Active Duty Chief of Police Arrested for 25-Year Old Political Disappearance of Labor Activist

20 March 2009

Historic Police Archives Key to Prosecution of Former War Crimes

Guatemala City, Guatemala — March 5, 2009: A long-awaited break in one of Guatemalas most notorious human rights crimes, Hctor Roderico Ramrez Ros, a Guatemalan police officer, has been arrested in connection with the abduction and disappearance of labor activist Edgar Fernando Garca 25 years ago. Ros’s arrested was the result of an investigation into Garcas disappearance by Guatemalas Human Rights Prosecutor using records recently found in the former National Police archives.

Garca was kidnapped by police agents in Guatemala City on February 18, 1984, during a wave of government repression targeting the left. He was never seen again. The policy of terror used by the Guatemalan security forces to intimidate and destroy perceived subversives during the countrys 36-year civil conflict resulted in the disappearance of an estimated 45,000 civilians and the death of some 200,000, according to the Historical Clarification Commission in 1999.

Reports published in Guatemalas Prensa Libre and by the Spanish news agency EFE described the arrest of agent Hctor Roderico Ramrez Ros, who was the active duty chief of police in Quezaltenango with 28 years of service in the former National Police and National Civil Police. Ramrez was charged with illegal detention, kidnapping, forced disappearance, abuse of authority and failure of duty. According to Human Rights Prosecutor Sergio Morales, Ramrez was identified by human rights investigators from the recently uncovered records of the Fourth Corps of the ex-National Police, which described how Ramirez and other agents secretly captured Garca and took him to an unknown location.

The arrest of one of the alleged perpetrators of Fernando Garcas disappearance underscores the critical importance of the archives of the Guatemalan police and military in achieving justice even 25 years later, said Kate Doyle, Director of the Archives Guatemala Project. The government of Guatemala must do everything in its power to see that state records are made public for future human rights investigations if it truly supports accountability and justice for these atrocities.

The National Police archives were discovered in 2005, when the Guatemalan government’s human rights office (Procuradura de Derechos Humanos, or PDH) entered a deteriorating, rat-infested munitions depot in downtown Guatemala City to investigate complaints about improperly stored explosives. During inspection of the site, investigators found a vast collection of documents, stored in five buildings and in an advanced state of decay. The files are the product of the National Police institution, the central branch of Guatemala’s security forces during the waran entity so inextricably linked to violent repression, abduction, disappearances, torture, and assassination that the country’s 1996 peace accord mandated it be completely disbanded and a new civilian police institution created in its stead. As a result of the recovery efforts archive staff has used state-of-the-art equipment to digitize over 8 million pages of government files. International archival experts have worked with the Archive staff to organize the records for use in human rights investigations, which has provided an invaluable source of evidence in the case of Fernando Garcas disappearance, and other past crimes of state.

Read more about this issue on freedominfo.org:

US Documents Released Through Freedom of Information Act Requests Introduced as Evidence in Spanish Court Hearing Guatemala Genocide Case,” February 24, 2009

Articles and Other Links

National Security Archive, “Declassified documents show U.S. Embassy knew that Guatemalan security forces were behind wave of abductions of students and labor leaders

National Security Archive, “Recovery of the Guatemalan Police Archives — An Update

“Identifican a responsables de la desaparicin de primer esposo de Nineth Montenegro,” Prensa Libre, March 5, 2009

Capturan a otro agente por la desaparicin forzada de un sindicalista guatemalteco,” EFE, March 6, 2009

Procuradura de Derechos Humanos (PDH)

Report of the Comisión para el Esclarecimiento Histórico (CEH) (in Spanish)

Report of the Comisión para el Esclarecimiento Histórico (CEH) (in English)

 

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