PBI-Guatemala accompanies BDH law firm at court hearing of former Deputy Secretary implicated in the Hogar Seguro fire

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On December 15, the Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project posted: “Yesterday PBI accompanied the Bufete Jurídico de Derechos Humanos [BDH] in the #CasoHogarSeguro hearing to review the coercion measures applied to Anahí Keller, former Deputy Secretary of the Secretariat of Social Welfare, and Santos Torres, former director of the Safe Home. The judge decided to change her measures and grant house arrest.”

Prensa Libre reports: “Anahí Keller, a former employee of the Ministry of Social Welfare during Jimmy Morales’ administration, was awarded house arrest. The Seventh Court granted the measure without bail to Keller, former Undersecretary of Protection and Foster Care, who is awaiting trial for the crimes of abuse of authority, breach of duties, wrongful death, wrongful injuries and mistreatment of minors.”

Republica adds: “It should be remembered that Keller, who was appointed during the administration of Jimmy Morales, had managed to get Judge Carlos Guerra to close the case against her, but on December 4, 2017, the Fourth Chamber of the Court of Appeals reversed the resolution and ordered a trial against her.”

Forty-one girls, who were 14 to 17 years of age, died in a fire at the Hogar Seguro Virgen de la Asuncion shelter south-east of Guatemala City on March 8, 2017.

The Guardian has reported: “It has emerged that 56 girls had been locked inside a room measuring 6.8 metres by 7 metres as punishment for organising a protest the day before against cramped conditions and abuse by staff. More than 700 children lived at the home, which had capacity for 400-500.”

That article adds: “The fire, which began in the early hours, [has prompted anger] over the government’s failure to protect young people in its care. Complaints about abuse at the centre had been made, but not followed up. A month before the fire, Guatemala’s human rights commission had asked for it to be closed.”

In March 2019, Al Jazeera reported: “Several government employees, including police, are now on trial for their role in the fire. The girls were locked in a room and shelter officials waited for nine minutes as the girls burned before they unlocked the door.”

“Some of the victims of the March 8, 2017 fire in the Hogar Seguro Virgen de la Asuncion shelter had run away from home, fleeing abuse and sexual assault by relatives. But many faced more of the same inside the shelter.”

That article adds: “For years, girls reported being raped and forced into prostitution inside the state-run facility, but their protests were ignored.”

PBI-Guatemala has previously explained on its website: “Édgar Pérez Archila and BDH provide pro-bono [free] legal representation to victim organizations in judicial proceedings for human rights violations committed during the internal armed conflict and other human rights violations past and present.”

PBI-Guatemala has accompanied Édgar Pérez Archila since August 2010 and then extended that accompaniment to the other lawyers at BDH in 2013.

Faced with the judge’s decision to give house arrest to Anahí Keller and Torres, implicated in the death of the 41 girls from the Hogar Virgen de la Asunción, the lawyer Edgar Pérez says that they are surprised and that they will analyze to see if it is contested.

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