‘Huge step’: Relatives of Guatemala disappeared hope for justice

Retired military officials will stand trial on charges of disappearing and killing dissidents in 1980s during civil war.

Sandra Cuffe writes in Al Jazeera about the Diario Militar Case (‘Death Squad Dossier’) and its effect on people who have been searching for the truth about what happened to their loved ones for more than thirty years.

Military veterans have their own supporters in Congress who describe these killers of women, children and the elderly as ‘war heroes’ and who continue to plot for amnesty.


Marcia Mendez never stopped searching for her sister.

Now, decades after Luz Haydee was disappeared by Guatemalan military forces, justice may be on the horizon, after a Guatemalan judge this month ordered a trial into crimes committed in the 1980s.

“For us this is already a huge step forward,” Mendez told Al Jazeera outside the Guatemala City courthouse complex following the hearing last week.

Luz Haydee Mendez Calderon was detained and disappeared in 1984 – one of an estimated 45,000 people disappeared during the civil war in Guatemala. An estimated 200,000 people were killed over the course of the 1960-1996 armed conflict.

At the time, Mendez Calderon was secretary of international relations for the Guatemalan Labour Party, which had been forced underground after a United States-backed coup in 1954 and became one of the armed fighter groups involved in a 36-year conflict with the military.

She was also a mother of two. Her nine-year-old daughter was sexually assaulted during the abduction, and together with her younger brother was held and tortured for several days. The children reappeared but their mother never did.

In 1999, leaked documents bolstered the family’s search for the truth.

The Diario Militar, or Death Squad Diary, documented the abductions, torture, disappearances and executions of 183 people, including Mendez Calderon, between 1983 and 1985. The military intelligence dossier includes a section with a numbered list of the 183, with their names, affiliations, photograph, date and location of abduction, and other basic details.


You can read the full piece, including links and photos, here ‘Huge step’: Relatives of Guatemala disappeared hope for justice.

The Families of Victims of the Diario Militar Case published a statement, recently, in response to the events of the first week of the hearing, following the indictment and remanding in custody of six accused of crimes against humanity, and other crimes. You can read an English translation here, A light of hope in 37 years of impunity.

You can get more background to the case here, Eleven Former Members of the Military Arrested for Crimes against Humanity in the Death Squad Diary Case.



Categories: Genocide, Guatemala, Human Rights, Impunity, Indigenous peoples, Justice, Legal, Lobbying, Military, Poverty, Violence

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