Guatemala has been mentioned twice this week in parliament: once in Foreign Affairs questions in relation to the Guatemala-Belize border situation, and in the Lords in relation to Norma Cruz. We have recorded several times the important work that Norma does and the threats she suffers as a result.
Let's hope that having her name mentioned in parliaments abroad will help to protect her, along with the work the European Union are already doing,
as cited in the parliamentary answer.
As we reported back in September, former kaibil Gilberto Jordan was sentenced to ten years imprisonment in Florida for lying on his naturalisation papers. He hid his role in the Dos Erres massacre to obtain US citizenship. Recently, another former kaibil, one its commanding officers at the time of Dos Erres, has been arrested in Canada on the same charge. Again, Jorge Vinicio Sosa Orantes is wanted as a participant in the Dos Erres massacre, but has been arrested on fraud charges. He is actually resident in California but was visiting Canada when he was arrested.
The US has recently stepped up efforts to track down war criminals who might be residing in its territory. The newly formed Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section of the Department of Justice Criminal Division has been collaborating with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement in this task. He now faces extradition to the US, though interestingly, as he also has obtained Canadian citizenship and it is not clear wherther the Canadian legal system would take any action too. There have been calls for him to be tried in Canada for war crimes.
Accompaniment got some perhaps unusual but welcome exposure this week as Peace Brigades International was chosen as the organisation to feature on the Radio 4 Appeal. It features the case of indigenous Mexican woman Valentina Rosendo Cantú, who was able to pursue members of the military who abused her with the support of her accompaniers.
This short broadcast, of 3 minutes will be repeated on Thursday 10 February at 3.27pm
Amnesty International have just issued the following urgent action on behalf of Mateo Lopez, a trades unions from the Health Trade Union. He has been very active in denouncing corruption in the health service and has also been involved in the campaign against the electricity company Union Fenosa led by FRENA. Please take action.
At the end of October another crack was opened in the wall of impunity: there was a further conviction for forced disappearance. That is the third success for justice, along with the El Jute and Choatalum cases. The bare facts of the case are that student leader Edgar Fernando García was disappeared on 18 February 1984 and was never seen again. The whereabouts of his remains are still unknown, as the two police officers convicted have not revealed them. The police officers have been sentenced to forty years each in prison.
We have just received notification of this free event next Tuesday at Amnesty International's Human Rights Centre:
Amnesty International and the Guatemalan Archdiocese’s Office of Human Rights (ODHAG) invite you to see this 90-minute English subtitled film which narrates the life and work Monsignor Juan José Gerardi (1922 – killed in 1998) during the time he ran a diocese in rural El Quiché, a province deeply affected by the 36 year civil war that ended in 1996. The film also looks at the time he spent in exile in Costa Rica and his work as head of Guatemalan Archdiocese’s Office of Human Rights in compiling the “Guatemala, Never Again” report which documents thousands of human rights violations committed during the civil war. Monsignor Gerardi was assassinated in 1998 by Guatemalan army intelligence operatives, two days after he publicly presented "Guatemala, Never Again".
A Q & A session will follow the screening with Nery Rodenas and Carlos Alarcon from ODHAG.
18:30 on Tue. 21 Sep 2010 at Amnesty International UK, The Human Rights Action Centre, 17-25 New Inn Yard, London EC2A 3EA. Free entry but please book your place at the Amnesty events website.
It is rare that Guatemala gets any attention in the chambers of Westminster, so I was pleased to see that a parliamentary question has been asked about it recently. During the fourteenth session of the UN Human Rights Council a motion was passed relating to enforced disappearances, interestingly one of its sponsors is Guatemala. The motion calls on states, among other things, to "continue their efforts to elucidate the fate of disappeared persons".
The lamentable resignation of Carlos Castresana, head of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, better known by its initials as CICIG, has focussed attention on this important body. We should not forget how unique it is, as you can read in this interesting paper  sent to us recently. Its main thrust is that CICIG can be a model for how to organise external intervention to mend legal systems.
CICIG is unique in the sense that it is not entirely an international effort, nor is it wholly domestic, it has a bit of both but ultimately has to fit into the Guatemalan judicial system. It is also unique in being able to suggest reform, and includes training local personnel, all taken together ought to create a lasting legacy.
Right on the deadline given by the Interamerican Commission of Human Rights (CIDH, in Spanish) for compliance, the Guatemalan government has responded positively to their request that mining activities at the Marlin mine be suspended.
You will have already read on this website about the unfortunate resignation of the head of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, known as CICIG. One of the matters which provoked Carlos Castresana to finally throw in the towel was the election of the Attorney General, when CICIG and civil society organisations had all complained that none of the candidates postulated were at all suitable.
We recently posted an item about Jennifer Harbury, in which in a recording of a talk she gave, she updates us on the status of the case of her husband. She has been pursuing the truth in the case of Efrain Bamaca for eighteen years now. In her talk she mentions that her case, and several other important ones have progressed recently. However, we are concerned that the appointment of the new Attorney General, Conrado Reyes, may lead to the cases being stalled again if he does not encourage them to be resolved. Our friends at the Guatemala Human Rights Commission in the United States have set up a petition addressed to the Attorney General asking him to ensure these cases keep progressing. You can sign up to the petition here. If you are reading this and are resident in the US, you can find the US version of the petition here.
We were recently contacted by Adrien Trocme from the project LA Ruta. In Adrien's words "We are currently working on the project called La Ruta. We are informing our readers about the themes
mentioned in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) putting special
emphasis on the opinion of the civil society and the social movements." They made this film, called "Mindy's Nightmare", which you can watch here. It is pretty disturbing, especially given that the Mindy wears a mask throughout, but also because of what it shows about the operation of "justice" in her case.
The cynics amongst you might think that my title is a little ironic, and perhaps complain that Jennifer Harbury only talks about the Bamaca case. However, I would put a positive spin on it, as it seems to me to be a testament to the fortitude of Jennifer that she continues to press for the truth and justice in the case of her husband, and refuses to be silenced despite the campaigns to undermine her directed from certain parts of Guatemala. Equally, she also spends a lot of time putting her experience in context: of the civil war and of US foreign policy in Latin America, for example, so any idea that she has a one dimensional view would be quite wrong.
Exactly 32 years ago today a massacre took place in the small town of Panzos, in Alta Verapaz. A group of campesinos had gathered in the town square to protest about the depredations of local landowners, among them the town's long time mayor, who had been taking over their land.