In a step forwards for Guatemala‘s judiciary, the Supreme Court has begun the trial of four retired military officers accused of taking part in one of the most brutal atrocities committed during the 36-year civil war.
The four men accused of murder and crimes against humanity, Carlos Antonio Carias, Manuel Pop, Daniel Martinez and Reyes Collin, allegedly joined a special unit called the Kaibiles in 1982 and took part in in a massacre in the northern town of Dos Erres, which claimed the lives of as many as 252 villagers, and saw the torture and rape of women and children.
Over 200,000 people died in Guatemala’s civil war, which lasted from 1960 until 1996. The army has been found responsible for the majority of the deaths.
“The trial is a light in the fight against impunity in Guatemala, because this slaughter is one of the bloodiest atrocities committed by the military during the war,” Aura Elena Farfan, director of the Association for Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared, told the AFP.
Guatemala’s judicial system is struggling against widespread impunity. Despite some recent successes, the UN organization charged with investigating corruption, the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Comision Internacional contra la Impunidad en Guatemala – CICIG), has faced major setbacks, such as the failure to secure the conviction of former president Alfonso Portillo, accused of embezzling millions of dollars.
The trial comes just weeks after the U.S. deported Pedro Pimentel Rios, another suspect in the Dos Erres massacre, after rejecting his asylum bid. The U.S. has cooperated with Guatemala in the apprehension of three other suspects, Gilberto Jordan, Santos Lopez Alonzo and Jorge Sosa, who was arrested in Canada, according to the Associated Press.