Sun, Dec 01, 2019 - Page 5 News List

Guatemala indicts another officer for genocide


Photographs of people who were forcibly disappeared during Guatemala’s civil war hang outside the Guatemalan Supreme Court of Justice in Guatemala City on Monday.

Photo: AFP

Guatemala’s human rights prosecutor on Friday indicted another former top military official for genocide and crimes against humanity committed during the bloodiest phase of the Central American country’s 36-year civil war.

Luis Enrique Mendoza Garcia, a military operations chief under former Guatemalan president Efrain Rios Montt, is to be tried in March next year for his role in an operation in the early 1980s that killed at least 1,771 Maya Ixil and displaced thousands.

Judge Jimmy Bremer on Friday formally received the charges the prosecutors presented against the 76-year-old in a court in Guatemala City.

Mendoza Garcia is the fourth top military official facing justice in less than a week after Benedicto Lucas Garcia, Manuel Callejas and Cesar Noguera were indicted in a separate case of genocide against the same community.

“I was not the one who ruled,” Mendoza Garcia said in a declaration given by video conference.

Mendoza Garcia added that he had no means to plan or carry out such an operation.

Reporters were unable to contact the accused, all of whom have denied the allegations.

Mendoza Garcia was captured six months ago after having been on the run since 2011.

Guatemala’s human rights prosecutor said that there were more victims and witnesses who could testify against him than in other processes.

Former military intelligence chief Jose Mauricio Rodriguez was last year acquitted of charges of genocide and crimes against humanity after the court said that it had insufficient evidence.

During the country’s civil war from 1960 to 1996, an estimated 200,000 civilians, mostly Mayan, were killed and another 45,000 went missing.

Rios Montt, who ruled during the war’s bloodiest phase, between 1982 and 1983, died in April last year, when he was facing renewed charges after his conviction for genocide and crimes against humanity was overturned.

Lucas Garcia is the brother of former Guatemalan president Romeo Lucas Garcia. Guatemala’s human rights prosecutor accuses him of having planned one of the operations in the Maya Ixil region about 225km northwest of the capital.

Separately on Friday, Guatemalan president-elect Alejandro Giammattei regretted the decision of a Swiss court to uphold a 15-year prison sentence for Swiss-Guatemalan Erwin Sperisen for his role in a 2006 prison operation.

Giammattei also faced accusations of human rights breaches for the same incident, during which seven prisoners, but no government officials, died; he was later exonerated for lack of evidence.

“An act of injustice,” Giammattei said. “I would have liked to testify in the case.”

Sperisen’s defense team did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but told local media said that they would take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

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