Guatemala peasant massacre suspect arrested in US

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents on May 5 arrested a South Florida man accused of involvement in Guatemala's December 1982 massacre that left more than 250 dead. Authorities claim that Gilberto Jordan illegally concealed his past military service and involvement in the killings on his US immigration forms. Jordan is accused of being one of 20 Guatemalan special forces soldiers known as "Kaibiles" who killed men, women, and children in the village Dos Erres (Petéñ department) during Guatemala's civil war.

ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton said, "Those who commit human rights abuses abroad cannot subvert US immigration laws in order to take shelter in the United States. We are firmly committed to denying human rights abusers entrance into this country, weeding out those that are already here, and will enforce this US government policy of no safe haven for human rights violators." If convicted of naturalization fraud, Jordan could face up to 10 years in prison and revocation of his US citizenship.

In 2005, Guatemala formally apologized for a separate massacre that occurred during the country's civil war in July 1982, taking the lives of 226. Vice President Eduardo Stein made the acknowledgment in a small town north of Guatemala City, expressing remorse for the army's action that "wipe[d] out an entire community." The apology came in response to an order from the Inter-American Human Rights Court requiring an apology and payments to survivors totaling almost $8 million.

Earlier that year, Guatemala's Constitutional Court ordered charges dropped against soldiers accused of participating in a 1982 massacre of more than 300 civilians, citing the country's National Reconciliation Law. The law is a type of amnesty the Guatemalan Congress approved in November 1996, a few weeks before the government and ex-guerrillas signed peace accords ending the country's 36-year civil war. It forbids amnesty for those implicated in cases of forced disappearance, torture or genocide, but fails to address extra-judicial executions that took the lives of countless Guatemalans.

From Jurist, May 6. Used with permission.

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Landmark victory in Guatemalan rights case

On Aug. 31, 2009 a tribunal in Chimaltenango, Guatemala, sentenced former military commissioner Felipe Cusanero Coj to 150 years in prison. Cusanero's conviction for kidnapping and murdering six citizens in the early 1980s, keeping their whereabouts and fate concealed, marks the first time in Guatemalan history that a court has found a member of the military guilty of a crime against humanity. It is also the first time a Guatemalan court has acknowledged the state's specific use of forced disappearance, which claimed the lives of some 45,000 during the country's 36-year internal armed conflict (1960-96), according to the report published by the United Nations-sponsored Truth Clarification Commission (CEH) in 1999.

The effort to bring Cusanero to justice began in 2003, when, after almost two decades of silence, a group of surviving family members from the highland community of Choatalúm publicly denounced Cusanero and took him to court. (NACLA News, April 1)

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