CREOMPAZ: The largest case of forced disappearance in Latin America
On January 6, 2016, 14 former military officers were arrested on charges of forced disappearance and crimes against humanity based on evidence uncovered at the CREOMPAZ military center in Cobán, Alta Verapaz. Now a United Nations peacekeeper training base, CREOMPAZ (Regional Training Command for Peacekeeping Operations) operated as a detention and clandestine execution center during Guatemala’s internal armed conflict, when it was known as Military Zone 21. As this goes to print, 10 of the 14 have been indicted on charges and will be put on trial for the largest case of forced disappearance in Latin America’s history. Between 2012 and 2015, the Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala (FAFG) carried out 14 exhumations at CREOMPAZ and found 558 human remains in four graves – some of the largest mass graves found to date in Guatemala. Ninety of the bodies found belonged to children. Most showed signs of torture, with contusions to their heads and throats; many were shot execution-style and were found with blindfolds and other ropes and chains around their ankles and necks. So far, FAFG has confirmed that 128 of the bodies correspond to disappearances from between 1981 and 1988, the time period when those arrested formed part of the chain of command governing Military Zone 21.