Ex-Guatemala Officers To Stand Trial For Civil War Crimes

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — A judge in Guatemala ruled Friday that nine former police and military officers will stand trial for a range of alleged crimes, including forced disappearances, torture and killings during that country’s civil war.

In reading his decision, Judge Miguel Angel Gálvez recounted testimony about acts of torture, forced disappearance and killing.

“They put them on planes and tossed them into the ocean to get rid of evidence of torture,” he said, also describing the ripping out of fingernails and tongues, sexual assaults and electrocuting men’s genitals, all allegedly on the orders of the accused.

The case stems from a document from Guatemala’s civil war recovered in 1999 known as the “Military Diary.” Inside, military officials logged forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and the torture of 183 people.

The men on trial were high-ranking military and police officers arrested last year and implicated in the cases described in the document by nature of the command positions they held when the crimes occurred between 1983 and 1986.

In 2012, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights declared the Guatemalan government responsible for the forced disappearances of 26 people listed in the Military Diary, as well as for the violation of their rights to personal freedom, health and life.

Authorities’ victims were student leaders, labor activists, and guerrilla fighters. The document describes not only the victims, but details surveillance tactics, captures and killings.

Among the first victims registered in the document was Samayoa Morales, also known as “Sheny,” a member of the Urban Front of the Organization of People in Arms, one of the four guerrilla organizations. The entry included her photo and noted that she had visited Cuba, was later turned over to a Guatemalan military entity and then nothing else was recorded about her fate.

Some of the entries include code. For example, researchers determined that the number 300, meant killed. There are people in the document who survived and others who were never heard from again.

Rudy Gustavo Figueroa Muñoz was an academic who was arrested October 12, 1984. He was allegedly the head of a guerrilla cell. A coded entry notes the day and location his body was later found.

His family knew he had been abducted. They searched jails, hospitals and military bases, but no one told them anything. Months later his body was dumped just yards from their home.