Rights courts condemns Guatemala in 1982 massacre

AP News
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Posted: Dec 22, 2009 12:42 AM

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights condemned Guatemala for failing to seek justice in the 1982 massacre of more than 200 villagers during the country's civil war, according to a ruling released Monday.

The court, the legal arm of the Organization of American States, ruled Guatemala's government failed to adequately investigate the Dos Erres massacre, punish the soldiers responsible or fully identify the victims.

In the ruling, dated Nov. 24 and released Monday, the Costa Rica-based court ordered the Guatemalan government to pay $3.2 million in reparations to the survivors and relatives of the dead within a year.

It further ordered Guatemalan authorities to conduct a serious investigation, not only to find the soldiers who carried out the massacre but also to identify the high-ranking officials who ordered it.

Ruth del Valle, a special advisor to Guatemala's president for human rights, told The Associated Press that the government would comply. However, del Valle said the government currently could not afford to pay the required reparations and would probably miss the court deadline.

She also said the government had already paid the relatives of the victims more than $1 million in 2001 as part of a national reconciliation program.

Over three days in December 1982, a military squad specializing in counterinsurgency killed at least 251 people in the village of Dos Erres in Guatemala's northern Peten region. Dozens were children under 12.

The military accused the villagers of being guerrilla sympathizers after they refused to join paramilitary groups to fight the rebels, according to a report by the U.N.-led truth commission established after the war.

The massacre was one of hundreds that occurred during Guatemala's 36-year civil war, which ended in 1996. Some 240,000 people, mostly Mayan Indians, vanished or died.

The Center for Justice and International Law, a Washington-based group that has helped pursue the Dos Erres case, applauded the ruling and called on Guatemala to comply "so the victims and their families find justice after 28 years of waiting."