EXTERNAL AI Index: AMR 34/20/97
UA 143/97 Fear for safety 15 May 1997
GUATEMALAAlberto Godínez, former member of the Guatemala National Revolutionary
Unity (URNG, Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca)
and local leader of the Committee of Peasant Unity (CUC,
Comité de Unidad Campesina)
At 1am on 11 May 1997 six former members of the now disbanded Voluntary Civil
Defence Committees (CVDC, Comités Voluntarios de Defensa Civil) forced Alberto
Godínez out of his home in the hamlet of El Chorro near Colotenango, department
of Huehuetenango. Three blocks from his home they hit him with an axe and beat
him with sticks. He managed to avoid the first blow from the axe, but the
second landed on his hand.
Alberto Godínez’ son, Rudy García, ran after the men, as did various neighbours
who managed to catch hold of three of them. Rudy García and at least one of
his neighbours were injured in the process. Alberto Godínez was taken to the
General Hospital in Huehuetenango to undergo an emergency operation to repair
damage to tendons in his left hand.
Following the attack, the six men fled towards the village of Xemal where three
of them were arrested by the police. The other three are still at large. Amnesty
International remains seriously concerned for the safety of Alberto Godínez.
The day before the attack, he had been threatened with death at a party.
The CVDCs, some 300,000 armed men under the control of the army, were set up
in the 1980s, and together with the military commissioners, were responsible
for innumerable human rights violations. The disbanding of the CVDCs began
in August 1996 and was expected to have been completed by the end of that year.
In September 1996, under Decree Law 390-96, President Álvaro Arzú awarded medals
to a number of CVDCs, including some in Huehuetenango, for “having distinguished
themselves in an exceptional way, since in one way or another they have offered
their valuable, timely and selfless collaboration with the armed forces, showing
with their bravery their unconditional support, high degree of friendship and
loyalty for the Fatherland ...” (“haberse distinguido de manera excepcional,
puesto que de una u otra forma han brindado su valiosa, oportuna y desinteresada
colaboración a la Institucion Armada, demostrando con sus actos de valor su
apoyo incondicional, alto grado de amistad y lealtad por la Patria ...”).
In a demobilization ceremony in October 1996 in Fray Bartolomé de las Casas,
department of Alta Verapaz, the commander of Military Zone 21 stated that “the
high command, in particular our commander-in-chief, Álvaro Arzú Irigoyen, would
like to thank you for your participation in the struggle to defend national
sovereignty and in this case the physical integrity of the population”. In
response to this speech, the CVDC commander stated that “if circumstances so
require, we will always be ready to serve the army again” Human Rights
Procurator, Jorge García Laguardia, stated that the demobilization had “turned
into a string of tributes” and represented “a reward for violence”.
However positive the disbanding of the military commissioners and
the Voluntary Civil Defence Committees is - to the extent that
it eliminates from State structures the army auxiliary bodies