Top Guatemalan presidential adviser Edgar Ovalle Maldonado—accused human rights abuses during his country's dictatorship—may not continue to enjoy immunity from trial, as the Constitutional Court demanded the Supreme Court justify why it refused in January to grant prosecutors’ request to strip his immunity, reported La Hora on Thursday.
By doing this, the court ruled in favor of the Public Ministry, paving the way for the prosecutors to sue him for overseeing grave human rights violations during the country’s 36-year brutal civil war.
Ovalle was a former high-ranking general in Guatemala’s predominantly Indigenous Quiche region and has been linked to human rights violations and forced disappearances during one of the most brutal periods of the civil in the early 1980s.
According to declassified documents from the National Security Archive, the country’s military regime carried out 77 massacres in Quiche between 1981 and 1982 when Ovalle headed the specialized military unit in the region.
The crimes include the massacre of over 550 Mayan people near Creompaz, once known as Military Zone 21, where forensic experts exhumed dozens of mass graves surrounding the base. At least 90 of the remains belong to minors, according to the attorney general’s office.
The Creompaz case is potentially the biggest post-civil war judicial case in the country, given the number of high-ranking officers accused of having ordered some of the most serious war crimes and crimes against humanity.
However, according to Grahame Russell from human rights group Rights Action, this case does not mark a fundamental departure from Guatemala’s endemic corruption and impunity for the elites that have dominated the state for generations.
“In some ways, the current elites are 'throwing under the bus' a relatively small number of the former military elites, while all the while continuing to run the Guatemalan state and society in an exploitative, racist manner, regularly using violence and repression against the general population and protecting themselves with endemic structures of corruption and impunity,” Russell told teleSUR.
Russell, who has done solidarity work in Guatemala since the 1980s, said he daily experienced concrete examples of “endemic racism and exploitation, repression, corruption and impunity.”
“The economic elites keep in place and benefit from an unjust, exploitative economic 'development' model, in partnership with a whole host of international companies and investors, with the international 'development' banks (World Bank, Infrastructure Development Bank, etc.), and as the military and police forces maintaining healthy relations with the U.S. government and Pentagon,” he explained.