Pedro Pimentel Ríos

27.04.2016 ( Last modified: 14.06.2016 )
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Pedro Pimentel Rios was born in 1958 in Guatemala. In 1982, he served as subinstructor at a Guatemalan training school for an elite military force known as the “kaibiles” in Poptun, Petén. In 1990, Pimentel Rios entered the United States illegally; there he served as a maintenance worker in a sweater factory in Santa Ana, California, until May 2010 when he was detained by U.S. immigration authorities.

Between 1962 and 1996 Guatemala experienced internal armed conflict causing 250’000 victims (deaths and disappearances), which came to an end with the signing of a peace agreement on 29 December 1996.

In March 1982 José Efraín Ríos Montt rose to power following a coup. His policy of burning land led to intense repression, characterized by the massacre of the indigenous population, and the destruction of 440 indigenous communities and villages. Hundreds of thousands of victims were buried in mass graves.

Between the 6 and 8 December 1982, a military operation was launched against civilians from “Las Dos Erres” subdivision in Petén, which had been marked out as a ‘red zone’ (supporters of the guerrilla movement).

Pimentel Ríos participated in the patrol’s assault group in the massacre of Dos Erres. Members of the patrol ousted inhabitants of Dos Erres using violence and mistreatment. The soldiers raided the village on the pretext of seeking 21 rifles that the guerrillas had stolen from the army. They herded men and pensioners into the school, and gathered the women and young children there as well. They raped the women, including young girls, and pregnant and old women. Later, they interrogated and tortured the men. At approximately 1pm on 7 December 1982, members of the patrol began to kill the Dos Erres civilians, and then placed their bodies in a well. According to the testimony of two former kaibiles, before carrying out the massacre, Pedro Pimentel Rios gave them a demonstration of how to kill someone, killing a woman from the community.

It is estimated that around 200 people died during this massacre. The slaughter is considered to be one of the most brutal examples of its kind in Guatemala during this decade.

The Guatemalan commission of historical clarification was created in 1994 to investigate into the violations of human rights, and the violent acts linked to the armed conflict.

The acts were denounced before the Petén courts on June 14 1994, by the Guatemala Association of Families of Detainees and Missing Persons (FAMDEGUA).


legal procedure

The acts were denounced before the Petén courts on June 14 1994, by the Guatemala Association of Families of Detainees and Missing Persons (FAMDEGUA).

Between 1999 and 2000, orders were issued for the arrest of 17 members of the military accused of participating in the Dos Erres massacre – the defence succeeded in preventing their execution through the law on national reconciliation which granted amnesty to those responsible for crimes that took place during the armed conflict.


On 24 November 2009 the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (Corte lDH) condemned Guatemala in the context of the massacre of Dos Erres for violation of judicial guarantees, violation of the right to judicial protection, and violation of personal integrity of survivor families and victims of the massacre.

The court issued an order to the state, calling for an investigation into the facts of the massacre, and the judgment and sanctioning of those responsible. In addition, the court ruled that the state would no longer be able to apply laws of amnesty or other legislation of exclusion of liability, and called for a reform of protection laws.


In December 2009, implementing Corte IDH’s resolution, the Supreme Court of Justice ordered to pursue proceedings. In July 2011, Pedro Pimentel was extradited back to Guatemala by the United States, where he lived for two decades. On 23 February 2011, the Dos Erres massacre trial began against Pimentel in Guatemala’s First Court B of High Risk.

During the trial, two ex-members of the Kaibil and protected witnesses gave information concerning operational planning as well as confirming the participation Pimentel Ríos in the massacre. Favio Pinzon Jerez and Cesar Franco recognized the former sub instructor, and stated that he even gave a demonstration of how to kill a person.

On 12 March 2012, the Guatemala’s First Court B of High Risk, sentenced Pedro Pimentel Rios to a total of 6,060 years in prison for crimes against humanity, and the assassination of 201 individuals in Dos Erres. He was sentenced to 30 years of prison for each murdered person, bringing the total number of years to 6030, with an additional 30 for crimes against humanity.

They will however only serve the maximum sentence of 50 years each for assassination, as indicated in the Guatemalan Criminal Code. Pimentel appealed his sentence before the First Board of Appeal. He said the trial was affected by several vices, He claims the acquittal or the initiation of a new trial.



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.


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).


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.


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