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Guatemala: Fear for safety / Death threats: Nery Rodenas Paredes

, Index number: AMR 34/039/1999

On 29 November 1999, Nery Rodenas Paredes, director of the archbishop's Human Rights Office of Guatemala, received a telephone call telling him that he would die. Amnesty International is very concerned for his safety and the safety of all those involved with the 1998 Recuperation of the Historical Memory (REMHI), report, as well as all those involved in the investigation into the murder of Bishop Juan José Gerardi.

PUBLIC AI Index: AMR 34/39/99
UA 313/99 Fear for safety / Death threats 6 December 1999
GUATEMALANery Rodenas Paredes, director of the Archbishop’s Human Rights Office
of Guatemala.
On 29 November 1999, Nery Rodenas Paredes, director of the Oficina de Derechos
Humanos del Arzobispado de Guatemala (ODHAG), Archbishop’s Human Rights Office
of Guatemala, received a telephone call telling him that he would die. Amnesty
International is very concerned for his safety and the safety of all those
involved with the Guatemalan church’s 1998 Recuperation of the Historical Memory
(REMHI), report (see below) as well as all those involved in the investigation
into the murder of Bishop Juan José Gerardi, the former coordinator of ODHAG
(see below).
The death threat to Nery Rodenas Paredes came the same day a Guatemalan newspaper
published an interview with one of the people involved in the ODHAG investigation
into Bishop Gerardi’s murder. In the article, the interviewee accused officials
from the Estado Mayor Presidencial, office of the Presidential Chief of Staff,
of being involved.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
Bishop Gerardi, Auxiliary Bishop of Guatemala and Coordinator of the ODHAG,
was murdered in April 1998, two days after he had presided over the presentation
to the Guatemalan people of the church’s REMHI report into the atrocities carried
out over more than three decades of civil conflict in the country. This
comprehensive report concluded that the security forces were responsible for
the majority of the tens of thousands of human rights violations perpetrated
against non-combatants during the conflict. Bishop Gerardi had been a moving
force behind the project.
In April 1999, three gunmen forced their way into the house of Ronalth Ochaeta,
the then director of the ODHAG. After threatening a servant and holding a gun
to the head of Ochaeta’s four-year-old son, they departed, leaving behind a
box disguised as a bomb but which contained a piece of brick. This was an apparent
allusion to the cement block which was used to batter Bishop Gerardi to death
almost a year earlier (see UA 139/98, AMR 34/16/98, 1 May 1998 and follow up).
- on 7 October 1999, the prosecutor investigating the murder of Bishop Juan
José Gerardi, Celvin Galindo, resigned and fled to the United States to seek
political asylum after repeatedly being threatened with death;
- in March, after only a month, the second judge appointed to the case resigned
and fled to Canada after also being threatened with death;
- international pressure forces the first judge and prosecutor overseeing the
case to resign after complaints that they ignored evidence of military
involvement in the murder;
- in February, a key witness in the murder case, taxi driver Diego Méndez,
who reported seeing a military vehicle near Gerardi’s home at the time of the
murder, flees to Canada after being abducted and being threatened with death;
- in August, a former member of the presidential guard, Sergeant Jorge Aguilar,
fled to Canada two days after accusing colleagues of involvement in the murder.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/e-mails/faxes/express/ airmail
letters in Spanish or your own language:
- expressing concern for the safety of Nery Rodenas Paredes who received a
telephone death threat on 29 November 1999;
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- calling for an immediate and thorough investigation into the reported death
threats against him and for those responsible to be brought to justice;
- urging the authorities to take effective measures to ensure the safety of
all those involved in the investigation into the murder of Bishop Gerardi and
to bring to justice anyone found to have been involved in his murder, regardless
of their position;
- expressing concern for the safety of all those involved with the Guatemalan
church’s 1998 REMHI report and asking the authorities to ensure their safety;
- calling on the government to honour the commitments of the Peace Accords
and the same recommendation made by the Historical Clarification Commission
report, to dismantle the Estado Mayor Presidencial, office of the Presidential
Chief of Staff structures.
APPEALS TO:
President of the Republic of Guatemala
S.E. Álvaro Arzú Irigoyen, Presidente de la República de Guatemala
Palacio Nacional, 6ª Calle, entre 6ªy7ª Avenida, Zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala, GUATEMALA
Telegrams:Presidente, Palacio Nacional, Guatemala.
Faxes:+ 502 221 4425
E-mails: alvaroarzu@guate.net; alvaroarzu@guateconnect.com
Salutation: Excelentísimo Sr. Presidente / Dear President
Minister of Defence
Gral. Marco Tulio Espinosa Contreras, Ministro de Defensa Nacional
Ministerio de Defensa, Avenida Reforma 2-43, Zona 10
Ciudad de Guatemala , GUATEMALA
Telegrams:Ministro de Defensa, Guatemala, Guatemala.
Faxes:+ 502 360 9909
Salutation: Señor Ministro / Dear Minister
Attorney General
Lic. Adolfo González Rodas, Fiscal General de la República
Ministerio Público, 6ª Avenida 3-11, Zona 4
Ciudad de Guatemala , GUATEMALA
Telegrams:Fiscal General, Guatemala, Guatemala.
Faxes:+ 502 362 7223
Salutation:Señor Fiscal General/ Dear Attorney General
COPIES TO:
Human Rights Office of the Archbishopric of Guatemala
Oficina de Derechos Humanos del Arzobispado de Guatemala(ODHAG)
6a Calle 7-70, Zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala, GUATEMALA
Faxes: + 502 232 8384; E-mails: ddhh@odhag.org.gt
Daily Newspaper
Diario Prensa Libre, 13 Calle 9-31, Zona l
Ciudad de Guatemala, GUATEMALA
Faxes: + 502 251 8768; E-mails: medioselectronicos@prensalibre.com.gt
Newspaper
CERIGUA, 2a calle 1-42, Zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala. Guatemala
Tel/Faxes: + 502 238 1456/ 221 2521
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e-mails: cerigua@guate.net
and to diplomatic representatives of Guatemala accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 17 January 2000.

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