Plan de Sanchez Case
Early in the morning of July 18, two grenades fell to the east and west of Plan de Sanchez. A group of approximately 60 men dressed in military uniforms and armed with assault rifles and four "judiciales" arrived in Plan de Sanchez between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m. Some soldiers monitored points of entry into the community, while others went house to house rounding up the population. Girls and young women were then separated from the older women, men, and children. Approximately 20 girls between 12 and 20 years of age were taken to one house where they were raped and then killed. The rest of the population was forced into another house and the adjoining patio. Late in the afternoon, soldiers threw two hand grenades into the second house and sprayed it and the patio with sustained gunfire. Small children were hit or kicked to death. Shots were reportedly heard in another location, where four bodies were later found. Finally, the soldiers set fire to the house before leaving the community some hours later.
In 1993, survivors of the massacre approached the Office of the Guatemalan Human Rights Ombudsman seeking support to denounce the massacre and request the exhumation of the bodies, in order to prompt an investigation and re-inter the bodies of their loved ones with dignity. After overcoming a series of obstacles, in mid-1994, the Guatemalan Team of Forensic Anthropology (FAFG) exhumed 19 sites in Plan de Sanchez containing the remains of at least 84 victims. The FAFG reported their findings in March of 1995.
According to eyewitness testimonies, the massacre was carried out by agents of the Guatemalan State, namely civilian patrollers (or PACs), military commissioners, members of the army and high ranking officials. These agents both committed the crime and attempted to cover it up to ensure impunity for the material and intellectual authors. The Guatemalan Human Rights Ombudsman issued a report in 1996 in which he concluded that the Plan de Sanchez massacre was carried out as part of a premeditated state policy pursuant to the "scorched earth" campaign of the State, which was "designed to defeat the insurgent movement through the strategic eradication of its civilian support base."
A domestic case was brought in
Guatemalan in 1995, but it soon became clear justice would be unavailable in
On April 29, 2004, the Inter-American Court found that the Guatemalan Army had indeed carried out massacres and "scorched earth operations" against the Maya peoples. Following the Doctrine of National Security, the Guatemalan military had adopted a policy that considered the indigenous Maya people internal enemies, believing that they constituted or could constitute the social base of the guerilla. Plan de Sanchez vs. Guatemala is the first massacre case ever heard by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and establishes a firm precedent by which to hold the Guatemalan State accountable for the more than 626 massacres carried out in Guatemala between 1960 and 1996.
Following this landmark decision, the Inter-American Court ruled on how the victims of the Plan de Sanchez massacre are to be compensated on December 9, 2004. In its largest compensation decision to date, the Court ordered the state of Guatemala to pay US$7.9 million to the survivors -$25,000 per person. The government was given all of 2005 to begin making payments, but it did not comply. Finally, in the beginning of February 2006, over 300 survivors of the Plan de Sanchez massacre began receiving the first of three reparations payments from the Guatemalan government. The community has accepted a proposal from the state to make the three payments of approximately US$8000 each in February 2006, December 2006 and December 2007.
In addition to the reparations to individuals, the government has been ordered to make a wide range of collective reparations to the community as a whole. These include medical and psychological treatment for the victims, the training of health providers, multicultural education and the promotion and preservation of Maya culture. The collective reparations also involve a series of development projects that include housing, road building, a water system, a health clinic, and communication systems. The government has been given a four year timeframe to comply with this aspect of the sentence.
The Court's sentence also calls for a public acknowledgement of and apology for the government's responsibility for the 1982 massacre, which took place on July 18, 2005. On this day, the 23rd anniversary of the massacre, Vice President Eduardo Stein traveled the 95 miles from Guatemala City to Rabinal via helicopter in order to formally accept government responsibility for the massacre.
Another piece of the IACHR sentence - the requirement that the government investigates, brings to trial and punishes those responsible for the massacre - directly relates to the genocide case. It is hoped that this will provide addition political pressure to move the case forward.
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