Río Negro Massacres v. Guatemala

Key Judgment


Legal Relevance

Keywords: Children/Youth | Indigenous Peoples | Systemic Practice | Relatives as Victims | Duty to Prosecute | Reparations

Themes: Search | Persons and Groups Affected | Justice and Truth | Related Crimes

The Court indicated that the massacres that occurred during the internal armed conflict in Guatemala added to the displacement of the members of the community of Río Negro. Their resettlement in the Pacux settlement, in precarious conditions, led to the destruction of their social structure, the disintegration of families, and the loss of their cultural and traditional practices, and the Maya Achí language. The Court noted that the community members could not perform their funeral rituals because the State had not located or identified most of the remains of the persons allegedly killed during the massacres, and 17 people remained forcibly disappeared. It also indicated that they could not perform any other type of ritual because their sacred places had been flooded due to the construction of the hydroelectric plant. The Court deemed that the surviving victims of the Río Negro massacres experienced deep suffering and pain due to the context of impunity within which the facts took place. Reparation measures included building infrastructure and providing essential services in favour of the members of the community of Río Negro who reside in the Pacux settlement; as well as designing and implementing a project to rescue the Maya Achí culture.

Judgment Date

November 4, 2012

Country

Guatemala

Judicial Body

Inter-American Court of Human Rights

Articles violated

Article 1(1) [ACHR], Article 3 [ACHR], Article 4(1) [ACHR], Article 5(1) [ACHR], Article 5(2) [ACHR], Article 6 [ACHR], Article 7(1) [ACHR], Article 8(1) [ACHR], Article 17 [ACHR], Article 19 [ACHR], Article 22 [ACHR], Article 25(1) [ACHR], Article 1(a) [IACFDP], Article 1(b) [IACFDP]

Articles not violated / not dealt with

Article 16 [ACHR]

Facts of the Case

The case refers to the persecution and elimination of members of the Río Negro Mayan indigenous community where the Chixoy hydroelectric plant was being built. The events were characterised by five massacres carried out against the community by the Guatemalan army and members of the Civil Self-Defence Patrols. The facts occurred during the internal armed conflict in Guatemala between 1962 and 1996 and the implementation of the National Security Doctrine against "internal enemies". Women and children were especially selected as victims for the symbolic effect that the violation of their rights represented. Some of the children were threatened and mistreated, and prevented from contacting their next of kin who survived the massacres. Some children were given a new identity, which was later uncovered by their next of kin thanks to measures taken by the community before municipal authorities.

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