Guatemalan judge who ordered nine former police and military officers to stand trial receives death threats

Published by Brent Patterson on

Plaza Pública reports: “On Friday, May 6, Judge Miguel Ángel Gálvez ruled that nine retired military personnel, including a former Minister of National Defense, must face oral and public trial for the crimes of forced disappearance, murder, attempted murder and crimes against the duties of humanity.”

It explains: “The nine accused soldiers worked for the Army, in the General Staff of Defense or the Presidential General Staff, a state entity that was linked to the Army, but that answered directly to the Presidency. The Public Prosecutor’s Office accuses them of participating in an alternative, clandestine organization within the military structure, which generated intelligence to mount illegal operations of search, kidnapping and torture.”

Now, the Associated Press further reports: “A Guatemala judge who last week ordered nine former police and military officers to stand trial for alleged crimes during that country’s civil war, said Wednesday [May 11] that death threats against him had increased since announcing his decision.”

Miguel Ángel Gálvez says: “They send me messages, they call me on the phone, there’s vehicles following; all of that is happening.”

The article continues: “Last week’s case stemmed 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.”

The article further notes: “Gálvez fears the government is trying to build a case against him, as has been the case with other judges and prosecutors who have worked on sensitive corruption cases, which are also sometimes part of his docket.”

Juan Pappier of Human Rights Watch says: “This case follows a pattern of intimidation against independent judges and prosecutors who investigate and criminally prosecute corruption and human rights crimes in the country.”

And the Guatemalan Judges for Integrity Association says the threats are a “direct attack against judicial independence.”

Military Diary and Canada

Last year, the CBC reported about three women who moved to Canada whose loved ones are named in the Military Diary.

Wendy Mendez was nine years old when her mother Luz Haidee Mendez Calderon was disappeared on March 8, 1984. Maria Consueleo Pérez’s husband Orencio Sosa Calderon was disappeared on October 25, 1983. And Annabella Jiménez’s husband Hector Rolando Valdez Guzmán was also disappeared that same month.

Luz Haidee Mendez Calderon, Orencio Sosa Calderon and Hector Rolando Valdez Guzmán.

PBI-Guatemala accompaniment

The Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project accompanied the Human Rights Law Firm (BDH) and Édgar Pérez Archila at an early stage of these proceedings last year.

PBI-Guatemala accompanied eight days of hearings that concluded on June 10, 2021, as well as the four days of hearings that resulted in the indictment of former Defense Minister Marco Antonio González Taracena on June 25, 2021.

PBI-Guatemala began to accompany BDH lawyer Édgar Pérez Archila in August 2010 due to several security incidents he had faced in relation to the high-profile judicial processes he was working on. At the end of 2013, PBI-Guatemala extended the accompaniment to the other lawyers of the BDH who work in high-profile trials to fight against impunity and in defending criminalized human rights defenders.

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