Further Delays in Dos Erres Massacre Case

The decision on whether to indict ex-Kaibil soldier Gilberto Jordán for his role in the 1982 Dos Erres Massacre case has again been delayed.

Due to a dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases among workers in the judicial sector, last week Guatemala’s judiciary announced a new two-week closure. According to the Ministry of Health, the country currently has more than 24,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and more than 1,000 deaths.

This prompted Judge Claudette Domínguez, of High Risk Court “A,” to suspend the hearing scheduled for July 15, 2020, in which she was to deliver her ruling on whether to indict Jordán or dismiss the charges against him.

This is the second time the judge has suspended delivery of her ruling. The judge suspended delivery of her ruling on June 10 because the defendant failed to appear in court. As reported previously, the prison authorities had suspended the transfer of defendants due to reports of at least one inmate contracting COVID-19. Judge Domínguez could have delivered her ruling despite Jordán’s absence, since his lawyer was present. Instead, she ruled to reschedule the hearing to July 15.

Jordán faces charges of killing 162 men, women and children, crimes against humanity, and aggravated sexual assault at Dos Erres in December 1982. The United States deported him in March after he spent ten years in a U.S. prison for immigration fraud and for lying about his role in the Dos Erres massacre. Guatemalan courts have convicted six other military officials and soldiers for the Dos Erres massacre. Several others wanted in the case remain at large.

The continued delays in the case are concerning to victims. Manuel Farfán of FAMDEGUA, which represents the survivors and families of the victims of the Dos Erres massacre, told International Justice Monitor, “We are worried about the health conditions of the survivor-witnesses, who are mostly elderly and in a situation of extreme vulnerability.”

Farfán noted that FAMDEGUA had requested that, given the public health crisis, the judge convene the hearing via videoconference to guarantee the health of the accused, the victims, and the other participants in the proceedings.

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.