Guatemala: Former military chief of staff arrested
Former Guatemalan general Héctor Mario López Fuentes was arrested last Friday in Guatemala City. As the third-highest-ranking military official, he is alleged to have been responsible for massacres and violence against the regime’s opponents during the country’s 36-year civil war. Amnesty International says General López Fuentes planned 12 massacres that killed an estimated 317 indigenous Maya in Guatemala’s Ixil Triangle from 1982 to 1983. A truth commission (Commission for Historical Clarification) backed by the United Nations found that approximately 200,000 people were either killed or disappeared during the civil war, and that 440 massacres in indigenous communities may amount to genocide. López Fuentes faces charges that include genocide, forced disappearances, and crimes against humanity. His arrest follows that of two former heads of the national police force, who are also accused of severe human rights violations during the conflict.
News of the general’s arrest comes not long after the International Crisis Group released a report on the progress of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), an investigative body created in 2007 by agreement between the Guatemalan government and the UN to strengthen the Guatemalan judicial system, investigate crimes committed by illegal security forces and clandestine security organizations (CIACS), and dismantle the CIACS, whose origins date back to the government intelligence forces during the civil war. The report states that the judicial system has come to rely on the CICIG too much as a crutch in dealing with issues involving CIACS. According to the report, the Guatemalan judicial system needs to take greater responsibility and initiative in investigating and prosecuting those crimes.
Sri Lanka: Miliband and Kouchner urge action based on UN report
David Miliband and Bernard Kouchner, the former British and French foreign ministers, published an op-ed in the International Herald Tribune on Monday, calling on the international community to carry out the recommendations of last month’s UN report on Sri Lanka. “Report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka” labels abuses committed by both the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam as war crimes and crimes against humanity, and calls for the creation of “an independent, international mechanism to monitor Sri Lanka’s reconciliation efforts and independent investigations into alleged violations.”
Referring to Sri Lanka’s and the global community’s responsibility to protect civilians, the two former ministers said there was evidence the Sri Lankan government had failed to protect Tamil noncombatants from violence. Miliband and Kouchner especially stressed the need for a process to hold human rights violators accountable for their wartime actions. They said if the Sri Lankan government was reluctant to proceed on its own, the international community should move forward with implementing the report’s recommendations, which have been endorsed by the UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay.
The Sri Lankan government claims the UN report makes judgments based on “unverified information,” and says its Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) is looking into allegations of human rights violations. Kouchner and Miliband argue that the LLCR “fails standards of impartiality and independence and is deeply flawed.”