Former Special Forces Soldier Indicted in Dos Erres Massacre Case, Trial Set for November

A Guatemalan Court has indicted former special forces soldier Gilbert Jordán for his alleged role in the Dos Erres massacre.

In December 1982, a Kaibil unit entered the community of Las Dos Erres, which is suspected of guerrilla activity. After rounding up the town’s inhabitants and raping many of the women and girls, it proceeded to kill them all, in total an estimated 200 people. Jordán, 64, is charged with direct participation in the murder of 162 men, women and children. He also faces charges of crimes against humanity and aggravated sexual assault.

The ruling from Judge Claudette Domínguez of High Risk Court “A” was expected earlier this year but was repeatedly delayed in part because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Monday’s hearing was not public, and the defendant appeared via videoconference from the Mariscal Zavala military prison where he is being held in preventive detention.

The judge noted that the evidence presented against Jordán, including the eyewitness testimony of two other members of the Kaibil special forces unit who place him at the scene of the massacre, was sufficient to merit that the case go to trial.

Judge Domínguez gave the Attorney General’s Office the maximum time period of three months to present its final accusation, October 27, 2020. She scheduled a hearing for November 17 to discuss the accusation.

Jordán’s defense attorney petitioned the judge to release him while awaiting trial due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The judge noted that Guatemalan law does not allow substitution measures for those charged with murder. Given the pandemic, she ordered authorities to determine whether he should be relocated to the military hospital, and to evaluate his situation every 15 days.

FAMDEGUA, the organization representing victims in the case, petitioned for the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGN) to be named as a third party in representation of the state’s responsibility in the case. The judge noted that she would rule on this and notify the parties in a written statement.

The U.S. Connection

The United States deported Jordán in March after he was convicted and sentenced to ten years in prison for immigration fraud and for lying on his immigration forms about his role in the Dos Erres massacre. When U.S. authorities located him in Florida, Jordán admitted to his role in the Dos Erres massacre, saying that he had been the first to throw a child into the community well, setting off a gruesome killing spree.

While he was serving his sentence in a Florida prison, Jordán testified against his superior officer, Lt. Jorge Vinicio Sosa Orantes, identifying him as the official who gave the order to the Kaibil soldiers to “kill all the people” at Las Dos Erres. Sosa was arrested in Canada in 2011 and extradited to the United States. In 2013, a U.S. district court convicted Sosa of illegal procurement of U.S. citizenship and for lying on immigration forms about his role in Dos Erres massacre and sentenced him to ten years in prison. It is expected that he will be deported to Guatemala upon conclusion of his prison term.

To date, Guatemalan courts have convicted six men—five ex Kaibil soldiers and one army official—for their responsibility in the Dos Erres massacre. A 2009 judgment of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights found the State of Guatemala responsible for the massacre and noted that at least 200 civilians had been killed at Las Dos Erres.

Jo-Marie Burt is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Latin American Studies at George Mason University. She is also a Senior Fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). Paulo Estrada is a human rights activist, archaeology student at San Carlos University, and civil party in the Military Diary case.