Thursday, December 17, 2009

Documenting Genocide in Guatemala

National Security Archive Update, December 2, 2009

Operation Sofia: Documenting Genocide in Guatemala

For more information contact:
Kate Doyle - kadoyle@gwu.edu

http://www.nsarchive.org

Washington, DC, December 2, 2009 - The Guatemalan army, under the direction of military ruler Efraín Ríos Montt, carried out a deliberate counterinsurgency campaign in the summer of 1982 aimed a massacring thousands of indigenous peasants, according to a comprehensive set of internal records presented as evidence to the Spanish National Court and posted today by National Security Archive on its Web site. The files on "Operation Sofia" detail official responsibility for what the 1999 UN-sponsored Historical Clarification Commission determined were "acts of genocide against groups of Mayan people."

The National Security Archive's Kate Doyle presented the documentation as evidence in the international genocide case, which is under investigation by Judge Santiago Pedraz in Madrid. Ms. Doyle testified today before Judge Pedraz on the authenticity of the documents, which were obtained from military intelligence sources in Guatemala. Earlier this year, Defense Minister Gen. Abraham Valenzuela González claimed that the military could not locate the documents nor turn them over to a judge in Guatemala, as ordered by the Guatemalan Constitutional Court in 2008.

After months of analysis, which included evaluations of letterheads and signatures on the documents and comparisons to other available military records, Doyle said, "we have determined that these records were created by military officials during the regime of Efraín Ríos Montt to plan and implement a 'scorched earth' policy on Mayan communities in El Quiché. The documents record the military's genocidal assault against indigenous populations in Guatemala."

The appearance of the original "Operation Sofía" documents provides the first public glimpse into secret military files on the counterinsurgency campaign that resulted in massacres of tens of thousands of unarmed Mayan civilians during the early 1980s, and displaced hundreds of thousands more as they fled the Army's attacks on their communities. The records
contain explicit references to the killing of unarmed men, women and children, the burning of homes, destruction of crops, slaughter of animals and indiscriminate aerial bombing of refugees trying to escape the violence.

Among the 359 pages of original planning documents, directives, telegrams, maps, and hand-written patrol reports is the initial order to launch the operation issued on July 8, 1982, by Army Chief of Staff Héctor Mario López Fuentes. The records make clear that Operation Sofía was executed as part of the military strategy of Guatemala's de facto president,
Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt, under the command and control of the country's senior military officers, including then Vice Minister of Defense Gen. Mejía Víctores. Both men are defendants in the international genocide case in front of the Spanish Court.

The posting today includes a complete inventory of the Operation Sofia documents, as well as photographs from the Ixil region taken in 1982 by photojournalist and human rights advocate, Jean-Marie Simon.

For more information, visit the Archive Web site: http://www.nsarchive.org
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THE NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVE is an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The Archive collects and publishes declassified documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). A tax-exempt public charity, the Archive receives no U.S. government funding; its budget is supported by publication royalties and donations from foundations and individuals.