Guatemalans still seek justice, 25 years after civil war’s end

On the twenty fifth anniversary of the signing of the peace accords, Sandra Cuffe writes in Al Jazeera on the challenges facing those seeking justice for the crimes of the State during the internal armed conflict, and the forces at work to preserve immunity on the part of the military.

Survivors decry new amnesty bill that would free perpetrators of crimes against humanity during 1960-1996 civil war.

Julia Poyon was three years old when Guatemalan soldiers broke down the door to her family’s home and took her father away. Now decades later, Poyon says her only hazy memory of him is from a joyful night before his 1981 abduction.

“We went to church one night and I remember he carried me on his shoulders,” Poyon told Al Jazeera. “I remember he was wearing a hat. I can’t remember his face.”

Felipe Poyon Saquiquel was a Maya Kaqchikel farmer and catechist living in a village near San Juan Comalapa, 80 kilometres (50 miles) from Guatemala City.

When the military grabbed him out of bed on May 8, 1981, they told his wife that it was just for questioning. Poyon Saquiquel knew otherwise. “Take good care of our children,” he called out to his wife as he was hauled out the door, according to Poyon’s mother.

Never seen again, he became one of an estimated 45,000 people who disappeared during the civil war that raged between the Guatemalan military and leftist guerrilla forces between 1960 and 1996.

Wednesday marks 25 years since peace accords ended the 36-year armed conflict, but the struggle for truth, justice and reparations — led primarily by Indigenous people who make up the majority of the war’s victims — continues amid fresh challenges and backlash.

“We are still seeking justice,” Poyon said after a ceremony in June on the grounds of a former military base in San Juan Comalapa, which is now home to a memorial for victims of enforced disappearances. It is also where the remains of 220 people were discovered in clandestine graves during exhumations in 2003-2004.

You can read the full piece, with links and photos, here, Guatemalans still seek justice, 25 years after civil war’s end. The piece includes a link to an episode from the Al Jazeera series Fault LinesGuatemala’s Disappeared.

Categories: Corruption, Criminalisation, Genocide, Guatemala, Human Rights, Impunity, Indigenous peoples, Justice, Land, Migration, Military, Mining, Poverty, Resource Extraction, Rios Montt, Violence

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