Guatemalan citizen Pedro Mateo, son of the disappeared Nicolás Mateo, speaks at a hearing of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IDC Court) on October 11, 2023, in Bogotá (Colombia).. EFE/ Carlos Ortega

Son of activist disappeared by Guatemalan army seeks justice

Bogotá, Oct. 11 (EFE).- Pedro Mateo reported his father’s disappearance on Wednesday before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) in Bogotá, 34 years after the Guatemalan army kidnaped him along with three other human rights activists.

The case has gone unpunished for over three decades despite his numerous demands for justice.

On Wednesday, Pedro expressed his demands before the IACHR judges who heard his testimony in the case “Pérez Lucas vs. Guatemala,” presented during the 162nd session of the High Court.

“34 years have passed, and I still don’t know what happened to my father and his three companions,” said Mateo, who affirmed that they were kidnapped and disappeared by the Guatemalan army.

State responsibility

The victims of the case maintain that the Guatemalan State is responsible for the alleged violations resulting from the arrest and subsequent enforced disappearance of Agapito Pérez Lucas, Nicolás Mateo, Macario Pú, and Luis Ruiz in April 1989.

The four victims were human rights defenders of the Council of Runujel Junam Ethnic Communities (CERJ). They were detained by state agents who refused to disclose the reasons for their arrest, where they were taken, and their subsequent whereabouts.

Mateo, who now lives in the United States, remembered his father as a person “given to helping others, very loving to his family, and a hard-working farmer.

Despite public complaints by CERJ and international organizations, the Guatemalan authorities never revealed the whereabouts of the defenders or sanctioned any of the officers for their actions. To this day, the case remains unpunished.

Mateo recalled that the soldiers dragged Pú and Ruiz, who lived near them, naked from their homes. “I didn’t understand what was happening. From that moment on, I lived in fear, terrified”.

Pedro explained that his neighbors were dragged away and that the relatives who tried to stop them were beaten and threatened with weapons by the army.

Night of chaos

A few days later, he asked his father to leave the farm where they lived, but he refused because “he didn’t owe anything to anyone.”

In his story to the Inter-American Court, Pedro said that on April 7, 1989, as he was about to go to sleep with his sisters and stepmother, a group of soldiers entered the house and took his father away without him knowing where they had taken him or how long he had lived.

“They dragged him (the soldiers), threw me and my stepmother, threatened my two little sisters, and started crying,” explained Mateo, who hopes for financial compensation from the state and that the perpetrators will be brought to justice to pay for their crimes.

He also recalled that in 1989, searching for his father and other disappeared people, he met with the then-president of Guatemala, Vinicio Cerezo, who promised to move forward with the investigation, but it was just words.

Pérez Lucas, Mateo, Pú Chivalán, and Ruiz Luis were active members of the CERJ, which contributed to the liberation of peasants forcibly recruited by the Voluntary Civil Self-Defense Committees during the armed conflict in Guatemala.

For their work in defense of human rights, they were subjected to threats and persecution, culminating in their arbitrary detention and forced disappearance by members of the Guatemalan Army. EFE