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UA 379/93 - Guatemala: fear for safety: Francisco Solbal Santay, Tiburcio Hernandez Hernandez, Noel Jesus de Beteta Alvarez, three others, Jorge Guillermo Lemus, members of the Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo por el Aparecimiento con Vida de Nuestros Familiares (GAM

, Index number: AMR 34/076/1993

There is concern for the safety of all those listed above, following testimonies made by two imprisoned ex-soldiers, Francisco Solbal and Tiburcio Hernandez. At a news conference on 11 October at Guatemala City's Pavoncito prison, they declared that higher military officials had ordered them to carry out the killing of Michael Devine, an American citizen, in 1990, and approximately 50 others as part of their work in a military death squad. They subsequently withdrew their testimonies, apparently after threats from the army high command. Their lives and those of four others who made similar accusations, and common law prisoner Jorge Lemus, are believed to be in danger, particularly after the death in custody of Oliverio Angel Echeverria.

EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: AMR 34/76/93
Distr: UA/SC
UA 379/93 Fear for Safety 27 October 1993
GUATEMALA Francisco SOLBAL SANTAY )
Tiburcio HERNANDEZ HERNANDEZ ) imprisoned
Noel Jesús de BETETA ALVAREZ ) ex-soldiers
three others )
Jorge Guillermo LEMUS, common-law prisoner
members of the Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo por el Aparecimiento con Vida de
Nuestros Familiares (GAM), Mutual Support Group for the Appearance
of Our Relatives Alive
Amnesty International is concerned for the safety of all those listed above, following
testimonies made by two imprisoned ex-soldiers, Francisco Solbal Santay and Tiburcio
Hernández Hernández. The organization believes it is imperative that the physical
security of all be assured and that testimonies must be taken from those ex-soldiers
willing to give them.
In an extraordinary news conference held on 11 October 1993 at Guatemala City's
Pavoncito prison, ex-soldiers Francisco Solbal and Tiburcio Hernández, sentenced
to long prison terms for the murder of an American citizen Michael Devine in 1990,
declared that higher military officials had ordered them to carry out that killing
and approximately 50 others, as part of their work in a military death squad. In
their testimonies they described how persons considered "subversive" by the army
were tortured with electric shocks during interrogation by agents from G-2, military
intelligence, and then stabbed or strangled to death and their bodies disposed of
in clandestine cemeteries. The two prisoners have reportedly stated that they would
name those involved, including military officials up to the rank of general. They
subsequently withdrew their testimonies however, saying they had "lied", apparently
after threats from the army high command. The lives of four other prisoners, who
reportedly also made similar allegations but subsequently retracted them (some
reportedly were bribed), as well as common law prisoner Jorge Lemus who arranged
the press conference at which the two ex-soldiers presented their allegations, are
also believed to be in danger.
Fears for the life of one of these prisoners, Noel de Jesús Beteta Alvarez (a former
army sergeant who was convicted in 1993 for the 1990 killing of anthropologist Myrna
Mack Chang), increased after another prisoner, Oliverio Angel Echeverría, to whom
he had been close, was found hanged in his cell at the Zone 18 Preventiva Prison
where both Beteta and Echeverría were held. Prison authorities have said the death
was a suicide, but other prisoners claim that the night before Echeverría's body
was found, unknown people were in the prison purportedly carrying out an "inspection,"
and that the killing may have been intended as a warning to Beteta not to talk.
There is also concern for the safety of members of GAM who, on 26 October 1993,
following the testimonies of Francisco Solbal and Tiburcio Hernández, began to occupy
Congress demanding that steps be taken to set up a Truth Commission in which the
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two ex-soldiers would be key witnesses. GAM are also asking for guarantees for the
safety of the two men and Jorge Lemus.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
Convictions for human rights abuses are exceedingly rare in Guatemala, and this
is also the first time known to AI since 1975 that soldiers imprisoned for abuses
have threatened to implicate higher authorities in such acts. On that occasion,
two police agents imprisoned for the murder of a prominent Guatemalan threatened
to talk, but the government of the day ensured that they were subjected to the judicial
death penalty before they could do so.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express and airmail
letters either in Spanish, English or in your own language:
- urge that imprisoned ex-soldiers Francisco Solbal Santay and Tiburcio Hernández
Hernández (and others, like Noel de Jesús Beteta, who may also wish to testify
concerning human rights violations carried out by the military) are protected and
that their testimonies be taken in order to permit this virtually unique possibility
in Guatemala to identify perpetrators of human rights violations;
- also urge guarantees for the safety of three other prisoners who made similar
allegations but then withdrew them; for prisoner Jorge Lemus and for members of
the GAM who began to occupy Congress on 26 October 1993;
- press also for an inquiry into the circumstances of the death of Oliverio Angel
Echeverría, which should include in-depth interviews with prisoners at the Zone
18 Preventiva Prison;
- note that the actions suggested would be the only appropriate path for the government
to follow, particularly given President de León's promises upon taking office that
he would continue to work, as he had done as Human Rights Procurator, to ensure
protection of the human rights of all Guatemalans. Also that in relation to this
particular case, he has reportedly stated that he will not permit a cover-up, though
he has reportedly stated that it is the responsibility of the judiciary rather than
the executive to ensure that the allegations are properly investigated.
APPEALS TO
1) President of the Republic:
S.E. Ramiro de León Carpio
Presidente de la República de Guatemala
Palacio Nacional, Guatemala, GUATEMALA
Telegrams: Presidente de León Carpio, Guatemala, Guatemala
Faxes: + 502 2 537472, + 502 2 519702
Telexes: 5331 CAPRES GU
Salutation: Excelentísimo Sr. Presidente /Dear President
2) Minister of Interior:
Lic. Arnoldo Ortiz Moscoso
Ministro de Gobernación
Ministerio de Gobernación
Despacho Ministerial, Of. No. 8
Palacio Nacional, Guatemala, GUATEMALA
Telegrams: Ministro de Gobernación, Guatemala, Guatemala
Faxes: + 502 2 518105
Telexes: 5085 MINGOB
Salutation: Sr. Ministro / Dear Minister
3) Minister of Defence:
Gral. Mario Enríquez Morales
3
Ministro de Defensa
Ministerio de Defensa
Palacio Nacional, Guatemala, GUATEMALA
Telegrams: Ministro de Defensa, Guatemala, Guatemala
Fax: + 502 2 537472
Telexes: 5361 COMGUA GU
Salutation: Sr. Ministro / Dear Minister
COPIES OF YOUR APPEALS TO:
Human Rights Procurator:
Lic. Jorge García Laguardia
Procurador de los Derechos Humanos
12 Avenida 12-72, Zona 1,
Guatemala, GUATEMALA
Faxes: + 502 2 81734
Attorney General:
Lic. Telesforo Guerra Cahn
Procurador General de la Nación
Procuraduría General de la Nación
18 C 10-36, Zona 1
Guatemala, GUATEMALA
Archbishop's Human Rights Office
Oficina de Derechos Humanos del
Arzobispado de Guatemala (ODHAG)
Apartado Postal 723
Guatemala, Guatemala
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 7 December 1993.

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