the west and central part of the country
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Scientists and Human Rights in Guatemala: Report of a Delegation and 60 percent from the east. (The Mayan Indians, who constitute more than 50 percent of the total population, live primarily in the rural areas of the northwest Guatemalan highlands.) It was not clear to the delegates how many Indians are members of the police force. When the delegation asked Chief Samayoa how a credible allegation of police misconduct would be handled, he responded that the police investigate the allegation directly through the Office of Professional Responsibility and that suspects are sent to the Justice Department. He specified that no distinction is made between human rights abuses and common crimes. The delegation also asked Chief Samayoa whether human rights training for the police is seen as a positive strategy to help end abuses. He replied that the United Nations had suggested human rights training for the police and that Guatemala agreed to the suggestion. Former U.N. adviser Marco Sagastume was subsequently appointed to the Ministry of the Interior but is still paid by the United Nations. Sagastume, the delegation was told, has responsibility for "democratic culture and human rights programs" and has organized, among other educational efforts, a mobile human rights van that is taken into the interior of the country to educate and train members of the police force about human rights issues. In a meeting with the director general of the Treasury Police, Colonel Marco Antonio Castellanos Pacheco, and his assistant, Mr. Barrios, the delegates were told that although the Treasury Police are not involved in follow-ups on disappearances, they are willing to be helpful. He said that the Treasury Police can send individuals to the courts if necessary and that they carry out orders by the courts to arrest individuals. He said the Treasury Police have had to change their priorities and help the authorities to bring to light extreme cases of human rights abuses; the Guatemalan government is striving to improve the situation. He went on to say that the delegation deserved praise for undertaking the mission, although not all information on human rights abuses reported by other countries has been accurate. With regard to the relation between the Treasury Police and the National Police, the delegation was told that their areas of responsibility are well defined and that their training is different. With regard to human rights education, Castellanos said that Sagastume had come to the Treasury Police to give classes and that they have developed very good relations. Barrios said that when dealing with drug traffickers and other criminals it is difficult to remain respectful of human rights. He said, however, that because the punishment for drug trafficking is light, there is not much resistance when arrests are made. When asked about the percentage of Indians in the Treasury Police, the delegation was told that it is very low because of lack of education; a high school diploma is a minimum requirement. Supporters of the minister of national defense, General José Domingo
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Scientists and Human Rights in Guatemala: Report of a Delegation Garcia Samayoa, were eager to point out to the delegation that he was appointed during President Serrano's first year in office (in December 1991). He is said to have been supportive of the peace talks with the guerrilla insurgency and to have taken part in the national dialogue consultative process that was established in 1987 under the Central American Peace Agreement. The delegation's meeting with General García covered a range of topics. When asked whether, given the Mack murder, scientists can be safe in Guatemala, General García responded that there are problems in the country because of the guerrillas and that emphasis must be placed on the peace process to end the conflict. When asked how large the army is, he said "barely large enough to deal with the problems" in the country. "It is one of the smallest armies in Latin America with one of the smallest budgets," he said.29 General García also said that the security forces are maintained entirely by Guatemalan funds. With regard to human rights education, General Garcia said that there are ambitious courses in human rights within the army, including lectures by the ombudsman's office, and that a human rights library is being established. He added that four generals recently traveled to Costa Rica to take human rights courses. He also gave examples of humane treatment by the army of wounded guerrilla combatants. The delegates also met with and expressed their concerns to the former minister of defense, General Héctor Gramajo, who is now retired but continues to have connections with top military officials in Guatemala and is rumored to have future political ambitions. Gramajo spoke of the need to reform the judiciary but also spoke of the judiciary system being at the mercy of the investigations by the National Police, who must provide information and follow-up on cases in order to present information to the judges. 29 The following data come from Regional Surveys of the World: South America, Central America and the Caribbean 1991, 3rd ed. (London: Europe Publications Limited, 1990): Country Population (millions) Size of Military Costa Rica 2.9 no standing army Bolivia 6.9 28,000 Guatemala 9.5 43,000 Equador 10.2 42,000 Chile 13.2 101,000 Venezuela 19.2 70,500 Mexico 84.2 141,500
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Scientists and Human Rights in Guatemala: Report of a Delegation Judicial System Officials During the delegation's meeting with the new attorney general, Acisclo Valladares Molina, it raised the question of his autonomy and independence. Valladares told the delegates that, although he is appointed by the president, his term is for 5 years, he cannot be dismissed, and he reports directly to the Congress. Everyone with whom the delegates spoke concerning the judicial system in Guatemala said that it is antiquated and that changes are needed. Valladares said that the inquisitional system used in Guatemala, as opposed to the adversarial system used in the United States, is in need of reform. The current system relies on written and private court proceedings. The new system will move toward a trial system with oral testimony. He added that there is already a more public aspect to the courts and that within the past year, because there is new political will to establish a system of law, there has been more judicial independence. With regard to modernizing and making the courts more efficient and impartial, Valladares said that he has significantly increased the number of attorneys, from 8 to 40, and has been authorized to hire 250 more. He also pointed out that the budget for his office has been doubled this year and that now, with telefax machines and computers, additional positive changes will also occur, although they may be gradual. When asked to speak about the future of the judiciary, Valladares said the greatest positive change is that there is not a single case in which the public ministry has not begun the judiciary process. He said that, in the past, the country was preoccupied with the "threat to national security" and that cases did not get to the courts. The current president of the Supreme Court, José Rodil Peralta, appointed only 3 weeks before the delegation's visit, will serve a 6-year term. He was in the United States during the delegation's mission to Guatemala. The delegates met with his deputy, Julio Cesar Rivera Clavería, and Victor Manuel Rivera Woltke, another member of the staff, to ask for information on disappeared colleagues. Rivera Clavería told the delegation that in response to its list, telegrams had been sent to all local judges responsible for each case, that a large number of judges had responded, but that no new information had been obtained. The contents of these telegrams were shared with the delegation. He told the delegation that some of the cases on its lists had not been brought to the courts by the families of the victims, although which cases were not specified. The delegation requested that any information obtained following its departure be sent to the CHR. (Subsequently, in June, Rivera Clavería sent the CHR a list of courts to which most of the cases undertaken by the committees had been submitted.) Rivera Clavería added that, while time is needed for the situation to improve in Guatemala, there is a sincere desire to change the system and
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Scientists and Human Rights in Guatemala: Report of a Delegation the intention to respect human rights. Rivera Clavería said that the serious political challenge in Guatemala is to diminish the power of institutions, such as the military, but he added that they are beginning to change. Ministry of Public Health In a meeting with the then minister of public health, Dr. Miguel Angel Montepeque, the delegation expressed its concern about human rights abuses directed against health professionals, particularly those working in areas of conflict in the interior of the country and in the poor areas of Guatemala City. (Montepeque was replaced as minister of health on April 30 by Eusebio del Cid Peralta.) The delegation asked the minister how basic health services, particularly to indigenous peoples, are affected by violence. Montepeque responded that health workers have a degree of credibility and that they do not encounter too many problems. He said that bridges have been sabotaged and that the guerrillas have impeded the vaccination programs. The delegation asked Dr. Montepeque specifically about health workers killed or disappeared from the Behrhorst Foundation located in Chimaltenango in Guatemala's western highlands (see below). He said that the clinic is a nongovernmental organization that has worked in the country for more than 20 years and said he was sorry that the clinic's founder, Dr. Carroll Behrhorst, had to leave the country several times. He said that his ministry had offered help to the clinic but that he did not know what happened to those who were killed or disappeared. Office of the Ombudsman for Human Rights In 1985 the Guatemalan Congress decreed the creation of the constitutional position of human rights attorney or ombudsman (Procurador General de los Derechos Humanos). The appointment is made by Congress upon recommendations from the Congressional Human Rights Commission. The ombudsman's office has broad powers under the Guatemalan Constitution, including the receipt and investigation of human rights complaints and determination of appropriate judicial or administrative action on specific cases. The ombudsman is called on to protect human rights, to promote human rights education and awareness, and to ensure respect for those rights. The ombudsman can investigate cases brought to the attention of the office and can make recommendations regarding prosecution. Many of the cases undertaken concern disappearances and political killings. In 1987 Gonzalo Menéndez de la Riva, a distinguished 82-year-old jurist, who is highly respected for his honesty and integrity, was appointed ombudsman for human rights. Menéndez, who retired before the end of his term, is credited primarily with the administrative organization of the of-
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Scientists and Human Rights in Guatemala: Report of a Delegation fice. He was succeeded in December 1989 by Ramiro de León Carpio, the former president of the National Constitutional Assembly. Carpio has taken a more active role, spoken out publicly against the government, and called for political will to investigate and prosecute political crimes. Carpio was recently reappointed to a term of 5 years. The delegation met with the deputy ombudsman for human rights, María Eugenia Morales de Sierra, a lawyer, and Lionel Gómez, a medical doctor, at the offices of the ombudsman for human rights. (Carpio was traveling outside the country at the time of the delegation's visit.) The delegation learned that its information on one of the cases on its list of disappeared colleagues, that of Benjamín Díaz Arevalo, was erroneous. The ombudsman's office informed us that Díaz had never been abducted and is alive but perhaps living outside the country. Because of the ombudsman's reputation for accuracy, the CHR's list has been changed to reflect this information. Confirmation from additional independent sources is being sought. The delegation also learned that the cases of two agronomists, Danilo Sergio Alvarado Mejía and René Haroldo Leiva Cayax (see Appendix B), who were abducted in October 1987 and subsequently found dead, had been brought before a court of justice. The chief of police of Quetzaltenango at the time of the murders and rive police agents were arrested in December 1987 and charged with the murders. They were found guilty and sentenced to 30 years in prison. According to Amnesty International:30 A former high-level official in the national police maintained to Amnesty International's 1988 delegation that the arrested police officers had not been responsible for the killings, and that police intelligence officers had told him that the army had ordered the agronomists' deaths. The police chief and five agents appealed their convictions in 1990 and were released. The staff of the ombudsman's office told the delegation that international moral support behind the efforts of Guatemalan human rights groups has helped a great deal in bringing cases to the courts and that human rights education efforts vis-à-vis the army, particularly in the interior of the country, have been effective. The ombudsman's office has produced a special, simplified version of the major international human rights documents, including the rights and obligations of army personnel. The ombudsman and his staff hope that publicizing human rights cases will help to break the cycle of abuse that plagues Guatemala. Members of the ombudsman's staff also reported that some progress has been made toward ending the forced 30 Amnesty International, ''Report on Guatemala," Index AMR 34/07/89, June 1989.
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Scientists and Human Rights in Guatemala: Report of a Delegation recruitment by the armed forces of underage children and in creating an awareness that human rights abuses are unconstitutional. They noted that the president of the Supreme Court and the attorney general have also contributed to the recognition that open discussion of human rights is guaranteed under the Constitution. The delegation was told that the ombudsman travels with bodyguards and that his staff has been subjected to harassment and physical threats; one staff member's home was strafed by machine gun fire. Several top members of the ombudsman's staff indicated to the delegation that, while they have committed themselves to continuing their work until August, the end of the ombudsman's first term, they fear for their personal safety as a consequence of their work and will not continue beyond that time. Presidential Coordinating Committee on Human Rights Policies The Comisión Presidencial Coordinadora de la Política del Ejecutivo en Materia de Derechos Humanos (Presidential Coordinating Commission on Human Rights Policies), COPREDEH, coordinates the human rights efforts of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Office of the Attorney General, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of the Interior, and the office of the ombudsman. The delegation met with COPREDEH's president, Bernardo Neumann, and several members of his staff. This commission, Neumann explained, is the first of its kind. With regard to the delegation's list, Neumann said he anticipated that it would be difficult to find information on the cases of those who disappeared long ago. Regarding safeguards against murders in general and the murder of Manuel Peña in particular (see details below), Neumann said that the main problem is total insecurity and total impunity. He also referred to the enormous number of guns in the country and said that AK-47s are coming into the hands of street gangs in Guatemala city from El Salvador. He talked about the lack of an adequate police force and the need to restructure it. In its report on human rights during the first 4 months of 1992, COPREDEH quotes from a report submitted by the director of the National Police to the president of the Congressional Human Rights Commission. It states that 1,343 reports of missing persons were received by the police during 1991, that 1,183 were resolved, 160 cases are still under investigation, and 58 people were victims of forced disappearances. UNIVERSITIES AND RESEARCH INSTITUTIONS Most of the human rights abuses in Guatemala are perpetrated in the highlands against civilians who are poor, uneducated, and relatively de-
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Scientists and Human Rights in Guatemala: Report of a Delegation fenseless. Nevertheless, a significant number of academics and intellectuals, including prominent university officials, have been victims of forced disappearances or political killings, causing others who have become targets—or fear that they or their families will become targets—to flee the country. The 32 cases on the CHR's original list and those of Drs. Hurtado and Valenzuela, described above, are examples. The University of San Carlos (USAC), Guatemala's largest university, was founded in 1676 and granted autonomy in 1944. In 1991 the student population was about 68,000. The country's four private universities together had a total student population of about 23,000. Since the mid-1970s the USAC has been a target of the security forces because of its status as a forum for political opposition to military control over the government and the leftist, activist orientation of some of its students and teachers. In fact, USAC has been severely damaged by a combination of actual military assaults and occupations and by the exodus of respected intellectuals. Because of the killing of academics and scientists, many faculty members have fled the country. Sometimes, even flight does not bring safety: one former rector of the University of San Carlos was murdered in Mexico. The national university's sorry history and extreme politicization not surprisingly render it virtually inoperable as a center for serious scientific research. It also is in extremely poor physical condition—run-down, underequipped, and underfunded. The library no longer really exists; most of its collections having been dispersed to various university departments. At the engineering school library, only a few old journals can be found on the shelves. Students and scientists wishing to focus on science can, if they can afford it (and most cannot), go to one of the small, better equipped, elite private universities. These include the University del Valle, which has 1,500 students; the Francisco Marroquín business and economics school; Rafael Landivar University, affiliated with the Catholic Church; and the Mariano Galvéz University. In some fields the small amount of scientific research being carried out in Guatemala is conducted at these small, relatively well-endowed, private universities, or in specialized private institutions like AVANCSO (see below), where research is largely supported by grants from non-Guatemalan foundations. University of San Carlos Because human rights abuses and repression of colleagues in the sciences are directed primarily at those affiliated with the University of San Carlos, rather than those at the four private universities, and because it is the largest and most important university in Guatemala, the delegation focused its attention on the situation at USAC.
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Scientists and Human Rights in Guatemala: Report of a Delegation During the course of its stay the delegation had several formal and informal meetings with members of the faculty of USAC, including the rector, the dean of students, the dean of student health, the director of research responsible for the Human Rights Education Program, and members of the faculties of medicine and philosophy. The university's history of political violence has included the shooting deaths of two of the university's rectors in the early 1980s and the murders or disappearances of dozens of teachers and several hundred students. Bomb threats are common occurrences. The CHHR has been particularly concerned about the ability of health professionals to provide health care in areas of conflict in Guatemala and about their physical safety. During the delegation's visit, Dr. Lawrence had the opportunity to meet with two members of the medical faculty of the USAC. They discussed the general impact of the violence on the intellectual environment and how it affects medical education, research, and health care. They recognize the special health needs of the indigenous people but feel severely constrained from providing appropriate educational programs because of the lack of security in the highlands. According to members of the faculty, USAC's School of Medicine, with a faculty of 225, had an entering class of more than 1,000 students in 1981. Since that time 40 of the teachers and several rectors have been forced into exile because of sustained intimidation or psychological fatigue; only two teachers have returned. Repression at the University of San Carlos appears to be cyclical. With regard to those on the delegation's list of murdered and disappeared teachers and students at USAC, the staff at the ombudsman's office pointed out that they tend to follow a pattern. Almost all were the same age, between 28 and 29 years of age, when killed or disappeared; they lived in areas or neighborhoods of the lower or middle class; all were involved in political activities not related to their studies; several had printing presses in their homes; they received death threats followed by a period of calm and then were abducted and made to disappear or were found murdered. When the delegation expressed concern that USAC may now be facing the beginning of a similar cycle, this possibility was acknowledged, but it was stressed that now groups like the ombudsman's office, the Archdiocese, and others are keeping a watchful eye on the situation and that they, as well as outside groups like the CHR and CHHR, must make people aware of the situation in the hope of breaking the cycle. A formal meeting hosted by Dr. Juan Alfonso Fuentes Soria, the rector of USAC and former dean of the Faculty of Dentistry, included teachers, administrators, and student government leaders. The delegation tried to learn from these individuals and others whether and how it might be possible to form a group of reliable and objective individuals at the university
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Scientists and Human Rights in Guatemala: Report of a Delegation who might act as a human rights clearinghouse that could refer cases to groups like the CHR and CHHR. After a halting discussion, it became sadly clear that the climate of fear and mistrust at the university is such that any group of the type described would be too vulnerable and would immediately become a target for death threats and other types of human rights abuses. Nonetheless, Dr. Fuentes, an articulate defender of human rights and the autonomy of the university, thanked the group for coming to Guatemala and expressed the belief that this show of solidarity would aid the USAC in its efforts to ensure that human rights are respected and strengthened, not only at the university, but also throughout the country. The delegation was told that the university has played an important role in mobilizing uprisings in the history of Guatemala—in 1944, 1954, 1962, 1978, and 1980–1981. The delegation was also told that when anticommunist efforts are undertaken by the government—repression, murder, and exile at USAC follow. A new wave of repression began in 1992. The office of the University Students' Association was bombed on January 30, at the time of the inauguration of a new radio station on the campus. On February 24 a bomb was deactivated inside the building that houses the rector's office, and on the following day a bomb exploded in front of the old law school building located on another campus of the university, injuring a passerby. During the delegation's visit, bomb threats had caused the suspension of classes for 3 days. The USAC faculty and students reported that more threats had been received in the 2 weeks before the delegation's visit than in the previous 9 months. They reported that there are still people who want to damage the university and can act with impunity. The rector reported that funds for the university have been reduced in an effort to pressure it to depoliticize its activities. Students and teachers have received death threats and have been killed for political reasons and in an effort to divert resources from the university. The delegation discussed at the meeting with the rector the case of Manuel Estuardo Peña, a 28-year-old history professor at the University of San Carlos. The case was also mentioned by the delegation to several of the government officials with whom it met. Peña was killed in front of his apartment, on February 10, 2 weeks before the delegation's visit, as he arrived home for the evening, by at least two unidentified assailants using automatic weapons. Peña worked with underprivileged and internally displaced people in Guatemala City. He reportedly received death threats by telephone before he was killed. The day after Peña's murder, Dr. Fuentes publicly condemned the act and claimed that the university was being subjected to a ''new wave of terror." The issuance of death threats is a heinous practice that has a profoundly
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Scientists and Human Rights in Guatemala: Report of a Delegation disturbing psychological impact on anyone who receives one. In some countries a death threat is a form of harassment and, although menacing, odious, and craven, it often does not go beyond the threat. In Guatemala, however, these threats are frequently followed by the brutal murder, abduction, or disappearance of the target. The delegates were told about the USAC's Human Rights Education Program. Forty individuals, assigned to different academic departments, are being trained to be human rights monitors. The program's activities have slowed down since one of its administrators recently was forced to leave the country after receiving threats. Several of the human rights monitors have also been threatened, and as a result a large share of reports of human rights concerns were going to the program director rather than through the more diverse channels as hoped. This put him in a vulnerable position. Nevertheless, a debate and discussion program has been started that looks at human rights and Guatemalan society. The program includes foreigners who are invited to participate in the debates. Association for the Advancement of the Social Sciences The Asociación para el Avance de las Ciencias Sociales (Association for the Advancement of the Social Sciences), AVANCSO, is the research association at which Myrna Mack worked until her murder. To express support and sympathy to her friends and colleagues and to learn more about her work and that of the association, the delegation spent a morning at the AVANCSO offices. The AVANCSO staff told the delegation of the work of Myrna Mack and its importance to Guatemalan society. They also described themselves as "naive," saying they did not realize that her research on the internally displaced could make people feel so threatened that they would kill her. They also spoke of their dedication to seeing that justice in her case is done. The delegation was told that most social science research in Guatemala came to a halt in the early 1980s because of the political-military situation and that, in 1987, there were only 183 graduates in social science research in the entire country. Serious concern was expressed that valuable opportunities for social research on the displaced and their reintegration into a new society are being lost. AVANCSO, with a staff of 35 people, sees as its task to undertake social science research on the relationship between the state and society and on structural adjustments. However, AVANCSO has discontinued its work with the internally displaced because, as a result of Mack's murder, there is fear that the researchers would face grave physical danger.
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Scientists and Human Rights in Guatemala: Report of a Delegation SERVICE AND HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS National Coordinating Committee of Guatemalan Widows Members of the delegation heard a most articulate and dispassionate presentation on the efforts being made to achieve social justice in Guatemala from a member of the National Coordinating Committee of Guatemalan Widows (CONAVIGUA). CONAVIGUA is made up of some 11,000 women and girls—some of whom are widows of men who were killed for political reasons or disappeared—who work to achieve rights for women, particularly those of indigenous women. The areas in which they work include health care, education, nutrition, agriculture and animal husbandry, housing, human rights, economic rights, and legal protection. They also work to end forced conscription of their sons and other male relatives into the civil patrols. Several of the leaders of this group have been subjected to repeated death threats. Human Rights Office of the Archdiocese The Human Rights Office of the Catholic Archdiocese was created in January 1990 to play an active role in creating a "culture of human rights" in Guatemala. It has a staff of seven who work in three sections: education, documentation, and legal defense. The education section gives courses on constitutional human rights to church groups, schools, and popular organizations. It promotes the philosophy that a "culture of human rights" will not exist until people know what their rights are and what legal mechanisms exist for the fulfillment of those rights. The documentation section compiles information and statistics on Guatemala's human rights situation. The information is drawn from credible newspaper accounts, personal testimony, and investigations undertaken in urban and rural areas of Guatemala. These statistics are published in an annual report. The legal defense section provides legal advice and assistance to victims of political violence. This work is coordinated among the victims, their families, and professional organizations, as well as with international human rights organizations, in order to be most effective while, it is hoped, minimizing the risks involved. Currently, the legal defense section is representing several families in judicial proceedings related to political violence, including the Mack family and AVANCSO in the legal proceedings relating to Myrna Mack's murder. It has a staff of three full-time and one part-time lawyers who provide legal assistance. (In October 1991 a staff member of the Human Rights Office of the Archdiocese of Guatemala accepted the CHR's invitation to travel to Washington, D.C., to talk to its members about the human rights situation in
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Scientists and Human Rights in Guatemala: Report of a Delegation Guatemala and the status of the case of Myrna Mack. The CHR and CHHR were encouraged to pursue their interest in sending a human rights delegation to Guatemala in early 1992.) Christian Children's Fund Representatives of the Christian Children's Fund reported that they work to improve the health of children, particularly those living in the interior of the country, who were described as "the neediest of the needy." It reportedly deals directly with some 30,000 children and their families and believes that their work has an impact on more than 250,000 people. According to members of the staff at the Christian Children's Fund, there are 7,000–8,000 medical doctors in Guatemala, but roughly 60 per cent are unemployed or underemployed. (The delegation assumes that the many medical doctors prefer the hardships of unemployment to the physical dangers of working in many of the rural areas in Guatemala that are subject to violence.) There is a severe shortage of health care providers in the countryside; many private practitioners have left the country because of the violence, and most of the others have remained in Guatemala City. When asked if their health workers had come to harm, the delegation was told that they reduced the risk of harm to their health professionals by telling the government authorities in the region of their plans and activities. The delegation believes that the activities of this nondenominational (but primarily Protestant) group may have been viewed as nonthreatening by officials under the Protestant Evangelical presidents (Rios Montt and Serrano) during a period when rural communities were the scene of considerable Protestant Evangelical activity.31 Nonetheless, the group reported that in a period of less than 18 months in 1980 and 1981, nine health care workers believed to have been involved in activities beyond the technical work of the program were killed. Behrhorst Foundation In the early and mid-1980s, the committees became aware of human rights violations against health care providers and promoters working with the Behrhorst Foundation. The foundation provides low-cost care to poor patients, among other services. Dr. Carroll Behrhorst, an American-born physician who started the foundation in the early 1960s, was the recipient of death threats and left the country several times. (Dr. Behrhorst died of natural causes in May 1990, while working at the foundation.) 31 Guatemala, A Country Study, pp. 150–152.
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Scientists and Human Rights in Guatemala: Report of a Delegation In 1988, because of concern about the well-being of the health care workers at the Behrhorst Foundation, the CHHR invited Dr. Jonathan Horton, an ophthalmologist, to report on his experiences during 5 months spent as an observer in 1984 and 1985 at the Behrhorst Foundation. Dr. Horton told the committee that health workers are singled out for repression and that about one-third of the staff of the Behrhorst Foundation had been killed. Dr. Horton wrote an article describing his experiences in Guatemala: 32 Over the years, political violence in Guatemala has been the most serious obstacle to progress in health care. Since 1980, open war has been going on between the army and various leftist guerrilla factions fighting for power. Although the foundation has maintained strict neutrality, at least a dozen health promoters have been killed in indiscriminate army counterinsurgency actions. In 1983, gunmen killed a Guatemalan doctor working at the clinic; later the same year, the director of the loan program disappeared. This violence has disrupted the foundation's work and forced a cutback in the health promotion program. Health conditions in the highlands have worsened lately because of the social dislocation and economic damage caused by the fighting. Enduring progress will be impossible until peace and security are established. In the past two years, the war has subsided and the army has ceded power to an elected civilian president; these changes offer hope for the future, but lasting peace will come only with social justice, land reform, and an end to the exploitation of the poor. In a sense, these are the most urgent medical priorities. Following the death of Dr. Behrhorst, the foundation reportedly experienced some turmoil and disintegration, but a new director has since taken over and efforts are under way to reestablish its activities. 32 Jonathan C. Horton, M.D., Ph.D., "Occasional Notes, The Behrhorst Foundation at 25 years," New England Journal of Medicine, June 15, 1987, p. 318.
Representative terms from entire chapter: