A Guatemalan judge ruled Wednesday that three soldiers charged in connection with a 1982 peasant massacre [JURIST news archive] that left more than 260 dead will face trial. Of the 17 soldiers accused of committing crimes against humanity during the 1960-1996 Guatemalan civil war [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], three were captured in Guatemala [Reuters report] and four others have been detained in the US by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official website] for illegally concealing [JURIST report] their past military service and involvement in the killings on US immigration forms. The charges against the soldiers are based on the findings of a Truth Commission investigation [materials] monitored by the UN and completed in the late 1990s, which uncovered vast human rights abuses [report text]. The trials are the first for massacre crimes committed during the civil war years.
Other officials have faced judicial proceedings for crimes committed during the war years. Last December, a retired Guatemalan colonel was sentenced to 53 years in prison [JURIST report] for his role in the disappearance of eight indigenous Guatemalans during the 36-year civil war. In 2005, Guatemala formally apologized [JURIST report] for the government-ordered peasant massacre that occurred in July 1982, where special forces soldiers are accused of killing 268 men, women and children of mostly Mayan descent in the village Dos Erres. Vice President Eduardo Stein made the acknowledgment in a small town north of Guatemala City, expressing remorse for the army's action that "wipe[d] out an entire community." The apology came in response to an order [press release] from the Inter-American Human Rights Court, part of the Organization of American States [official website], requiring an apology and payments to survivors totaling almost $8 million.