The Military Diary Case Goes to Trial in Guatemala
In a groundbreaking step forward for the case, on May 27, 2021 twelve former military and police officers involved were arrested. A year later, On May 6, 2022, Judge Miguel Angel Galvez ordered the opening of the trial for the first nine (4) accused. He determined that given the testimonies of survivors and relatives of the victims, the military documents, declassified documents from the US government, and other evidence (5), there are sufficient grounds to assume their responsibility in the events.
The accused will face charges for illegal detention, torture, forced disappearance, murder, extra-judicial execution, sexual violence, and crimes against humanity of at least 195 people between 1983 and 1985. Additionally, the accused (6) have many links to right-wing organizations, private security companies, and corrupt actors, showing clearly that there is a connection between the clandestine criminal structures that operated during the Internal Armed Conflict and the structures that maintain corruption and impunity in the present.
Shortly after his ruling, Judge Galvez (7) was threatened and later denounced by an extreme right-wing group “using the same strategy that has led other justice operators into exile… [additionally], the Supreme Court of Justice announced that it had filed a petition to revoke Gálvez’s judicial immunity, which is often a prelude to arrest (8).”
As the case moves forward, a central concern and demand is the guarantee of safety for the families, plaintiffs, lawyers, prosecutors, and judge of the case.
5. Overall the Military Diary case now has over 7,200 means of evidence, 25 expert reports and more than 100 witnesses, 30 of whom are currently in exile according to the plaintiffs in this case.
6. The latest fugitive to be captured was Toribio Acevedo Ramírez. He was arrested on May 10, 2022 in Panama fleeing to Europe. He was sent to trial on May 23. As of this writing, 3 suspects remain as fugitives.
7. Gálvez has ruled over some of the country’s most sensitive criminal and corruption cases. In 2012, he sent former President Efraín Ríos Montt to trial for genocide. In 2017 he sent former President Otto Pérez Molina to trial for graft.
8. Jeff Abbott, Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times, “He’s one of Guatemala’s last independent judges. Will he be forced to flee too?”, June 17, 2022, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2022-06-17/after-sending-soldiers-to-trial-for-civil-war-atrocities-a-guatemalan-judge-faces-threats