Cover Image


View/Hide Left Panel

safety. Some complained of direct harassment, including death threats, from unidentified individuals. Witnesses in the Mack case reported being intimidated physically and verbally and fled Guatemala.

Helen Mack believes that three high-ranking military officers—General (retired) Edgar Augusto Godoy Gaitán, Colonel Juan Valencia Osorio, and Lieutenant Colonel Juan Guillermo Oliva Carrera5—and others were responsible for Myrna's death. In the early 1990s she was unable to convince the Guatemalan judiciary to prosecute Beteta's superior officers at the Presidential High Command, but in 1994 the Supreme Court considered an appeal by Helen Mack and agreed that the evidence available indicated that Beteta had likely acted under orders. The court ordered a criminal investigation of the three military officers. However, the state prosecutor, Mynor Alberto Melgar Valenzuela, was not appointed by the Public Ministry until almost one and a half years later. Melgar recently explained that the position was hard to fill because the Mack case is "highly complex" and to be involved in it is "very dangerous in Guatemala."6

Based on evidence that Melgar presented in 1996, a judge indicted the officers on a charge of complicity in Myrna Mack's murder. Then, one and a half months later, another judge ordered the case closed on a technicality. Not until August 1997 did the Constitutional Court overturn the order for closure and allow the criminal investigation of the military officers to proceed.

At present, there is no action in the case because the military officers initiated pleas for amnesty under the December 1996 Law of National Reconciliation. The request for amnesty must be entirely resolved before the criminal investigation can resume. Thus far, the Guatemalan courts have found that the military officers do not qualify for amnesty because there is no relationship between the crime committed and the political aims related to the violent internal conflict. Given the long procedural delays and periodic setbacks, Helen Mack does not anticipate that the trial phase of the criminal prosecution will begin until mid- or late 1998.

The Committee on Human Rights (CHR) consistently has lent moral support to Helen Mack, who works in the public housing sector and is president of the Myrna Mack Foundation. An earnest and soft-spoken woman, Helen Mack has steadfastly worked to see that those accused of complicity in her sister's murder are brought to a fair and full trial. She has expressed to the CHR her own continuing surprise and gratitude over the number of Guatemalans, personally unknown to her, who approach her on the streets of Guatemala City to quietly voice their support and wishes for success in her search for justice.

The CHR also has lent moral support to Clara Arenas and other associates of the Association for the Advancement of the Social Sciences, who have received


Godoy Gaitán is also a defendant in a legal suit filed by two private Guatemalan citizens who have charged him and six other military officers with abducting, torturing, and murdering ten University of San Carlos students in 1989. The plaintiffs filed suit in the summer of 1997.


Note to CHR from Mynor Melgar, October 24, 1997.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement