EXTERNAL AI Index: AMR 34/23/97
UA 156/97 Fear for safety 29 May 1997
GUATEMALARelatives of victims of 1980s killings, involved in exhumation of
Relatives of victims and witnesses of killings perpetrated by the Guatemalan
army between 1980 and 1982 in the department of El Quiché have been the subject
of death threats and intimidation, allegedly by former members of civil defence
patrols and former military commissioners.
Exhumation of a clandestine cemetery in the grounds of the church of San Andrés
Sajcabaja, El Quiché department, began at the end of April 1997. Since then
at least two relatives of victims have suffered direct death threats and
intimidation. Others have received indirect threats.
At 3pm, on 25 April 1997, a few days after the exhumations began, the mother
of one of the indigenous people killed by the army in 1982, was walking at
the crossroad between San Andrés Sajcabajá and the village of Chukuxb. She
was approached by a former military commissioner. He asked her what she was
doing there and she replied that she had come to see the dead. The man then
began to threaten her, saying, “You are working with the guerrilla women. You
can be 20 and 30 women but I can kill you with a gun or machete. Just wait
until all the people who are with you have gone, then will see what we can
do: your life is mine, -Ustedes están trabajando con las mujeres guerrilleras,
aunque sean 20 o 30 mujeres las voy a matar con pistola o machete, te esperas
un poco a que se vaya toda la gente que te acompaña y después veremos que vamos
a hacer, tu vida es mía-.
The United Nation Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA) received a formal complaint
about the threats against the woman and the local Public Ministry was also
informed. The woman concerned is a member of the Coordinadora Nacional de
Viudas de Guatemala (CONAVIGUA), National Coordination of Guatemalan Widows,
a well-known national human rights organization.
On 15 May 1997, the same woman was told through other persons to go to the
house of the former military commissioner who had previously threatened her,
to talk with him. She refused to do so.
Also in May, another woman, whose husband had been killed by the army in the
1980s in San Andrés Sajcabaja, was indirectly threatened by one of the former
members of the Comités Voluntarios de Defensa Civil, (CVDCs), Voluntary Civil
Defence Committees. He told someone to pass the message to her that if she
continued with the exhumations and he was accused of being involved in the
killings, then sooner or later he would have revenge. The woman refused to
make a formal complaint for fear of reprisals.
Local people have told Amnesty International that unknown individuals visited
the site of the exhumations on several occasions in May.
Amnesty International is extremely concerned for the safety of witnesses to
the massacres and that of the victims’ relatives: exhumations have been
temporarily stopped and the women have been left alone, living at close quarters
with the people who allegedly threatened them.