PBI-Guatemala accompanies lawyers at first statement hearing of ex-soldier accused in the Dos Erres massacre

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On June 16, PBI-Guatemala posted: “PBI accompanies the Human Rights Law Firm (BDH) in the first statement hearing against ex-Kaibil José Mardoqueo Ortiz Morales for the massacre at Dos Erres in 1982 in the municipality of Libertad, Petén.”

The BBC has previously reported: “More than 200 people were killed in the village of Dos Erres in 1982, one of the most violent episodes in Guatemala’s brutal 36-year conflict.”

That article explains: “The Kaibiles [were] a US-trained counter-insurgency force fighting left-wing guerrillas. …The special unit of the Guatemalan army stormed the village in the north of the country on 6 December 1982.”

“The Kaibiles suspected the villagers of sympathizing with left-wing guerrillas who had two months earlier carried out an ambush on a nearby army patrol, leaving 21 soldiers dead. Even though the soldiers’ search of the village did not uncover any of the weapons the guerrillas had seized during the ambush, the Kaibiles proceeded to kill the village’s inhabitants.”

“Over several days, the soldiers systematically shot or bludgeoned to death hundreds of men, women and children. They disposed of most of the bodies by throwing them down a well.”

That BBC article also provides this context: “The massacre happened during the brief rule of military strongman Efraín Ríos Montt, who was accused of ordering the killing of more than 1,700 ethnic Mayans during a civil war.”

Last month, the Associated Press reported: “The slaughter [at Dos Erres] went unpunished for years — even after Guatemalan authorities issued 17 arrest warrants. In 2009, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights demanded the country prosecute the perpetrators.”

It adds: “José Mardoqueo Ortiz Morales is the fourth ex-Guatemalan soldier deported by U.S. authorities since 2010. …Four former soldiers were sentenced in 2011 [and] another suspect deported by the U.S. was sentenced.”

ProPublica further notes: “Ortiz becomes the fifth suspect arrested in the United States… But six others have eluded capture, some of them aided by Guatemalan security forces whose power has impeded the quest for justice, according to Guatemalan and U.S. investigators.”

That article adds: “Witnesses identified Ortiz as one of the soldiers who blindfolded the victims, interrogated them, hit them with a sledgehammer and dumped them into a well in the center of the village, according to Guatemalan and U.S. court documents.”

PBI-Guatemala began to accompany BDH lawyer Édgar Pérez Archila in August 2010 due to several security incidents. In 2013, PBI-Guatemala extended the accompaniment to the other lawyers of the BDH who work on high-profile trials.

Famdegua photo.

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