Three vitally important cases of transitional justice are currently pending—though often stalling—in Guatemalan national courts. They are known as Military Diary, Molina Theissen, and CREOMPAZ/Military Base 21. The cases are centered around alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during Guatemala’s 36-year armed conflict, including forced disappearance, rape, torture, and extrajudicial killing. More than a dozen high-ranking retired Guatemalan military officers were arrested in early 2016, considered the most high-ranking military officials simultaneously arrested in Latin America in relation to historic human rights cases.
Successful judgments in these cases could turn the tide for human rights defenders and victims in Guatemala, who have fought for decades to get justice. However, the political environment in Guatemala is extremely tense. Some of the accused have strong links to political parties, the current President, or organized crime. There is a pervasive narrative in Guatemala that prosecuting and punishing the perpetrators of these crimes will destabilize the country’s fragile peace and democracy. Human rights advocates and victims’ families are slandered as terrorists and paramilitary sympathizers for demanding justice. Complicating matters, there is a belief by some that the perpetrators are elderly patriots who no longer pose a threat and were heroes of their time. The reality, however, is that they still hold significant power politically and within organized crime circles and continue to endanger many in the country.
NMAP launched a collaboration in 2017 with seven local human rights organizations to use media to expose the links between contemporary corruption and long-standing military impunity, and reframe cases of transitional justice as cornerstones of a fair and just Guatemala.