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Inter-American Court to hear testimony on death squad diaries

By admin - Posted on 25 April 2012


An unprecedented hearing in the case of the Diario Militar

against the State of Guatemala for forced disappearances
Over 25 years after the commission of the crimes, an unprecedented hearing before the

Inter-American Human Rights System in the case of the Diario Militar will finally. On

April 25, 2012, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights will hear the representatives

of the victims (Fundación Myrna Mack and the International Human Rights Law Clinic

– UC Berkeley School of Law), the Inter-American Human Rights Commission and the

State of Guatemala. The hearing will be held in Guayaquil, Ecuador and will be

streamed via internet at, beginning at 9:00 a.m.

Central Time.


The document known as the Diario Militar or the Death Squad Dossier is a log which

systematically registers intelligence from 1983 to 1985, during the de facto regime of

Oscar Humberto Mejía Víctores. The Diario Militar details the actions taken by agents

of the State as part of a counterinsurgency plan implemented in the urban areas of

Guatemala during the abovementioned period. It is an annex to an intelligence report

and is divided into six sections. The sixth section contains a list of 183 persons who

were forcibly disappeared, transferred, sequestered and summarily executed by State

agents. In respect of each of these 183 individuals, the log includes his or her full name,

a general description of his or her alleged occupation (unionist, university student, etc.),

a photograph, the date of his or her (unlawful) arrest, as well as a code and a date, which

is inferred to be the date of his or her summary execution. It is noteworthy that the

victims featured in the Diario Militar resided in urban areas, in contrast to the majority

of cases that occurred during the Internal Armed Conflict.


During the Internal Armed Conflict and within the framework of the National Security

Doctrine, Guatemala’s military designed counterinsurgency strategies in order to

neutralize guerrilla forces. According to the Report entitled “Guatemala: Memoria del

Silencio”, the military defined “enemies of the State” as “any person, group or

organization attempting to break the established order through illegal actions, as

represented by individuals who adhere to the principles of international communism and

are involved in revolutionary warfare and subversion in the country. Individuals, groups

or organizations who, despite not being communists, attempt to disrupt the established

order are also considered “enemies of the State”.”1 The ambiguity of this definition as

well as the prevailing ideological trends of the time meant that such counterinsurgency

strategies were implemented not only against guerilla members, but also against their

supporters, support personnel or, anyone who rebelled against, or expressed its

opposition to, the “established order”: that is to say students, farmers, trade unionists,

labor leaders, academics and others.


According to a report issued by the Historical Clarification Commission [Comisión de

Esclarecimiento Histórico], the referenced regime applied the concept of “enemy of the

State” indiscriminately, with such cruelty and harshness that government forces

considered every citizen either in favor of, or against, the established order—No citizen

could be considered neutral. This resulted in dire consequences: the loss of generations

of valuable academic leaders, unions, professionals, artists, etc. Those considered

communists and leftists, those who expressed an opinion against the unfairness or

arbitrariness of the regime, or those simply interested in knowing and studying the truth,

and contribute to a positive change, were considered “enemies of the State” and were

therefore summarily executed, forcibly disappeared, exiled or subjected to a variety of

human rights violations. The regime’s prevailing terror meant that social sciences were

considered criminal; which meant that many academics and students working in this

area suffered numerous abuses, with the consequence that, to date, interest in this

discipline is scarce.


The Death Squad Dossier was released in 1999 when an agent of the Guatemalan

military gave the document to a human rights organization which in turn turned it over

to academic Katherine Doyle, analyst for the National Security Archives, based in

Washington D.C. On May 20 of that same year, Katherine released the Death Squad

Dossier to the press. Many questioned the document’s legitimacy; however, the

respective governments of Oscar Berger and Alvaro Colom admitted to its authenticity

before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission. Similarly, in 2009, the State of

Guatemala acknowledged the authenticity of the Death Squad Dossier in a publication

authored by the Peace Secretariat [Secretaría de la Paz] (SEPAZ) entitled “La

autenticidad del Diario Militar a la luz de los documentos del Archivo Histórico de la

Policía Nacional” [The authenticity of the Diario Militar in light of documents from the

Historical Archive of the National Police].


Additionally, in November 2011, an unprecedented event confirmed the legitimacy of

the Death Squad Dossier: the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation

[Fundación de Antropología Forense de Guatemala] (“FAFG”) identified the remains

of two victims mentioned in the Dossier: Amancio Samuel Villatoro and Sergio Saúl

Linares. Their remains were found in San Juan Comalapa, precisely where a former

military detachment operated during the Internal Armed Conflict. Three new victims

were recently discovered in March 2011. Although they are not parties to the case

before the Inter-American Court, this further identification reinforces the Dossier’s

authenticity and confirms today’s prevailing impunity for which the State is responsible.

Indeed, prior to 1999, the Guatemalan authorities failed to perform any inquiries or

diligences to determine the identity of the perpetrators of these forced disappearances or

the whereabouts of the victims. Criminal records contain no evidence that the

authorities have taken witness statements, secured and isolated crime scenes, gathered

physical evidence, including ballistic evidence, or analyzed the latter. Also, despite

legal complaints filed by family members, the authorities failed to conduct any searches,

to issue orders to seize the vehicles involved in the incidents or arrest warrants or

subpoenas to those suspected of having committed, or participated in, those events.



In 1999, after the appearance of the Dossier, FAMDEGUA filed a complaint with the

Public Prosecutor´s Office for the crimes therein recorded. However, 12 years later, the

domestic legal process has not yielded any results. The criminal investigation of the

Public Prosecutor’s Office has been deficient, lacking direction or an investigative

strategy. The criminal investigation has not produced any results and hasn´t shown any

sign of progress. 30 years after the facts, it remains in a criminal pretrial stage. The

Public Prosecutor´s Office has ignored evidence regarding the identities of the

perpetrators contained in the Death Squad Dossier and documents found in the

Historical Archives of the National Police, discovered by accident in 2005 and which

provide information regarding the victims of forced disappearances listed in the Death

Squad Dossier. In fact, none of the documents from this Historical Archive appears to

have been included in the criminal files. Finally, despite the fact that, according to

criminal records, an examining judge has been assigned to the cases, since his

assignment said judge does not appear to have taken any action in the case.


On November 30, 2005, the Fundación Myrna Mack, on behalf of the families of 28 of

the victims who appear in the Death Squad Dossier, filed a complaint with the Inter-

American Commission of Human Rights for the violation of various of the human rights

set forth in the American Convention on Human Rights, including, among others, the

right to life, truth, human treatment, personal liberty, the freedom of expression, gender,

association, the rights of the child and judicial protection and the right to a fair trial.

On May 12, 2011, after the parties’ numerous pleadings, evidence, observations and

arguments, the Commission informed them that it authorized that the case be submitted

to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. As a result, the Death Squad Dossier

case has been scheduled to be heard by the Inter-American Court on April 25, 2012.

At the hearing, the father and the daughter of two victims of forced disappearance, in

representation of the 24 families, will testify before the Inter-American Court of Human

Rights about these forced disappearances and the violations they and their respective

families suffered as a result thereof. Freddy Peccerelli, FAFG director, has also

submitted his written statement.


Various individuals will provide their expert testimony on said date. Analyst Katherine

Temple Doyle will present the Death Squad Dossier, its characteristics and confirm its

authenticity as well as talk about access to information in Guatemala. Additionally,

Carlos Castresana Fernández, former commissioner of the International Commission

against Impunity in Guatemala [Comisión Internacional contra la Impunidad en

Guatemala] (CICIG) has provided his expert testimony regarding the administration of

justice, criminal investigations in cases of serious human rights violations and denial of

justice in Guatemala. The following expert witnesses have also provided their written

expert statements: Silvio Gramajo Valdez (on the implementation of the Law respecting

Access to Public Information), Alejandro Valencia Villa (on military intelligence and

operations), Carlos Martín Beristain (on the psycho-social consequences of the

violations), among others. The State will be represented by a member of the Public

Prosecutor’s Office, who will describe the steps taken by the State in the investigation

of the facts. Also, Marco Tulio Alvarez Bobadilla has submitted his written expert

statement regarding his experience in the declassification process of government files.


The victims’ relatives are awaiting this hearing with great expectations as such could

represent an invaluable form of redress and remedy in and of itself. The Death Squad

Dossier hearing before the Inter-American Court underlies the families’ commitment to

the fight against impunity, search for the truth and pleas for justice and non-repetition of

such serious crimes. Indeed, the proceedings before the Commission and Inter-

American Court of Human Rights is the result of the inability and failure of the

Guatemalan justice system to respond adequately to the cry for justice of the victims of

the Death Squad Dossier or Diario Militar.

For more information regarding the Death Squad Dossier, please visit the following



• The original document entitled the Death Squad Dossier or Diario Militar, available at‐color.pdf.


• Publication “La Autenticidad del Diario Militar a la Luz de los Documentos del Archivo

Histórico de la Policía Nacional” [The authenticity of the Diario Militar in light of

documents from the Historical Archive of the National Police] available at


If you have any questions or comments, ´please do not hesitate to contact Martha Paz at

Guatemala, April 2012