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Help the Witnesss and survivors of the Río Negro Massacre!

Amnesty International

Amnesty International is an independent worldwide movement working for the international protection of human rights. It seeks the release of men and women detained anywhere because of their beliefs, color, sex, ethnic origin, language or religious creed, provided they have not used nor advocated violence. These are termed prisoners of conscience. It works for fair and prompt trials for all political prisoners and works on behalf of such people detained without charge or trial. It opposes the death penalty, extrajudicial executions (political killings), disappearances and torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of all prisoners without reservation.

Soldiers
Click here for Amnesty International images of Guatemala
"With court proceedings due to start on 9 November 1998 against those accused of involvement in the Rio Negro massacre in 1982, threats and intimidation of witnesses, their families, and survivors of the massacre have escalated. Amnesty International is extremely concerned for their safety"

You can make a difference in the lives of many people in Guatemala through the simple act of writing a letter. Read this following "Urgent Action" appeal from Amnesty International to learn about the Río Negro case and how you can help!

N O T E
This help is needed immediately. If it is after March 15, 1999, please check with Amnesty International before writing.

"This is the first time that those responsible for one of hundreds of massacres of Mayan peoples that took place during the early 1980s will be legally tried in court.

"Since the trial date was announced, witnesses and their families, together with survivors of the massacre, have been threatened and intimidated by those alleged to be responsible, in an apparent attempt to frighten them into not testifying. These include former soldiers, military commissioners and members of the Patrullas de Autodefensa Civil, Civil Defence Patrols. Community leaders arid members of non-governmental organizations assisting the victims' families and survivors have also been intimidated and threatened with death and destruction of their homes.

"In March, the leader of the Maya Achí Coordination of Widows, Orphans and Displaced People in Baja Verapaz — an organization campaigning on behalf of victims' relatives for the exhumation of secret mass graves — was shot and injured while walking his son home from school. Other members and supporters of the Coordination have also been threatened. In October, property belonging to Widows in Pacuz\x, who have been working in support of the victims, was destroyed.

"Although legal complaints by those who have been intimidated and threatened have been filed before the relevant Guatemalan authorities, no investigation into these crimes is known to have taken place.  
 
"BACKGROUND INFORMATION
On 13 March 1982, over 177 women and children were killed by armed forces members and their auxiliaries in the village of Rio Negro, municipality of Rabinal, in the Baja Verapaz department. One month earlier, the men from the same village had also been massacred.

"In January 1994, the remains of at least 143 victims were located and exhumed from three mass graves. Other mass graves are known to exist in or near the village.

"Due to fear of reprisals against victims' relatives, forensic exhumations of mass graves have been prevented in Guatemala until very recently. Early exhumations in the late 19805 and early 19905 were characterized by inadequate procedures and allegations that evidence was being removed from secret graves. There were also attempted abductions and threats against those demanding the exhumations. In addition, members of the judiciary attempting to conduct proper exhumations were threatened; many discontinued their involvement in legal cases.

"Those arrested so far in. connection with the Río Negro massacre include three members of a Civil Defence patrol: Carlos Chen Gómez, Pedro González Gómez, and Fermín Lajtuj Xitumul. An application by them for amnesty under an earlier amnesty law has been turned down by the Constitutional Court.

"Amnesty International has made repeated requests and recommendations to the authorities reminding them of their duty to the victims of past human rights violations and their relatives. The recommendations include the request for an effective program to guarantee the safety and protection of witnesses and others involved in judicial investigations into past cases of human rights violations."  
 
RECOMMENDED ACTION:
Please send telegrams, E-mails, faxes, express and airmail letters:

  • urging the authorities to guarantee the physical integrity of witnesses, survivors and their relatives, and all those involved in the investigation into the Río Negro massacre of March 1982.
  • asking the authorities to fully investigate all complaints of acts of violence and intimidation, and in particular attacks and threats against members of the Maya Achí Coordination of Widows, Orphans and Displaced People in Baja Verapaz and those who support them;
  • urging the authorities to adopt Amnesty International's recommendations regarding their duty to the victims and their families of past human rights violations and to the rest of society, and particularly urging that they implement an effective program to guarantee the safety and protection of witnesses and all those who assist with judicial investigations into past abuses;
  • reminding the government of Guatemala of its commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in particular Article 8:
    "Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law".

"If voice answers fax ask: "Me puede dar tono de fax, por favor" (SALUTATION)"

President of the Republic of Guatemali:
(Excelentísimo Sr. Presidente /Dear President)
S.E. Álvaro Arzú Irigoyen
Presidente de la Republica de Guatemala
Palacio Nacional
6' Calle y 7' Avenida, Zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala, GUATEMALA

Telegrams: Presidente, Guatemala, Guatemala
E-mails: alvaroarzu@guateconnect.com
alvaroarzu@guate.net
Faxes: Ol 502 221 4537  
 

Governor of the department of Baja Verapaz:
(Sr. Gobernador/Dear Governor)
Sr. Jorge Méndez Castañada
Gobernador Departamental de Baja Verapa:
Palacio Departamental de la Gobernación, Cobán
Alta Verapaz, GUATEMALA
Telegrams: Gobernador, Baja Verapaz, Guatemala
Faxes: 0115029521369

COPIES TO:
Auxiliary Human Rights Pprocurator of Baiq Verapaz:
Procuraduría Auxiliar de Derechos Humanos de Baja Verapaz
7a Avenida 4-50 Zona 1
Salamá, Baja Verapaz, GUATEMALA
Faxes: 0115029400207

 
 
 
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