The President of Guatemala rejected the country's top legal advisor's
advice to pay the US$ 3,200 court ordered damages for the murder of a
13 year old street boy by four uniformed National Policemen in 1990.
On March 4th, 1990, the four National Policemen Silvestre Cu Itzep,
Rolando Aguilar Dueñas, Marco Tulio Gudiel and Modesto Hernandez
Sirin, mortally wounded street child Nahaman Carmona Lopez. Through
their incessant kicking, they broke six of the homeless boy's ribs,
caused bruising over sixty percent of his body, and burst his liver.
After two years of international pressure and formal accusations by
Casa Alianza, a branch of the New York based Covenant House, the
policemen were finally jailed for 12 years, but released in 1996 after
barely serving six years of their sentence. The judge ordered each of
the uniformed murderers to pay approximately US$ 800 each in damages
for Nahaman`s remaining family within a three day period. Not a penny
has been paid.
On March 14th, 1997, Casa Alianza presented a civil suit on behalf of
Nahaman`s mother against the four ex-policemen and the Guatemalan
government in order to collect the court ordered payment. On April
29th, 1997, the Procurator General of the Nation, Asisclo Valladares -
the government's lawyer - wrote to Guatemalan President Alvaro Arzu
explaining that under article 155 of the Guatemalan Constitution, the
Guatemalan government is obliged to make payment as the policemen have
Article 155 of the Constitution states that "When a dignitary,
functionary or state employee, in the exercising of his duty,
infringes the law to the harm of particulars, the State, or the State
Institution where the person serves, will be responsible in solidarity
for the damages and harm caused". The four policemen's sentence was
increased by 25% because they were on duty at the time of the vicious
President Arzu neither acknowledged nor responded to the Procurator
General's letter. On February 11th, 1998, The Procurator General sent
another letter, again requesting permission for the government to pay
the damages awarded. During the past nine years, Nahaman`s mother has
fallen into tremendous economic hardship, her other children having to
leave home. Valladares` letter stated that he "consider it to be
elemental justice, Mr. President, that the State of Guatemala abides
by the case, as it is indisputable the solidary responsibility that
corresponds to the State".
In a short, three paragraph March 2nd, 1998 response from the
Secretary General of the Presidency of the Republic of Guatemala,
Carlos Garcia Regas, "with instructions of the President of the
Republic, I am afraid that I should indicate to you that it is not
possible to agree to the request, nor to give authorization for the
"Shameful. Nothing less than shameful", was the response of Bruce
Harris, the Executive Director of Casa Alianza programs in Latin
America, and the formal accuser of the policemen in the murder case.
"How can we say we are at peace when there is no justice? Why does the
President not obey the Constitution of the country? What sort of
example is that for the country?".
Despite the President's negative, Harris plans to proceed with the
civil suit against the State of Guatemala in order to set a legal
precedent as a Guatemalan court has never ordered the government to
pay damages caused by state employees.
"Once we have the court order against the President and the State of
Guatemala, if he still does not pay then we will get a United States
court to recognize the Guatemalan court's ruling, and we will embargo
the Guatemalan government's assets in that country", warned Harris.
"Both morally and legally, it would be far better for the President to
pay as the law requires".
Please send short, polite e-mail messages to the Government's human
Rights office at the following address <email@example.com> and to
President Arzu at <AlvaroArzu@guate.net> and to the following media: