Jennifer Harbury talks about the Bamaca case

The cynics amongst you might think that my title is a little ironic, and perhaps complain that Jennifer Harbury only talks about the Bamaca case. However, I would put a positive spin on it, as it seems to me to be a testament to the fortitude of Jennifer that she continues to press for the truth and justice in the case of her husband, and refuses to be silenced despite the campaigns to undermine her directed from certain parts of Guatemala. Equally, she also spends a lot of time putting her experience in context: of the civil war and of US foreign policy in Latin America, for example, so any idea that she has a one dimensional view would be quite wrong.  


I am sure there can be few people who have any involvement in Guatemala who do not know about the Bamaca case. Jennifer’s husband Efrain Bamaca was a commander in one of Guatemala’s four armed opposition groups, who was captured alive by the army after a confrontation in 1992. He was then tortured for some time to gather information about the guerrilla movement and then killed. Jennifer only discovered any of this after persistent investigation, going as far as putting herself on hunger strike. Obstacles were put in her way at every turn: Bamaca’s death was faked to try to put investigators off the scent and US authorities, who it later turned out knew a great deal more than they let on, were uncooperative. She has never discovered the whereabouts of Bamaca’s body, nor succeeded in getting anyone brought to justice for his torture and death. Most disturbingly she discovered that one of his torturers was a CIA asset.

At a recent event hosted by the Guatemala Human Rights Commission she talked about the progress of Bamaca’s case,
and that of several human rights cases which are finally making some progress in the courts.  She also refers to her recent book "Truth, Torture and the American Way", where she widens her perspective from the case she knows best to the whole issue of US involvement with torture in Latin America and wider still to  Afghanistan and Iraq.

* Jennifer Harbury’s book about the Bamaca case is "Searching for Everardo", published in 1997. For a summary of the early part of the case’s history, from Human Rights Watch, dated 1995, see this reference here.

* I haven’t read Jennifer’s latest book, so can’t comment on it, but can recommend "A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror" by Alfred McCoy on the same subject.

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Categories: Justice

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