Residents of the village of chichupac and neighboring communities, municipality of rabinal

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B. Established facts

1. Background and context

1.1. Armed conflict in Guatemala: causes and State policy

  1. An armed conflict gripped Guatemala between 1962 and 1996. Among the underlying causes of that conflict identified by the CEH in its report titled “Guatemala: Memory of Silence” (hereinafter the “CEH Report” or “Memory of Silence”) were a prevailing structural injustice, racism and the exclusionary practices of institutions with respect to large cross-sections of Guatemalan society.2

  1. The armed conflict in Guatemala exacted an enormous human, material, institutional and moral toll. During this period, estimates are that over two hundred thousand people were victims of arbitrary executions and forced disappearance.3 Furthermore, 91% of the violations recorded by the CEH occurred between 1978 and 1983, under the dictatorships of generals Romeo Lucas García (1978-1982) and Efraín Ríos Montt (1982-1983). This became the most violent period of the armed conflict.4 In ethnic terms, the members of the Mayan indigenous people accounted for 83% of the conflict’s victims.5

  1. During the period of internal armed conflict, the so-called National Security Doctrine6 was applied, which was adopted by the governments and armed forces of various countries in the Americas back in the 1960s as a response to the actions and rhetoric of insurgent movements. During the period of the armed conflict in Guatemala, the notion of an “enemy within”, a central tenet of that doctrine, was used more and more. In its investigation, the CEH concluded that in application of the National Security Doctrine, the forces of the State and their collaborators -civil self-defense patrols- were responsible for 93% of the human rights violations documented during the armed conflict.7

  1. Here it is important to note that in March 1982, as a result of a coup d’etat, a military governing junta was installed, headed by José Efraín Ríos Montt and formed by General Horacio Maldonado Schaad and Colonel Francisco Luis Gordillo Martínez. That military junta was the highest authority in the Republic of Guatemala until June 8 of that year, when Ríos Montt8 assumed the offices of President of the Republic and Minister of National Defense. Ríos Monta remained as de facto president until August 31, 1983.9

  1. The Military Junta and High Command devised and ordered implementation of a military campaign plan called “Victoria 82”, using new strategic definitions couched within the framework of the counterinsurgency and objectives of the National Security and Development Plan.10

  1. In 1982, the Army implemented the National Security and Development Plan and the Military Plan Victoria 82; both were especially targeted at the guerrillas in the northwestern and northern regions of Guatemala. Appendix H of the National Security and Development Plan spells out the need to deny subversives access to the population that is their social and political base and singles out the following tactics to be used against the guerrilla movement: deceive them, discover them, attack them and annihilate them. The CEH concluded that ‘the mission is to annihilate the guerrilla movement and parallel organizations.’11 Thus, Victoria 82 ordered the annihilation of those considered to be “subversives” or the “enemy within.”12

  1. The policy of counterinsurgency in Guatemala, especially during the most violent period of the conflict, was characterized by military actions aimed at destroying groups and communities as such, through the slaughter of defenseless populations, the so-called massacres13 and the scorched- earth operations.14 The CEH registered 626 massacres committed by State forces during the armed conflict,15 with the support of patrol groups like the military commissioners,16 the Judiciales17 and the Civil Self-Defense Patrols (PAC).18.

  1. Concerning the PAC, it is important to point out that in late 1981, the de facto military regime of General Ríos Montt devised a counterinsurgency strategy that sought to actively enlist the civilian population, especially the Mayan communities. This was how the PAC emerged as groups of civilian men that the Army organized, through the use of coercion, to operate as a parallel paramilitary force, for the ultimate purpose of causing social disintegration.19 In its 1985 Special Report, the IACHR documented the fact that the PAC “operate in their villages, mainly, performing patrol, defense and control functions and are regulated by various laws, regulations and higher military orders.” 20

    1. Impact of the armed conflict on the Mayan indigenous peoples

    1. 1. Identification as an “enemy within”

  1. Based on the National Security Doctrine, the Army singled out the Mayan indigenous population as the “enemy within”, as it believed that they were or could be the guerrilla movement’s support base.21 The CEH concluded that this policy was based on an undeniable racism against the Mayan indigenous people expressed as a doctrine of superiority and made manifest in the Guatemalan State’s actions.22

  1. The CEH also documented the fact that:

In the years when the confrontation deepened (1978-1983), as the guerrilla support base and area of action expanded, Mayans as a group in several different parts of the country were identified by the Army as guerrilla allies. Occasionally this was the result of the effective existence of support for the insurgent groups and of pre-insurrectional conditions in the country’s interior. However, the CEH has ascertained that, in the majority of cases, the identification of Mayan communities with the insurgency was intentionally exaggerated by the State, which, based on traditional racist prejudices, used this identification to eliminate any present or future possibilities of the people providing help for, or joining, an insurgent project.23

  1. Specifically, the Victoria 82 Plan provided that:

[…] The great indigenous masses on the Guatemalan Altiplano have embraced the claims made by the subversive movement, because their main issues are the scarcity of land and enormous poverty; because of the years of brainwashing they have received, they view the Army as an invading enemy (only some areas have been brought under control), a problem compounded by the considerable number of mistakes that the troops have made, such as vandalism, rapes, robberies and destruction of harvests, which national and international subversive elements have ably exploited.24

1.2.2. Scorched-earth operations

  1. The massacres and scorched-earth operations decimated entire Mayan communities. As a consequence of the State’s policy:

[the] indiscriminate massacres were accompanied by the razing of villages. […] In the north of Huehuetenango, in Rabinal and Zacualpa, whole villages were burned, properties destroyed and the collectively worked fields and harvests were also burned, leaving the communities without food.25

  1. The CEH also documented the effect on Mayan identity and culture as follows:

The Army destroyed ceremonial centers, sacred places and cultural symbols. Language and dress, as well as other elements of cultural identification, were targets of repression. Through the militarization of the community, the establishment of the PAC and the military commissioners, the legitimate authority structure of the communities was broken, the use of their own norms and procedures to regulate social life and resolve conflicts was prevented; the exercise of Mayan spirituality and the Catholic religion was obstructed, prevented or repressed; the maintenance and development of the indigenous peoples’ way of life and their system of social organization was upset. Displacement and refuge exacerbated the difficulties of practicing their own culture.26

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