Pedro García Arredondo
Pedro García Arredondo becomes chief of the 6th commandment of the national police under the military government of Fernándo Romeo Lucas García. During this period, García Arredondo allegedly ordered various murders and enforced disappearances, especially directed against students, political opponents and unionists opposed to the regime of Lucas García. García Arredondo was allegedly linked to the clandestine group “los Chuchos”, involved in ethnic cleansing operations, extortion and abductions in the departments of Sout-East of Guatemala.
In October 1978, he allegedly participated in the murder of the secretary general of the College Students Association (AEU), Oliverio Castañeda de León.
In 1979, he allegedly planned the murder of the ex-mayor of Guatemala City, Manuel Colom Argueta, who was a political opponent,
On 31 January 1980, he allegedly participated in the burning of the Spanish embassy in Guatemala, in which 37 people died, of which 21 were indigenous unionists. Two days later, he allegedly participated in the murder of two students during a mass funeral organized to honor the victims of the burning.
The same year, he allegedly abducted, tortured and raped a 15 years old girl, Yolanda Aguilar Urízar, with the help of 15 other officers of the 6th commandment. He is allegedly responsible for the disappearance of 28 leaders of the National Center of Workers (CNT) in 1980.
In 1981, he allegedly ordered the enforced disappearance of six members of the Portillo family.
On 5 July 1981, he was allegedly involved in the murder of eight persons when the group of victims accidentally crossed the route of a caravan transporting the remains of the wife and daughter of the former chief of the 6th commandment, Manuel de Jesus Valiente Tellez, a rival of García Arredondo. The latter allegedly planned an ambush against the caravan. Eight persons were killed in the incident.
García Arredondo resigned in 1982, during the coup of general Efrain Rios Montt.
On 30 September 1999, Julio Alejandro Valdez filed a complaint against García Arredondo for the murder of Hector Manuel Valdez, Carlos Valdez and Oscar Valdez, his father and uncles, in the attack on the caravan on 5 July 1981.
In December 1999, the Rigoberta Menchú Foundation, as well as several families of victims of repression, filed a complaint against García Arredondo before the Spanish National Court, the highest judicial body of Spain, for torture and genocide.
PROCEEDINGS IN SPAIN
In December 1999, the Rigoberta Menchú Foundation, as well as several families of victims of repression, filed a complaint against García Arredondo before the Spanish National Court, the highest judicial body of Spain, for torture and genocide. The complaint is also directed against seven other Guatemalan high-ranking officials: Colonel German Chupina Barahona (director of the National Police), former President Romeo Lucas Garcia, former Minister of Interior Donaldo Alvarez Ruiz, former Minister of Defense Anibal Guevara Rodriguez and former armed forces chief General Benedicto Lucas Garcia.
The complaint was about the attack of the Spanish embassy, the official policy of “minimization of the Mayan ethnicity”, the enforced disappearance and murder of numerous leaders of social movements, trade unionists and political opponents committed between 1980 and 1981.
The applicants explained that their decision to file the complaint before a Spanish court under the principle of universal jurisdiction was due to the impossibility of obtaining justice in Guatemala because of the threats and aggressions against witnesses, judges and lawyers, and to the lack of political will of the Guatemalan judicial system for the last 30 years.
On 13 December 2000, the Spanish National Court ruled that Spain was not competent to hear the case and that the Guatemalan authorities had priority in judging it.
On 5 October 2005, the Spanish Constitutional Court decided that Spanish tribunals could judge international crimes, regardless of the nationality of their authors and victims and of the place where they have been committed, by virtue of the principle of universal jurisdiction. The accused could therefore be prosecuted for genocide in Spain. Because of the lack of cooperation of the Guatemalan justice to permit the extradition or, at least, the interrogation of the eight accused, the Spanish judge issued an international arrest warrant against them on 7 July 2006. Garcia Arredondo was arrested in November 2006.
On 14 December 2007, a Guatemalan court ruled against the extradition of García Arredondo and the other accused, due to a lack of competence of Spanish courts. García Arredondo was released from prison.
PROCEEDINGS IN GUATEMALA
Garcia Arredondo is again captured on 24 July 2011 by the civil national police.
Proceedings for the enforced disappearances and murders
On 30 September 1999, Julio Alejandro Valdez filed a complaint against García Arredondo for the murder of Hector Manuel Valdez, Carlos Valdez and Oscar Valdez, his father and uncles, in the attack on the caravan on 5 July 1981. Julio Alejandro Valdez explained he waited 18 years to file a complaint because he and his family were threatened by the former chief of the police.
On 25 July 2011, García Arredondo is formally charged with the enforced disappearance of the college student Edgar Sáenz Calito. On 24 February 2012, additional charges of murder are added, for the murder of two other students, Jesús España and Adolfo Hernández, during a mass funeral organized to honor the victims of the burning of the Spanish embassy. The presentation of the evidence of the prosecutor, planned to start on 26 March 2012, had to be suspended due to the defection of García Arredondo’s lawyer, who refused to defend him anymore.
On 21 August 2012, the Guatemala’s First Court A of High Risk sentenced García Arredondo to 70 years in prison for enforced disappearance and crimes against humanity and found him guilty of the disappearance of Édgar Enrique Sáenz Calito in 1981.
On 19 January 2015, a Guatemalan tribunal found Garcia Arredondo guilty of the murder of two students during a mass funeral organized to honor the victims of the burning of the Spanish embassy. On 22 January 2015, the tribunal sentenced him to fifty years in prison.
2. Proceedings for the attack on the Spanish embassy
On 29 November 2011, a Guatemalan criminal tribunal confirmed that García Arredondo and his accomplices had to stand trial for the attack on the Spanish in 1980. On 3 January 2012, the representative of the prosecutor arrived late the hearing, which prevented him from adding charges of attempted murder of the Spanish ambassador, Máximo Cajal Díaz, and of the Guatemalian Gregorio Xuyá, in the burning of the Spanish embassy.
On 1 March 2012, García Arredondo is formally accused of participation in the attack of the embassy by the prosecutor.
On 19 January 2015, a Guatemalan tribunal found Garcia Arredondo guilty of murder, attempter murder and crimes against humanity.
The judges confirmed that he was responsible of the violent assault against the Spanish embassy and that he let the protesters and hostages burn to death while preventing emergency intervention. The court also found Garcia Arredondo guilty of the attempted murder of Maximo Cajal and Gregorio Xuya, the only survivors of the fire.
During the trial, Garcia Arredondo claimed he was innocent and said that the prosecutor had not made sufficient case for his culpability. He asserted that no witness demonstrated that he was responsible for giving orders that led to the deaths.
On 22 January 2015, the tribunal sentenced him to forty years in prison.
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.