Page last updated at 04:05 GMT, Saturday, 5 December 2009

Guatemala colonel given 53 years for civil war crime

By Stephen Gibbs
Central America correspondent, BBC News

People dig in search of mass graves as forensic anthropologists work nearby to exhume the skeletons of nine men in the Quiche region - photo from  August 2009
Work to find the victims of the war goes on

A retired colonel in the Guatemalan army has been sentenced to 53 years in prison for crimes committed during the country's civil war.

Col Marco Antonio Sanchez's conviction is the first against an army officer since the war ended.

It spanned 36 years and led to the deaths of at least 200,000 people.

Col Sanchez was found guilty of being responsible for the forced disappearance of eight farm workers in what is being seen as a test case.

Ambassador attends

Families of the victims expressed relief that so long after their relatives had disappeared without trace, justice had been served.

Human Rights groups say they hope this trial will open the way to many others.

The Guatemalan civil war, which pitted the ruling army against left wing insurgents, was the longest and most brutal in modern Latin American history.

Apart from the known victims, 45,000 people disappeared.

It is assumed they were murdered; their bodies have never been found.

In the late 1990s a UN-sponsored truth commission concluded that the army was responsible for more than 80% of the atrocities committed during the war.

Guatemala's military governments were, to varying degrees, backed by the United States government.

The US ambassador attended the closing days of this trial, in a move designed to show support for the victims' families.

Print Sponsor

Guatemala sees landmark sentence
01 Sep 09 |  Americas
Seeking justice in Guatemala
11 Mar 08 |  Americas
Country profile: Guatemala
03 Jul 12 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Guatemala
03 Jul 12 |  Country profiles

The Sun Merediths murder has torn our lives apart - 1 hr ago
Observer Murdered Chilean folk singer Victor Jara laid to rest after 36 years - 5 hrs ago
Mail Online UK Foxy Knoxy 'a victim of anti-American trial' as U.S. campaigners urge Hillary Clinton to investigate - 14 hrs ago
Telegraph Amanda Knox: Guilty... but of what? - 20 hrs ago
The Independent A cup of warm milk for the 'she-devil' of Perugia - 24 hrs ago

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2020 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific