Press Release

IACHR Welcomes Arrest of Individuals Accused of Forced Disappearance and Crimes against Humanity in Guatemala

January 13, 2015

   Contact info

María Isabel Rivero
IACHR Press and Communication Office
Tel: +1 (202) 370-9001

   More on the IACHR
A+ A-

Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) welcomes Guatemalan authorities' investigation and arrest of 18 retired military officials accused of crimes of forced disappearance and crimes against humanity which took place during the armed conflict.

The arrests are related to the discovery of the skeletal remains of 558 people in an old military camp in Alta Verapaz; the investigation into a number of massacres, including the Río Negro Massacre; and the forced disappearance of Marco Antonio Molina Theissen. The arrests are important steps in a long search for justice.

The Attorney General and the Prosecutor for Human Rights reported that in the investigations into the case of the Regional Training Command for Peacekeeping Operations (CREOMPAZ), considered “one of the largest cases of forced disappearance in Latin America,” the remains of 558 non-combatant indigenous civilians were exhumed. The bodies had been buried in four mass graves in Cobán, Alta Verapaz, and belonged to children, adult men and women, and senior citizens. The investigations and the testimony collected have led to the identification of 88 cases of forced disappearance for which those arrested are being charged.

The authorities reported that the arrests of the retired military officials were requested following the March 2012 sentencing of five former paramilitary members to 7,710 years in prison for the “Plan de Sánchez” Massacre, committed in 1982 against 256 members of the Maya Achí indigenous people.

On January 6, the authorities arrested 18 retired military officials in connection with a number of massacres, including the one in the village of Plan de Sánchez and the one in Río Negro, and the disappearance of Marco Antonio Molina Theissen. Those arrested include Ret. Gen. Manuel Benedicto Lucas García, the brother and former head of the military staff of former President Romeo Lucas García, and Manuel Antonio Callejas Callejas, former director of Military Intelligence. Most of those arrested were part of the “senior staff” of Military Zone 21, which “functioned as a center for clandestine detention and execution.” Those arrested were taken to the Torre de Tribunales courthouse, where they were informed of the reason for their arrest. Subsequently, the judge decided to send them to the “Mariscal Zavala” military prison.     

In 2004, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights found that the State of Guatemala bore international responsibility for these crimes. The State acknowledged its responsibility for the forced disappearance of Marco Antonio Molina Theissen. The Inter-American Court ordered the State to find the victim’s remains and investigate and punish the direct perpetrators and masterminds. Moreover, in 2004 the State was found to be responsible in the “Plan de Sánchez” case and in 2012, for the Río Negro massacres. These massacres involved the rape of women and children and the torture, forced disappearance, and murder of members of the indigenous civilian population.

The investigations carried out by the Attorney General’s Office and the arrests of those accused represent an essential step toward justice in order to obtain truth, justice, and reparation for the victims of human rights violations. The IACHR considers it essential for the investigations to continue and to be completed in order to establish in court what happened and who is responsible.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 001/16