Police Archives Link Government Officials to Past Crimes
In a break in one of Guatemala's most notorious human rights crimes, a Guatemalan police officer has been arrested in connection with the abduction and disappearance 25 years ago of labor activist Edgar Fernando García. The arrest yesterday of Héctor Roderico Ramírez Ríos is the result of an investigation of García's case by Guatemala's Human Rights Prosecutor using records found recently among the massive archives of the former National Police.
García 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 country's 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 today in Guatemala's Prensa Libre and EFE described the arrest of agent Héctor Roderico Ramírez Ríos, currently chief of police in Quezaltenango with 28 years of service in the former National Police and National Civil Police. Ramírez was charged with "illegal detention, kidnapping, forced disappearance, abuse of authority and failure of duty." According to Human Rights Prosecutor Sergio Morales, Ramírez was identified by human rights investigators from the recently uncovered records of the old Fourth Corps of the ex-National Police, which described how he and other agents secretly captured García and took him to an unknown location.
Kate Doyle, Director of the Archive's Guatemala Project, commented "The arrest of one of the alleged perpetrators of Fernando García's disappearance 25 years later underscores the critical importance of the archives of the Guatemalan police and military in achieving justice for the atrocities committed during the civil conflict. 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 crimes."
At the time of his disappearance, Edgar Fernando García was an engineering student, advisor to the San Carlos University's Labor Orientation School and union secretary of the glass workers' union, CAVISA. He was also a member of the Association of University Students (Asociación de Estudiantes Universitarios - AEU), an organization that frequently spoke out about state repression. After his abduction, García's wife Nineth Montenegro -- today a member of Congress -- launched a fruitless campaign to try and find him, and co-founded an important new human rights organization for families of the disappeared called Mutual Support Group (Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo - GAM).
Although there has been no information about his capture since he disappeared in 1984, Fernando García's name appeared in the notorious "Military Logbook," an army intelligence document listing dozens of people disappeared by security forces in the mid-1980s and released publicly by the National Security Archive in 2000. The logbook indicated that García and other young students, professors and labor leaders were the subjects of intensive police surveillance in the weeks leading up to their capture and disappearance.
For more on the case, please visit the following link: www.nsarchive.org/guatemala/logbook/index.htm