From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Ad in Guatemalan Newspaper Demands the Arrest
04 May 1996 16:06:08
96135 Ad in Guatemalan Newspaper Demands the Arrest
of Victor Roman, Profiles Threats Against Presbyterians
by Alexa Smith
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--A paid ad demanding the arrest and prosecution of a
fugitive accused of killing two Presbyterians in Guatemala ran in one of
that country's national newspapers last week, according to the ad's
sponsor, the Campaign for Peace and Life in Guatemala (CPLG).
CPLG spokesperson David Bryden said the organization hopes to develop
another newspaper ad and is currently raising money to buy radio spots in
Guatemala to apply more public pressure on the government to arrest former
military commissioner Victor Roman.
The radio and newspaper ads bear the names of those who endorse the
statements, Bryden said.
Roman is accused of the 1994 murder of Pascual Serech and the 1995
murder of pastor and human rights educator the Rev. Manuel Saquic Vasquez.
"We hope these announcements will send a powerful signal that people
of faith in the U.S. will not permit our brothers and sisters in the
Kaqchiquel Presbytery to continue to suffer such threats," says to material
accompanying the first ad. "The ad will also signal to the new Arzu
administration that its response on this case will constitute a test of
whether its commitment to respect for human rights is more than mere
CPLG's ad reads:
"THERE CAN BE NO PEACE WHILE ASSASSINS WALK FREE
"After establishing a human rights committee in Chimaltenango to
promote the Global Accord on Human Rights and to fulfill their evangelizing
mission as members of the Presbyterian Church, two Kaqchiquel Presbyterians
have been murdered and ten others have repeatedly received death threats.
We the undersigned are deeply concerned that the threats have escalated
over the past few weeks and that the ex-military commissioner and others
responsible for these crimes have neither been investigated nor arrested.
"Today, Guatemalans are discussing fundamental social issues in order
to lay the foundation for peace and reconciliation after 35 years of war.
The Kaqchiquel Presbytery's human rights committee has played a vital role
in raising awareness of human rights issues and continues to work to
strengthen the prospects for genuine peace. Unfortunately, however, as in
many other parts of the country, where impunity protects those who rely
upon violence to maintain privleges, the cost of their efforts has been
high. The following offers only a partial account of the events they have
Pascual Serech, president of the Human Rights Committee, was
murdered Aug. 1, 1994.
Judge Edgar Ramiro Ogaldes ordered the arrest of Victor Roman
Cotzal for this murder.
Judge Edgar Ramiro Ogaldes was murdered on Aug. 18, 1994, days
after ordering the
arrest of Roman.
On Jan. 8, 1995, military commissioner Victor Roman and other
wrote out a formal declaration stating that the activities of the
and the Guatemalan Council of Evangelical Churches (CIEDEG) were
A member of the Human Rights Committee was abducted by four
heavily armed men
on May 7, 1995. He was released unharmed.
Pastor Manuel Saquic Vasquez was abducted, tortured and murdered
on July 23, 1995.
The "Jaguar Justiciero" death squad threatened members of the
church and CIEDEG repeatedly since July 1995, stating that they
must desist in their
pursuit of human rights, "or face the same fate" as Pastor
The Kaqchiquel Presbytery presented its concerns to the
on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (OAS) on
Feb. 22, 1996,
because of the failure of the Guatemalan government to
investigate and prosecute either
the threats or the murders. The government has still failed to
execute an arrest warrant
of the primary suspect in each of the murders and threats,
military commissioner Victor
At the very moment their representatives testified in Washington,
pastors of the
Kaqchiquel Presbytery in Chimaltenango received additional
written death threats from
On March 6, the OAS requested that the Guatemalan government
carry out the arrest of
Victor Roman, investigate the most recent threats, and offer
protection of Kaqchiquel
Presbytery members threatened. Still, on March 10, another
"Jaguar Justiciero" threat
was issued. This one threatened the lives of the human rights
promoters who visited
Washington to testify before the OAS.
"We stand with the Kaqchiquel Presbytery, CIEDEG and other Guatemalan
human rights monitors in full support of their efforts to defend the rights
of all Guatemalans.
"We urge the government of Guatemala to immediately take action to
respect Guatemalan law and its international obligations under the American
Convention on Human Rights. We call upon the Guatemalan government, as
requested by the Kaqchiquel Presbytery, CIEDEG and the OAS, to immediately
carry out the arrest of Victor Roman Cotzal and fully investigate and
prosecute both the Saquic and Serech murders and the threats against the
members of the Kaqchiquel Presbytery and CIEDEG."
Bryden said CPLG believes Roman is still in Guatemala, despite recent
reports of Roman's attempts to secure a passport.
CPLG is a coalition of faith-based and human rights activists,
including the American Friends Service Committee, the Center for Human
Rights Legal Action, the Maryknoll Fathers and Witness for Peace. CPLG may
be contacted by calling (202) 462-3935.
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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