Kaibil soldiers sentenced for 1982 massacre Print
Written by Nico Udu-gama   
Tuesday, 13 September 2011 21:12

Soldiers sentenced to more than 6,000 years for Dos Erres massacre.

by Louisa Reynolds, Latin America Press

The symbolic red roses and chrysanthemums held by many of the people that filled the courtroom on Aug. 2, shook in the hands of the visibly moved audience that heard the sentence against four soldiers from the elite Kaibil unit accused of participating in the massacre of 201 Mayan civilians in the village of Dos Erres, in the northern department of Petén, in 1982.

“This court unanimously resolves that the accused: Daniel Martínez, Manuel Pop, Reyes Collin and Carlos Carías, committed the crime of murder against the inhabitants of Dos Erres. For that crime they must serve a 30 year sentence for each of the people killed, which amounts to a total of 6,060 years…in Carías’ case, six more years will be added for the crime of aggravated robbery,” said Judge Patricia Bustamante. The convicted killers will serve the legal maximum of 50 years.

The prosecution secured the conviction based on the testimony of two former Kaibil soldiers who testified by video link from Mexico, where they are held in a secret location in order to ensure their safety.

On July 25, César Ibáñez and Favio Pinzón Jerez explained to the court that after the military coup that brought General Efraín Ríos Montt to power in 1982, the instructors of the Kaibil Training School were ordered to set up an elite patrol unit to carry out a special operation in Dos Erres.

The Kaibiles are a special operations force of the Guatemalan army that specializes in jungle warfare tactics and counterinsurgency operations, created in 1975. Due to the arduous physical and psychological training that its soldiers are forced to undergo, the graduates of the Kaibil Training School are highly sought after as mercenaries and today they have become a fertile recruitment ground for Los Zetas, the armed offshoot of the Gulf cartel.

Ibáñez declared that four groups were created to carry out the Dos Erres operation. He belonged to the first one.

“It was around four o’clock in the morning when the women were raped. The next day, the women cried while they were forced to prepare lunch for us. At midday, we were told to gather by a well and we were divided into two groups. One group was instructed to blindfold the villagers and lead them to the well while the other was instructed to bludgeon them to death and throw the bodies into the well. It all finished around six o’clock in the afternoon”, Ibáñez told the court.

This brutal slaughter occurred in December 1982, two months after guerrillas ambushed an army convoy near the village of Palestina, near Dos Erres, killing 21 soldiers and confiscating 19 rifles. This was enough for the army to consider the people of Dos Erres to be guerrilla sympathizers that had to be exterminated as part of Ríos Montt’s policy of “draining the sea that the fish swim in,” even though no weapons or communist propaganda was ever found in the village after the massacre was committed.

The Waquib’Kej National Mayan Coordinator expressed its satisfaction following the sentence: “A 6,060 year prison sentence for three of the accused and a 6,066 year sentence against another shows that the army’s participation in all the massacres documented by the Commission for Historical Clarification is undeniable”.

Former police chief goes to prison
On July 25, judge Eduardo García concluded that there was enough evidence to prosecute Pedro García Arredondo, former director of the now extinct National Police (PN) for the disappearance of university student Edgar Sáenz Calito, in 1981. García Arredondo was sent to prison while the trial continues and the Attorney General’s Office (MP) now has three months to successfully prove its case and secure his conviction. Sáenz Calito was arrested in March 1981 and accused of distributing pamphlets from the Revolutionary Organization of Armed People. He was detained in the PN’s headquarters until October 6, when he was released and minutes later he was bundled into an unmarked vehicle and was never seen again.

In July 2006, Spanish judge Santiago Pedraz, of the Audiencia Nacional court, acting under the principle of universal jurisdiction, issued an international warrant for the arrest of García Arredondo and seven other top level police and army commanders including former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, for the Spanish Embassy siege in 1980, in which 39 people died.

In 2007, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court ruled that an extradition request issued by Spain against the accused violated domestic law. Although García Arredondo currently faces trial in Guatemala specifically for the Sáenz Calito case and not for other crimes such as his participation in the Spanish Embassy siege, the human rights organizations that are prosecuting him have informed the Spanish Audiencia Nacional, which could attempt, once again, to initiate extradition proceedings.

Activists under threat
Three days before García Arredondo was imprisoned, the Guatemalan Association of Military Veterans issued a press release stating that the armed forces fought during the civil war to rid Guatemala of communists and warned that they “were willing to fight again if necessary”.

Three weeks later, on Aug. 11, the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation, known as FAFG, said that two of the organization’s forensic experts, who had testified in the Dos Erres trial, had received death threats. Fredy Peccerelli, director of FAFG, said that the harassment campaign had begun on Aug. 4, after the courts sentenced the four army soldiers to a symbolic 6,060 year prison sentence.

“We were told that we were being followed and that we can get killed at any time”, he said. FAFG is an NGO set up after the 1996 Peace Accords to exhume the graves where the victims of wartime massacres, extrajudicial executions and other crimes were buried. Its forensic expertise has provided valuable evidence that has allowed war criminals to be prosecuted. Interior Ministry spokesman Nery Morales said that the MP had been alerted and was closely monitoring the situation. —Latinamerica Press.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 September 2011 21:17