Urgent Action
Rejected the country's top legal advisor's advice
March 17, 1998  

Guatemalan President Arzu refuses to pay court ordered damages for police murder of street Child

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 not.

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 murder.

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 requested payment".

"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 <> and to President Arzu at <> and to the following media:

El Grafico
Siglo XXI Spanish
Siglo XXI English
Cronica Magazine
La Hora
Prensa Libre
El Periodico

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