Guatemala arrests ex-military over civil war abuses


GUATEMALA CITY — The Guatemalan security forces Wednesday arrested 17 retired military personnel accused of massacres and other human rights abuses during the Central American country’s 1960-1996 civil war, prosecutors said. Of the suspects, 13 are accused of involvement in at least 88 massacres of indigenous people between 1981 and 1986, top prosecutor Thelma Aldana told a news conference. Four others are accused of the disappearance of a boy, Marco Antonio Molina Theissen, near the capital Guatemala City in October 1981. They were arrested in raids in the north and center of the country.

Among them was Benedicto Lucas, former army chief of staff.

The investigation relied partly on evidence from a mass grave containing remains of children, adults and elderly people, unearthed between 2012 and 2015. The state prosecution service has also applied for another retired military figure, Edgar Ovalle, to be stripped of the immunity he enjoys as a deputy-elect. Ovalle is a member of the conservative FCN-Nacion party of president-elect Jimmy Morales, who takes office on January 14. Separately a court is due on January 11 to start judging a case against former dictator Efrain Rios Montt, who is accused of genocide. He will be represented in court by his lawyers because he is suffering from dementia and health problems. The war between government troops, left-wing rebels and right-wing vigilante groups left an estimated 200,000 people dead or disappeared, according to the United Nations.