REPORT Nº 31/99
CASE 11.763
PLAN DE SÁNCHEZ MASSACRE
GUATEMALA
March 11, 1999
I.

SUMMARY

1. The petition which gave rise to the present case denounced the massacre of 268 inhabitants
of Plan de Sánchez, Baja Verapaz, by members of the armed forces of Guatemala on July 18,
1982. The petitioners submit that the massacre was perpetrated pursuant to a State policy
"designed to defeat the insurgent movement through the strategic eradication of its civilian
support base." They contend that the violations were committed on such a scale as to
represent massive violations of the American Convention on Human Rights and the relevant
dispositions of international humanitarian law, and constitute crimes against humanity and
genocide.
2. The petitioners allege that the State is responsible for the acts of its agents in killing civilian
men, women and children, in violation of Articles 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, 19, 21 and 24 of the
American Convention, the failure to respond with measures of judicial protection and
guarantees, in violation of Articles 8 and 25, and the failure to respect and ensure the
foregoing rights of the victims in violation of Article 1(1). In particular, the petitioners complain
that the State has failed to: undertake a serious investigation designed to officially establish
the facts and responsibility for the crimes; prosecute and punish the material and intellectual
authors; or repair the consequences.
3. The State recognizes that, during the armed conflict in Guatemala both parties committed
abuses, and events such as those in Plan de Sánchez stand as testimony to that fact. It
acknowledges as evident the grave consequences for the victims. The State maintains that the
Commission for Historical Clarification (Comisión para el Esclarecimiento Histórico, hereinafter
"CEH") established by the agreement of the parties to the conflict will address questions of
institutional responsibility, and the Guatemalan judiciary has yet to establish the responsibility
of any state agents for the facts denounced. The State contends that the petition is
inadmissible because the petitioners failed to exhaust domestic remedies, and because it was
untimely filed.
4. As set forth in the report that follows, having examined the contentions of the parties on the
question of admissibility, the Commission decided to admit the present case and proceed to an
analysis of the merits.
II.

PROCESSING BEFORE THE COMMISSION

5. The Commission received the petition in an English language version on October 25, 1996.
The Spanish language version, required for possible submission to the State, was received on
February 4, 1997. Case 11.763 was opened on July 1, 1997. By a note of that date, the
Commission transmitted the pertinent parts of the petition to the State of Guatemala, with the
submission of information deemed pertinent requested within 90 days.
6. Pursuant to an August 14, 1997 request of the petitioners, the Commission scheduled a
hearing on the case during its 97th period of sessions, and notified both parties by means of a
note of September 4, 1997.
7. The State’s response to the petition, dated October 1, 1997, was received by the
Commission on October 3, 1997. This information was transmitted to the petitioners on
October 6, 1997, with observations requested within 45 days.
8. The hearing referred to was held on October 9, 1997, at the headquarters of the
Commission, with representatives of both parties present.

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