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Guatemala detains 13 retired military officers for war crimes

January 6, 2016

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala — Security forces in Guatemala arrested 13 retired military officers on Wednesday, all charged with committing forced disappearance and other human rights crimes during the country’s civil war, the Prosecutor’s Office announced.

Spokeswoman Julia Barrera said the arrests took place in the departments (provinces) of Guatemala and in Alta Verapaz, in the country’s north.

Among those detained were former army chief of staff Benedicto Lucas García, who served during his brother Romeo Lucas García’s presidency (1978-82). Lucas Garcia’s time in office is among the bloodiest of the 36-year conflict.

“According to the investigation … these people were involved in the forced disappearance of men, women and children during the armed conflict, Barrera said.

The detentions came shortly before the Jan. 11 start of a special tribunal to try ex dictator Efraín Ríos Montt for genocide — the latest of several trials against him. Ríos Montt will be represented in court by his lawyers as he suffers from dementia and other medical problems.

If convicted, the former dictator would likely be confined to a hospital or put under house arrest because of his deteriorated health.

Guatemala’s civil war left more than 200,000 people killed or disappeared, according to a United Nations truth commission. The U.N. found that state security forces were responsible for 93 percent of war crimes. Most of the massacres registered during the war were committed in the country’s western highlands, an area with a high indigenous population.

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