Asociación Justicía y Reconciliación (Association for Justice and Reconciliation) is a Guatemala-based NGO founded by survivors of Guatemala’s military campaign against indigenous villages in the Ixil Region. AJR, represented by the Center for Human Rights Legal Action (CALDH), are plaintiffs in the Guatemalan case against General Efraín Rios Montt. The organization has been a complainant since 2000 when the case was filed in Guatemala. Two of its members, Jesus Tecu and Juan Manuel Jeronimo, are also CJA clients and individual plaintiffs in the Guatemalan genocide case in Spain.
AJR represents hundreds of Ixil Mayans from the Quiché department of Guatemala who were victims of the massacres carried out by General Rios Montt while he ruled the country from 1982—1983. AJR’s tireless efforts, in conjunction with CALDH and CJA, have been instrumental in the long and arduous fight against impunity for genocide in Guatemala before the Spanish National Court and now, finally, in Guatemala.
Father Gregorio Barreales Barreales is a Dominican priest from León, Spain. He was sent by his religious order to Guatemala in the 1970s, where he became the pastor of the San Mateo Salama parish in Baja Verapaz. In June 1979, Father Gregorio was forcibly deported from Guatemala. Only days after receiving notice that he must leave, Father Gregorio was forced into a car by armed men and driven to the Salvadoran border. He was abandoned in El Salvador wearing his religious clothing, which was extremely dangerous because priests were targets of repression. Father Gregorio is proud and honored to be involved in the case, seeking truth and justice for others who suffered. He currently resides in Nicaragua were he is the director of the International School of Agriculture and Cattle.
Antonio Caba Caba is from the village of Ilom, in the municipality of Chajul, El Quiché department, Guatemala. Antonio recalls that Ilom, a Maya Ixil community, was quite peaceful despite the war. However, in January of 1982, when he was 11 years old, Antonio experienced the horror of Rios Montt’s scorched earth policy firsthand. He remembers the military entering his community late one night, breaking into houses and taking about 30 villagers. They were never seen again. Just over two months later, on March 23, the military returned and killed nearly 100 more people. The remaining villagers were taken to a farm in Santa Delfina, a type of makeshift refugee camp next to a military base. His grandmother and sister, who both survived the initial massacre, later starved to death in this camp. Antonio was a witness in the trial of Rios Montt in Guatemala.
Juan Manuel Jeronimo was born in Plan de Sanchez, Guatemala in 1944. He is a survivor of the Plan de Sanchez massacre on July 18, 1982. Juan Manuel was in his mother’s house with his wife when someone told him that a military patrol was coming. Both his mother and wife urged him to hide because the army was looking for men. He followed their instructions. From his hiding place, he saw soldiers gathering people in town and bringing them to his sister’s house. Juan Manuel witnessed the military throw several grenades into the house that immediately killed everybody inside. Afterward, Juan Manuel witnessed soldiers rounding up all the young women, raping them, and then beating them to death. Juan Manuel lost 18 relatives during the massacre, including his mother, his wife and all of his children. At least 200 people—the majority women and children—were massacred that day in Plan de Sanchez. Juan Manuel currently resides in Plan de Sanchez and is making a living through agricultural work. Juan Manuel joined the CJA case in 2007.
Jesus Tecu Osorio was an eyewitness to the 1982 Rio Negro massacre in the Mayan highlands of Guatemala. He was ten years old when members of the Guatemalan army, accompanied by members of paramilitary groups known as “civil patrols,” entered the community of Rio Negro. Over several hours, the soldiers raped, decapitated, burned and killed 173 people, the majority of them women and children. Jesus Tecu witnessed his family being massacred. He saw his younger brother cut in two with a machete, after which his body was thrown into a common grave. Jesus Tecu was then kidnapped and forced to work for the assassin responsible for his brother’s death. He was forced into slavery, along with 11 other children, and kept in captivity for over 10 years by members of the Guatemalan civil patrols. Jesus Tecu joined the CJA case in 2007.
Sister Raimunda Alonso Queralt was born in Ardeca, in the Catalan region of Spain, in 1948. She is a Dominican nun and arrived in Guatemala in 1970 to work with rural indigenous communities. She worked in at least 20 towns and coordinated the efforts of hundreds of catechists. In June 1978, Sister Raimunda was forcibly deported from Guatemala without legal justification for her removal. She was arrested and held in jail, and eventually abandoned at the El Salvador border. Later, Sister Raimunda heard on the radio that she had been falsely charged with inciting a massacre. She returned to Spain and, while in Madrid, she met Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero only a few weeks before his assassination. Raimunda currently resides in Nicaragua where she is an educator for rural communities. She has devoted her entire life to working in Central America.
Tiburcio Utuy is from Chajul, from the village of Xix. In March of 1982, when he was 40 years old, he fled with his wife and children after soldiers had destroyed his village and killed whomever they could catch. Later, while searching for food, he was kidnapped by soldiers. At the hands of uniformed soldiers he was beaten, burnt with coals, cut, electrocuted, and left without food for days on the bloody floor of his torture chamber. For eight months he was moved from base to base, interrogated and beaten anew, and went as long as 28 days without food. One day, with no explanation, he was simply allowed to leave. With bullets flying by his head, he walked away from his torturers and began his long journey home. Tiburcio joined the CJA case in 2008.