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Committee on Human Rights
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
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Conviction in Myrna Mack Trial Overturned on Appeal
May 19, 2003

On May 7, 2003, the Guatemalan Fourth Appeals Court overturned the conviction of Colonel Juan Valencia Osorio for ordering the murder of Guatemalan anthropologist Myrna Mack. The court also upheld the acquittals of General Edgar Augusto Godoy Gaitán and Colonel Juan Guillermo Oliva Carrera. (General Godoy Gaitán and Colonel Oliva Carrera had been acquitted in October 2002 on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence that they had been directly involved in ordering the murder.) All three men—who had been held in prison pending the outcome of the appeals—were immediately released from custody. The prosecution plans to present an appeal of these decisions before the Guatemalan Supreme Court.

The CHR is profoundly dismayed at the appeals court's decision and believes that it calls into serious question the rule of law in Guatemala and efforts to hold government officials responsible for their acts.

CHR member Mary Jane West-Eberhard (NAS) and CHR member emeritus Morton Panish (NAS/NAE) traveled to Guatemala in September 2002 to attend the second week of the Mack trial and to visit scientific colleagues there who have received threats for their efforts in pushing the Mack case forward. The CHR issued a report on the mission, entitled Guatemala: Human Rights and the Myrna Mack Case. Copies of the report are available from the National Academies Press.