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  HOME | Central America

OAS Court Cites Guatemala for 1981 “Disappearance” of Activist

SAN JOSE – The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, or IACHR, condemned the Guatemalan government for the 1981 forced disappearance of an indigenous political leader by agents of the state, and ordered it to compensate the victim’s family.

The court, a body of the Organization of American States, also urged Guatemala to carry out an in-depth investigation of what happened and to punish those found responsible.

In the May 25 ruling, published Friday on the court’s Web site, the judges found that “the government is responsible for disappearing Florencio Chitay Nech.”

Chitay was arrested on April 1, 1981 in Guatemala City by armed men who forced him into a vehicle while pointing a gun at one of his children, the resolution said.

The incident was one of the acts of repression against the Maya Indians of the 1978-1982 dictatorship of Romeo Lucas Garcia.

Despite the efforts of Chitay’s family, the whereabouts of his remains is still unknown 29 years later.

The judges also faulted Guatemala for never having investigated the crime.

During February’s hearing before the Costa Rica-based court, the Guatemalan government made a partial admission of its responsibility in the case, while defending its efforts to bring justice to the victim’s family.

Nonetheless, the court said in its sentence that “the government has not carried out an effective investigation that guarantees the right of the family of Florencio Chitay to know the truth,” as well as incurring in “undue delays” and “violations of due process.”

Besides the investigation to “identify, judge and sanction the material and intellectual perpetrators” of the crime of disappearing Chitay, the Guatemalan government must “carry out the search, identification and delivery of the mortal remains” of the Indian leader so that his family can bury them according to Mayan customs.

Finally, the judges sentenced the Guatemalan government to pay close to $165,000 to the Chitay family as compensation for the loss of a family member, who was, at the time of his disappearance, mayor of the community of San Martin Jilotepeque. EFE
 

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