August 3, 2011 / 12:14 AM / 8 years ago

Guatemala sentences four in landmark civil war trial

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - Guatemala on Tuesday sentenced four soldiers to 6,060 years of prison each, in the first conviction for a massacre during the country’s brutal 36-year civil war.

A woman reacts after hearing the sentence of four former soldiers convicted of war crimes at the Supreme Court in Guatemala City, August 2, 2011. REUTERS/Jorge Dan Lopez

More than 200 people were killed when Guatemalan soldiers attacked the northern village of Las Dos Erres in 1982 at the height of Guatemala’s civil war.

The soldiers were given 30 years of prison for the deaths of each of the 201 killed in the attack.

The court also found them guilty of crimes against human rights, adding another 30 years to their sentences.

The soldiers — Carlos Carias, Manuel Pop, Reyes Collin Gualip and Daniel Martinez Hernandez — were all special forces officers at the time of the massacre.

The officers, in an elite unit known as the Kaibiles, went to the village in December 1982 and shot, strangled and bludgeoned the villagers to death with sledgehammers.

Guatemala’s Public Ministry said the army ordered the unit to the village to look for missing military weapons, believed to be in the hands of left-wing guerillas.

Last month, the United States deported former Guatemalan soldier Pedro Pimentel Rios, 54, for his alleged role in the Las Dos Erres massacre. Guatemala’s Public Ministry will hold a separate hearing for Rios.

The ruling center-left administration of President Alvaro Colom has been under pressure by human rights organizations to bring war criminals to justice in Guatemala, one of the poorest and most lawless countries in Latin America.

Nearly a quarter of a million people were killed in Guatemala’s 1960-1996 civil war and many thousands are still missing.

Reporting by Herbert Hernandez; Editing by Eric Beech

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