It is anticipated that the judges’ verdict will be delivered in the very near future in the case of El Jute – the case of the forced disappearance of eight inhabitants of the rural community of the same name in 1981.
Since the historic sentence in the case of Choatalum in August this year (www.lahora.com.gt/notas.php?key=54841&fch=2009-09-02) in which a former military commissioner was sentenced to 150 years of prison for the forced disappearance of six people during the internal armed conflict, much attention has been focused on this case, in which hearings opened only a few weeks later, in September.
On trial for their alleged part in this crime are a former army colonel and three former military commissioners who have been in custody since 2005.
A communiqué released by GAM (the Mutual Support Group) in November summarised some of the issues at play in the case and expressed GAM’s certainty that a condemnatory sentence should be passed. A further communiqué released by the same Group following the hearing on the 1st December expressed concern over the intimidatory presence of members of the Guatemalan Military Veteran’s Association (AVEMILGUA) who they claim were taking photographs of relatives, witnesses, the public prosecutor, and members of GAM.
Legal proceedings have now reached the concluding stage. Various high-profile diplomats have attended the recent hearings, including the US, Swiss, Chilean and Dutch ambassadors (www.prensalibre.com/pl/2009/diciembre/01/359940.html) and the Guatemalan human rights ombudsman, Sergio Morales.
Last week the US ambassador, Stephen McFarland, spoke publicly on the case after having attended at the courtroom, expressing his hope that justice would be served and pointing to the necessity that there be a state response against the abuses that were committed at that time. (www.prensalibre.com/pl/2009/noviembre/27/359048.html). According to the Prensa Libre, the prosecution has asked for 570 years of prison for the accused for the crimes of forced disappearance, illegal detention, and incompliance with the duties towards humanity.
Mario Polanco, of GAM said that such a sentence, if given, would be symbolic and exemplary.