EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: AMR 34/44/94
UA 396/94 Possible extrajudicial execution / Fear for safety8 November 1994
GUATEMALA Manuel López, aged 30, returned refugee
Other returned refugees
Concern for the safety of returned refugees in Guatemala has been heightened
by the killing of Manuel López, himself recently returned from exile in Mexico.
Manuel López was found dead near the temporary settlement of "Centro Veracruz"
of the Ixcán Grande Cooperative, Department of El Quiché, on 27 October 1994.
Reports state that his hands were tied and that his body showed signs of
ill-treatment. On 28 October the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR) and other agencies brought his body to the city of Cobán, Department
of Alta Verapaz, for an official autopsy.
Manuel López had previously lived in the refugee camp of Quetzal Edzna, in
the state of Campeche, Mexico. He had returned to Guatemala on 13 May 1994
and had resettled in the "Centro Veracruz".
Since refugees began returning to Guatemala there have been many reports of
threats, attacks and other acts of intimidation against them, apparently by
members of the army and civilian militias, raising concern that the killing
of Manuel Lopez may have been an extrajudicial execution.
Tens of thousands of Guatemalans, many of them indigenous peasants, fled
Guatemala in the late 1970s and early 1980s, escaping the Guatemalan army's
scorched earth counter-insurgency campaign which claimed many thousands of
non-combatant victims. Up to a million others were reportedly displaced inside
In October 1992, refugee representatives and the Guatemalan government agreed
on a plan for the return of refugees living in UNHCR camps in Mexico. Following
on from that accord, and as part of the current peace negotiations, government,
guerrilla and UN representatives signed the Acuerdo para el Reasentamiento
de las Poblaciones Desarraigadas por el Enfrentamiento Armado, Accord for the
Resettlement of People Displaced by the Armed Conflict, on 17 June 1994.
According to refugees' representatives, 6,000 refugees have returned to
Guatemala since January 1993 and another 1,300 are planning to return before
the end of 1994. Since the return began, there have been numerous reports
of threats, attacks and other acts of harassment against the returnee
communities, reportedly by members of the army and the so called "Peace and
Development Committees", the new name which has been given to the Patrullas
de Autodefensa Civil (PACs), Civil Defence Patrols. These were civilian militias
formed under military behest and operating under military command.
In August 1994, some 300 refugees returning from Mexico, and due to resettle
in the community of "Los Cimientos", Department of El Quiché, were subjected
to death threats by members of the local PACs.
Since the first return in January 1993, there have been reports of tense
confrontations between communities of returned refugees and the army in the