Jose Mardoqueo Ortiz Morales

29.08.2017
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Facts

José Mardoqueo Ortiz Morales was born on 26 April 1962 in Guatemala.

In 1980, Morales joined the Special Counterinsurgency Force of the Guatemalan Army, also known as the “Kaibiles”. The group was tasked with conducting military actions against members of the Fuerzas Armadas Rebeldes (FAR), a left-wing rebel group active in Guatemala since the 1960s.

On 4 December 1982, Morales was deployed together with sixteen other members of the Kabiles to the airbase of Santa Elena, Petén, in order to conduct an operation against suspected rebels in the village of Las Dos Erres.

On the night between 6 and 7 December, the Kaibiles entered Las Dos Erres and began removing residents from their homes. During that night, 251 villagers were subjected to extreme violence, including of sexual nature, and killed. The bodies of more than 160 victims were found crammed inside a well.

In August 1988, Morales illegally entered the US and established himself in Maryland where he resided and legally worked for many years. He applied for and was granted Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) in 1990.

On July 13, 2006, Morales sought US citizenship by submitting a naturalization application to the US Citizenship and Naturalization Services (CIS). On application and during a CIS official interview, Morales falsely claimed under oath that he was not a part of any group reportable to CIS, when, in fact, he was a member of the Kaibiles and sought to conceal his involvement with that military unit.

Legal Procedure

On June 14, 1994, the Guatemala-based NGO ‘Asociación de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos de Guatemala’ (FAMDEGUA) filed a criminal complaint before the Criminal Court of First Instance of Petén, for the crime of murder to the detriment of the persons buried in Las Dos Erres.

On April 4, 2000, the Criminal Court of First Instance of Petén ordered Morales’ arrest and, on 6 April 2000, issued an arrest warrant against Morales and other 16 individuals on charges of murder allegedly committed in Las Dos Erres between 6 and 8 December 1982.

On 7 March 2002, as Morales and other suspects could not be found, the judge of the Criminal Court of First Instance of Petén reiterated the arrest warrants on the request of Guatemalan Special Prosecutor for the Las Dos Erres incidents.

On 6 January 2017, Morales was arrested by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. He was charged with immigration fraud on the basis of having failed to disclose his membership in the Kaibiles, and declared deportable for having assisted or otherwise participated in extrajudicial killings during the Dos Erres massacre.

On 25 May 2017, Morales pleaded guilty to attempted unlawful procurement of naturalisation charges as part of a plea agreement with the US authorities. He did not admit to any specific acts in the village but did admit his knowledge of the wrongfulness of the actions carried out by the Kaibiles at Los Dos Erres.

The sentence hearing is scheduled on 8 September 2017.

Highlight

Morales was the fifth participant in the Dos Erres massacre living in the United States to be arrested by US Customs authorities.

One of those men, Pedro Pimental Rios, was deported to Guatemala, convicted there for his role in the massacre and sentenced to 6,060 years in prison. The other three are either serving time in the United States or had been deported, to Guatemala.

Context

THE CIVIL WAR (1960-1996)

Between 1960 and 1996, Guatemala was embroiled in a civil war that resulted in 250 000 victims (deaths and disappearances). The war ended following a peace signing on 29 December 1996.

The civil war, which would last for 36 years, began in 1960 when young defiant officials and countrymen revolted against the dictatorial regime. Until 1982, there were a series of military or pro military governments.

In 1978, General Fernándo Romeo Lucas García became the president of Guatemala. It was during his presidency that the first large-scale massacre against the Mayan population took place.

In 1982, General Efraín Ríos Montt took control following a coup d’état. He set up Civil Defense Patrols (PAC) made up of 900 000 militia who the army had recruited by force to fight against the guerrilla. He intensified the scorched earth policy, tortures and enforced disappearances. More than 45 000 people fled to Mexico where they stayed in refugee camps in Chiapas and Tabasco. In response, 6000 soldiers from the four main guerrilla groups (EGP, ORPA, FAR and PGT) unified to form the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG). From this point onwards, the conflict truly became a civil war.

Ríos Montt’s brief presidency (from 1982 to 1983) is considered to be the most violent period of the conflict. During this period, 440 Mayan villages were completely destroyed and 200 000 Mayan people were killed in attacks of extreme cruelty (such as; amputation, impalement and torture). Although the (left-wing) guerrilla forces and the (right-wing) death squads had committed summary executions, forced disappearances and had tortured civilians, the majority of human rights violations (93%) were committed by the Guatemalan army and by the PACs that it controlled.

In 1986, free elections were at last organised and were won by Vinicio Cerezo Arévalo of the Christian Democratic Party. It was not until 1996, however, that a peace agreement was signed between the government and the guerrilla, putting an end to a conflict that had lasted for 36 years.

THE COMMISSION FOR HISTORICAL CLARIFICATION (CEH)

In June 1994, the Oslo Accords ordered the creation of a truth commission called the Guatemalan “Commission for Historical Clarification”; its aim was to investigate human rights violations in relation to the armed conflict and to prepare a report covering these violations and their causes. The Commission also aimed to establish specific recommendations to “encourage national peace and harmony in Guatemala”. After having listened to thousands of accounts and having unearthed several clandestine burial sites, the Commission published a final report in February 1999, titled “Silent memories”.

In its report, the CEH accounted for 200 000 deaths, 50 000 disappearances, one million internally displaced refugees and more than 600 devastated communities. The majority of crimes (91%) were committed during the regimes of General Romes Lucas García (1978-1982) and General Efraín Ríos Montt (1982-1983).

The facts established by this report have been used on a number of occasions during the trials of perpetrators of human rights violations, particularly that of Felipe Cusanero Coj. A former paramilitary officer, he was the first person to be tried for the forced disappearances of civilians during the civil war.

The CEH was supported by another report, “Never again”, published on 24 April 1998 as part of the inter-diocese Recovery of Historical Memory project (REMHI).

THE INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION AGAINST IMPUNITY IN GUATEMALA (CICIG).

On 12 December 2006, an agreement signed between the United Nations and the Guatemalan government established the CICIG. It is an independent body that aims to assist the Guatemalan office of the prosecutor, the national police and other institutions involved in the investigation of sensitive cases, as well as working to dismantle illegal security groups. The CICIG has the right to initiate investigations proprio motu.

The CICIG’s investigations have led to the issuance of 18 arrest warrants, notably for Javier Figueroa and Erwin Sperisen.