Wednesday, December 29, 2010

14 Years Since Signing of Peace Accords in Guatemala...

Let 2011 be a year of truth and justice...

Guatemala Truth Commission

February 1997 | Truth Commission

Truth Commission: Commission for Historical Clarification (Comisión para el Esclarecimiento Histórico)

Dates of Operation: February 1997 - February 1999 (2 years)

Background: From the mid-1950s through the 1970s Guatemala was characterized by increasing state repression against citizens in response to rising unrest by various militia groups. In 1982 the Guatemalan military conducted a scorched earth campaign against the newly formed Revolutionary National Unity of Guatemala (URNG), resulting in the a high number of deaths.

In 1987, the first government-URNG talks were hosted in Spain, yet URNG continued subversive activities during this time further weakening the government. The parties returned to peace talks facilitated by the United Nations in 1993, which were ultimately successful. The Commission for Historical Clarification was established on June 23, 1994, as a part of a peace agreement between the Guatemalan government and the URNG, and the Accord for Firm and Lasting Peace was signed in 1996.

Charter: Agreement on the establishment of the Commission to clarify past human rights violations and acts of violence that have caused the Guatemalan population to suffer (PDF-95KB), June 23, 1994

Mandate: The Commission for Historical Clarification was created to clarify human rights violations related to the thirty-six year internal conflict from 1960 to the United Nation's brokered peace agreement of 1996, and to foster tolerance and preserve memory of the victims.

Commissioners and Structure: There were three commissioners, two men and one woman (of Maya descent), including two Guatemalans. German law professor, Christian Tomuschat, of Berlin's Humboldt University, chaired the commission. The chair (“moderator”) of the commission was appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations. The mandate stipulated that one member had to be a Guatemalan of irreproachable conduct, appointed by the chair with the agreement of the parties to the peace agreement. The other member had to be an academic selected by the moderator, with the agreement of the parties, from a list proposed by the University presidents.

Report: The Commission presented its final report, Guatemala: Memory of Silence (Guatemala: Memoria del Silencio), in Spanish to representatives of the Guatemalan government, Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG), and the U.N. Secretary General on February 25, 1999. The report is also available in English on the American Association for the Advancement of Science website.



* The commission found that repressive practices were perpetrated by institutions within the state, in particular the judiciary, and were not simply a response of the armed forces. The report stated that in the four regions most affected by the violence, “agents of the state committed acts of genocide against groups of Mayan people”(Final Report, English Version, para. 122).
* In total, the Commission conducted 7,200 interviews with 11,000 persons cataloging the interviews in a database. Declassified information from the U.S. government was included in the data.
* The total number of people killed was over 200,000; 83% of the victims were Mayan and 17% were Ladino.
* "State forces and related paramilitary groups were responsible for 93% of the violations documented" (Final Report, English Version, para. 15).
* "Insurgent actions produced 3% of the human rights violations and acts of violence” (Final Report, English Version, para. 21).
* Social mobilization was at its peak from 1978 to 1982 and so too was the rate of killings and human rights abuses.


* The commission was not allowed to name names and did not include names of perpetrators or a call for prosecution in its report.
* Reparations were recommended such as the erection of monuments, dedication of public parks or buildings, reclamation of Mayan sites and financial assistance for exhumations.
* It also called for structural reform, mainly in the military and judiciary and encouraged a culture of mutual respect and the strengthening of the democratic process.

Subsequent Developments:


* Without announcing any follow-up measures, Guatemala's President Arzu apologized for the role of the government in past abuses when he received the commission’s report.
* The U.S. government reacted coolly to allegations of its role in the Guatemalan civil war that were strongly condemned by the report.


* There has been very limited success in prosecuting perpetrators. Only one Guatemalan officer has been convicted of human rights violations related to the report. However, in 2010 additional trials began against former military officials. Three former soldiers are accused of crimes committed in the 1982 massacre in Dos Erres in Northern Guatemala.
* The commission’s final report was used in a case filed by Rigoberta Menchú Tum against the president of Congress in Guatemala, José Efraín Ríoas Montt and seven other militaries for their involvement in atrocities. On July 7, 2006, a Spanish judge ordered Efrain Rios Montt and his co-defendants to be taken into detention, and an international arrest warrant was issued. Since 2001, the case has also been investigated by the Guatemalan judiciary.
* In an agreement between the United Nations and the government of Guatemala, the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) was set up and entered into force in September 2007. The CICIG is mandated to conduct independent investigations, present criminal complaints to Guatemala’s Public Prosecutor and take part in criminal proceedings as a complementary prosecutor. It also promotes legal and institutional reform and publishes periodic reports.
* In 2009, a retired colonel and three former paramilitaries were convicted for the forced disappearance of peasants during the civil war. After a civilian was sentenced to 150 years in prison earlier in 2009, this was the first successful prosecution of an army officer in connection with disappearances.


* A National Reparations Commission was established in 2005, but decisions about policies and process have been slow.

Special Notes: Subsequent to the commission's work, a "Diario militar" (military logbook) was found that had registered the names and data of persons unlawfully arrested, tortured, and put to death by a unit of the security forces. The Forensic Anthropological Foundation of Guatemala (FAFG) continues to exhume mass graves contributing valuable information for further investigations.


* Chapman, Audrey R. and Patrick Ball. "The Truth of Truth Commissions: Comparative Lessons from Haiti, South Africa, and Guatemala." Human Rights Quarterly 23, (2001): 1-43.
* Fundación de Antropología Forense. Available at (accessed July 1, 2008).
* Grainger, Sarah. " First soldier convicted in Guatemala disappearances." Reuters, December 4, 2009. Available at (accessed January 14, 2010).
* Grainger, Sarah. "Guatemalan ex-soldiers on trial in landmark war case." Reuters, September 8, 2010. Available at (accessed September 16, 2010).
* Hayner, Priscilla B. Unspeakable Truths: Facing the Challenge of Truth Commissions. New York: Routledge, 2002.
* Peterson, Trudy Huskamp. Final Acts: A Guide to Preserving the Records of Truth Commissions. Washington, D.C.; Baltimore: Woodrow Wilson Center Press; Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005. Available at (accessed July 1, 2008).
* Rother, Larry. "Searing Indictment." New York Times, February 27, 1999. Available at (accessed July 1, 2008).
* Tomuschat, Christian. "Clarification Commission in Guatemala." Human Rights Quarterly 23, (2001): 233-258.
* Trial Watch. "Efrain Rios Montt." Track Impunity Always (TRIAL). Available at (accessed August 7, 2008).

Friday, December 10, 2010

BTS Applauds Appoitment of Dr. Claudia Paz y Paz as Attorney General of Guatemala

The Maritimes Guatemala Breaking the Silence Solidarity Network, member of the Coordination for International Accompaniment in Guatemala (CAIG-ACOGUATE), congratulates Dr. Claudia Paz y Paz Bailey on her appointment as Attorney General and Head of the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Guatemala. Dr. Paz y Paz has worked tirelessly for Human Rights and particularly for Women’s Rights, as an academic, activist and lawyer. She was the Director of the UN High Commission for Refugees Legal Office and as the National Consultant for the UN Mission for Guatemala.

Dr. Paz y Paz also served as Director of the ICCPG, the Institute for Comparative Studies in Criminal Sciences in Guatemala. The ICCPG is an academic institution in the field of criminal policy and human rights, developing processes of investigation, training, advisory and divulging information to contribute to the construction of a movement of ideas and actions to influence through:

- The decrease of state and social violence through the promotion of alternative methods of resolution of conflicts and the recognition of the juridical pluralism in Guatemala.

- The strengthening of the agencies that administer justice.

- The strengthening of civil society's participation in the construction of a democratic criminal policy.

- The enforcement of the democratic State or right and the effective protection of human rights

We applaud the appointment of Dr. Paz y Paz, an extremely qualified and committed candidate and urge the Guatemalan State to create a safe working environment that fosters justice and an end to impunity in Guatemala, enabling Dr. Paz y Paz and the Public Prosecutor’s Office to go forward and make advances in their work.

Guatemala, December 10, 2010

International Day for Human Rights

Thursday, December 9, 2010

BTS Condemns the Murder of Emilia Quan Stackmaann

The Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Solidarity Network joins in the admonition of the kidnapping, torture and murder of Emilia Margarita Quan Stackmaann, who was found dead the morning of Wednesday, December 8, 2010, 24 hours after she went missing. Emilia was a sociologist working with CEDFOG, the Research and Documentation Centre of the Western Border of Guatemala and was en route to the municipality of Chiantla, Huehuetenango, when the crime occurred the morning of December 7.

According to CEDFOG, at 6:20am on December 7, the CEDFOG vehicle was intercepted by strongly armed men who kidnapped Emilia and the driver of the vehicle, Víctor López. Later, Mr. López was found abandoned, beaten, gagged with his hands and feet tied up and Emilia remained missing. That same day, at 8:30am, a vehicle of the Social Ministry Program of the Catholic Diocese was also intercepted a few meters from its offices located in San José. Inside was the Program’s Accountant, Manual Mendez, who was kidnapped and then abandoned in the community Naranjo, Huehuetenango.

The following day, December 8, Emilia Quan was found dead in the community of Cruz Canelish, between the municipalities of Chiantla and San Juan Ixcoy.

We join others in expressing our grave concern that these violence acts are related to the work of Emilia and CEDFOG, an organization that promotes human rights through social, cultural, political and economic research.

Along with national and international organizations, BTS demands that the Guatemalan State:
• Undertake a thorough investigation to find those intellectually responsible for the murder of Emilia and clarify the facts surrounding her murder
• Ensure an effective criminal investigation into the facts without hindering the investigation of all possible scenarios of what happened to help to clarify the facts.
• Ensure the safety of social and human rights organizations in Huehuetenango and all of Guatemala who work for development, security and justice.

We extend our most sincere and heartfelt condolences to the family of Emilia Margarita Quan Stackmaann. Her spirit and example will live on for those who continue to struggle for justice and a world where truth may be spoken freely.

Thank you, Emilia, for your gift of friendship, your example of justice and commitment to making this a better world. May you rest in peace. December 9, 2010

Wednesday, December 8, 2010





A Precedent-setting Lawsuit in Canada Against Nickel Mining Giant

Dear friends:

Please consider donating funds for this hugely important and (hopefully) precedent-setting lawsuit and struggle that Rights Action is involved with, to hold accountable a Canadian nickel company - HudBay Minerals - for the killing of Adolfo Ich, a Mayan-Qeqchi (kek-chi, phonetically) man in Guatemala.
* MORE INFORMATION about this struggle for justice and indigenous rights: Grahame Russell, co-director,

Thank-you for your trust and support.

Grahame Russell & Annie Bird, co-directors
* * * * * * *

Precedent-setting Lawsuit in Canada Against Nickel Mining Giant


On December 1, 2010, I participated in a press conference in Toronto, along with Murray Klippenstein, lead counsel for Klippensteins Barristers & Solicitors. There was a simultaneous press conference in Guatemala. Here, I summarize from the Klippensteins press release:

* * *

For immediate release: December 1, 2010

Toronto, Canada and Guatemala City, Guatemala.

Angelica Choc and her lawyers announced today a lawsuit against Canadian mining company HudBay Minerals Inc. relating to the killing of her husband, Adolfo Ich Chamán.

On September 27, 2009, Adolfo Ich, a respected Mayan Q'eqchi' (Kek-chi, phonetically) community leader and an outspoken critic of environmental and health harms and other human rights violations caused by mining activities in his community, was hacked and shot to death by security forces employed at HudBay Minerals' "Fenix" Mining Project in an unprovoked attack near the town of El Estor, Guatemala.

Adolfo's widow has brought a lawsuit in Ontario courts to seek accountability for his death. The lawsuit claims $2 million in general damages and $10 million in punitive damages and is brought against Canadian companies HudBay Minerals Inc. and HMI Nickel Inc., as well as their Guatemalan subsidiary, Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel ("CGN").

Adolfo's murder was brutal. Mining security forces recognized Adolfo as a community leader, surrounded him, beat him and hacked at him with machetes before shooting him in the head at close range.

"I believe my husband was killed because he spoke out about the rights violations caused by Canadian mining in Guatemala" said Adolfo Ich's widow, Angelica Choc. "I believe he was killed because he was encouraging communities to stay united against the harmful practices of the mining company."

Angelica Choc has brought the lawsuit in Canada because of the strong connections between the mining project and Canada. "The bullet that killed Adolfo was shot in Guatemala" said Murray Klippenstein, lawyer for Angelica Choc. "But the decisions that ultimately led to Adolfo's death were made in Canada. HudBay Minerals' head office is a mere five blocks away from the Canadian court where the case will be heard."

Because Guatemala suffers from very high rates of impunity, there is little chance that Angelica Choc could get justice in Guatemala. In 2005, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Execution stated that "Guatemala is a good place to commit a murder, because you will almost certainly get away with it." In 2009, CICIG (the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala) reported that "the impunity rate in Guatemala amounted to some 98 per cent, with only 2 out of every 100 cases actually going to court".

The claim represents assertions that have not yet been proven in court. All defendants will have the opportunity to respond in these proceedings. For more information, see

* * *

Please view background films that Rights Action has supported and/or worked on:

* El Estor eviction 10 minute film, by Steven Schnoor:
* CTV's W5 special "Lost Paradise":

Please read:

* Rights Action's December 2 release:

* Rights Action's December 6 release:

* "Formal Complaint", submitted by the University of Northern British Columbia and Rights Action to the Canadian government:


Since 2004, Rights Action has been funding and supporting a number of community development, human rights and environmental protection projects related to the harmful operations of international (mainly Canadian) mining companies in Guatemala and Honduras, and to a lesser extent in El Salvador and Chiapas.

These are struggles in favour of community controlled development, in favour of protecting the local environment and watershed regions, in favour of indigenous and human rights, while trying to stop, remedy and repair environmental and health harms and other human rights violations caused directly and indirectly by:

* HudBay Minerals' "Fenix" mine in Guatemala

* Goldcorp Inc's "Marlin" gold mine in Guatemala

* Goldcorp Inc's "San Martin" mine in Honduras

* Pacific Rim's planned gold mine in El Salvador; and

* Blackfire Exploration's barite mine in Chiapas

Most of our work is concentrated in the mining-harmed communities of Guatemala and Honduras.


Each of these mining related struggles is characterized by impunity. No legal justice has been done in Guatemala or Honduras for any of the harms and violations. This is not due to a lack of legislation in Guatemala or Honduras; it is due to the historically entrenched and well documented impunity that characterizes Guatemala and Honduras.

No legal justice has been done in Canada, home to Goldcorp and HudBay (as well as Pacific Rim and Blackfire). This is due, significantly, to a lack of applicable criminal and civil legislation, and to a lack of political will. In large part, Canadian companies operate mines in countries like Guatemala and Honduras with immunity from criminal or civil prosecution and accountability in Canada.


Klippensteins is one of a few Canadian law firms trying to break the wall of immunity from prosecution in Canada, seeking ways to file suits in Canada against mining companies for harms and violations that their operations cause in other countries. At this time, they are also involved in a (hopefully) precedent-setting case concerning harms and violations linked to a Canadian mining company in Ecuador.


This case is important for the family of Adolfo Ich. Because of Guatemala's historic impunity, there is virtually no chance the family will achieve justice or remedy in Guatemalan courts. Angelica Choc's family deserves justice and remedy for their terrible loss.

This case is important for other Mayan-Qeqchi communities in the El Estor region that have historically, and on-going today, suffered human rights violations (including gang rapes, killings and forced evictions) at the behest of, or in the interests of Canadian nickel companies, including INCO, Skye Resources and now HudBay Minerals.

The case is also important with respect to all international mining companies operating in Guatemala, Honduras and elsewhere. Over the past 10 years, there has been growing awareness in Canada and the USA about the serious harms and violations caused by North American companies operating mines in many countries. And there is growing awareness about the lack of legal remedy available in Canada for harms and violations caused by Canadian companies.

There are important debates in Canada, right now, about Bills C-300 and C-354 that would provide varying degrees of long overdue administrative and/or civil law remedies. Bill C-300 was recently defeated in Parliament, and Bill C-354 is working its way, at a snail's pace, through the parliamentary bill reading process.

Thus, today in Canada, there are neither criminal nor civil laws that can be used. But, there are civil remedies that Common Law offers. This is the route that Klippenstein's is using in this case.

Comunidades de Población en Resistencia / Urbana Guatemalteca

Photos and Stories of Guatemala's Women in Resistance...