In 1992 Jennifer Harbury, an American, began the search for her Guatemalan husband, Everardo Bámaca, an indigenous leader of the guerilla resistance, who was captured, tortured and murdered at the hands of members of the Guatemalan military on the CIA payroll. After incredible persistence, three hunger strikes, and a decision by the Inter-American Court, Jennifer is now helping push the emblematic Bámaca case forward in Guatemala.
For the past 18 years, Jennifer has been fighting for justice in Guatemalan courts, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and U.S. courts. She carried out two hunger strikes in Guatemala, demanding that the government acknowledge that they had detained Everardo and that they give him a fair trial. The military refused to admit they had Bámaca in custody and met Jennifer’s demands with silence. When information surfaced that the U.S. government had information on the fate of Bámaca and the perpetrators responsible for his detention, torture, and eventual murder, Jennifer took her hunger strike to the streets of Washington, DC.
Her case caused a scandal at the highest levels of government, as it was revealed that Bámaca’s torturers were paid CIA assets. As a result, then-President Clinton ordered declassification of secret archives on the Bámaca murder and other human rights crimes committed by the Guatemalan military. The Guatemala Declassification Campaign led to the disclosure of thousands of records on U.S. support and collaboration with Guatemalan government atrocities. The records are now being used as evidence in dozens of Guatemalan human rights cases. Jennifer’s case demonstrates that the right to truth is an essential element to the right to justice.
The Bámaca case, along with nine other paradigmatic cases, is advancing in Guatemalan courts, after an important ruling by the Inter-American Court, and a willingness on the part of Guatemala’s judiciary to prioritize them.
Yet Guatemala will soon appoint a new Attorney General. This appointment comes at a pivotal time, when these historic cases are at long last moving forward – a time when the just and transparent resolution of these cases can set historic precedents and show Guatemala’s ability and commitment to hold perpetrators accountable for crimes during the internal armed conflict.
Please join us in writing Guatemala’s soon-to-be-appointed Attorney General to urge support for Jennifer Harbury, who continues her 18-year struggle for resolution in the case of Everardo Bámaca, as well as for the other human rights defenders who are involved in the ten paradigmatic cases now in Guatemalan courts.