[News] Guatemalan Rights Groups Demand Justice for 45, 000 Disappeared

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Oct 26 10:48:59 EDT 2017


  Guatemalan Rights Groups Demand Justice for 45,000 Disappeared

25 October, 2017

The collective Yooko eesik'b'al —meaning “we are looking for them" in 
Mayan language — an umbrella group for nine Guatemalan human rights 
groups, launched on Wednesday an international campaign to raise 
awareness about the 45,000 people still reported as disappeared during 
the country's civil war (1960-1996).

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They spread the motto “I miss them, you miss them,” on social media and 
interviews on various media, recalling that tens of thousands of people 
— children, women and men — disappeared under obscure circumstances, 
with no investigation carried out until now.

“In Guatemala, forced disappearances consisted in a systematic practice 
carried out by the repression forces and paramilitary groups in order to 
spread fear, to threaten and control the population, so they would not 
organize,” said the collective in a communique.

The collective also urged the justice system to prosecute the retired 
Army Coronel and former representative Edgar Justino Ovalle, currently a 
fugitive, for his alleged participation in the forced disappearance of 
558 indigenous people in the northern department of Alta Verapaz — a 
case known as "Creompaz" in which 10 former military officials are under 

Guatemala's bloody past is well-documented, even by the military 
dictatorships who kept detailed records of their death squad operations 
during the civil war that lasted from 1960 to 1996. The U.S. government 
was intimately involved in the conflict, equipping and training state 
security forces that murdered thousands of civilians, most of them 

Throughout the war, the Guatemalan Armed Forces used abduction, torture 
and assassinations as part of the regime's sweeping scorched-earth 
counterinsurgency campaign targeting leftist guerrillas — including the 
main rebel group, the Guerrilla Army of the Poor, one of the four 
organizations making up the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity 
organization or URNG — as well as their suspected sympathizers.

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The struggle to recover their historical memory and win justice for 
thousands of victims continues today in Guatemala, 20 years after a 
peace deal brought an end to more than three decades of bloody internal 
conflict. At the end of 1996, the government of President Alvaro Arzu 
Irigoyen and the URNG — together with the United Nations playing a 
mediating role — concluded a long negotiating process and signed peace 

By the time the government and the guerrillas signed the peace deal, 
some 160,000 people had been killed and 45,000 disappeared. A staggering 
93 percent of abuses were carried out at the hands of Guatemalan 
security forces, according to the definitive 1999 report by the 
Historical Clarification Commission titled "Guatemala: Memory of Silence."

The peace accords came along with a “reconciliation law” that was 
contested by grassroots movements and advocates of victims and their 
families, as former military officials wanted the total elimination of 
criminal responsibility for political crimes committed during the armed 

Their position was firm and clear: to pardon crimes against humanity and 
crimes of the state. Human rights defenders continue to fight against 
the longstanding reign of impunity that has shielded the worst human 
rights abuses from facing justice.

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