Rights activist says 2 former Guatemalan soldiers arrested in 1982 civil war massacre

By Juan Carlos Llorca, AP
Friday, February 12, 2010

2 ex-soldiers arrested in Guatemalan 1982 massacre

GUATEMALA CITY — Two former Guatemalan soldiers have been arrested in the 1982 massacre of more than 200 villagers during the country’s civil war, a human rights activist said Friday.

Aura Farfan of the Association of Missing Relatives of Guatemala said two former sergeants who belonged to a military squad specializing in counterinsurgency were arrested Tuesday.

She identified them as Manuel Pop Sun and Reyes Collin Gualip. They are the first to be arrested in the killings of more than 200 civilians, including dozens of children, in the village of Dos Erres in the country’s northern Peten region.

Farfan’s organization, which legally represents relatives of people who went missing during the conflict, said the former sergeants were among 17 soldiers in the army’s elite Kaibil unit blamed for the bloodshed.

“They were killing machines, trained for killing,” Farfan said.

National police spokesman Donald Gonzalez did not return call seeking comment.

Farfan said Pop Sun was arrested in Peten and Collin Gualip in a town near Guatemala City.

Warrants for their arrests were issued in 1999 but their lawyers had presented more than 40 legal filings to prevent their detention, Farfan said.

The military accused the villagers of being guerrilla sympathizers after they refused to join paramilitary groups to fight the rebels, according to a report by a U.N.-led truth commission established after the war.

Last year, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights condemned Guatemala for failing to seek justice in the massacre. The court, the legal arm of the Organization of American States, ruled Guatemala’s government failed to adequately investigate the Dos Erres massacre, punish the soldiers responsible or fully identify the victims.

Farfan said she hopes the two former soldiers will reveal the names of those who ordered the killings.

“We want to get to the top of the chain of command,” Farfan said.

The massacre was one of hundreds that occurred during Guatemala’s 36-year civil war, which ended in 1996. Some 240,000 people, mostly Mayan Indians, vanished or died.

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