Date: Wed, 22 Dec 1999 22:29:02 -0600 (CST)
Activists Criticise New Military Doctrine
By Celina Zubieta, IPS, 17 December 1999
GUATEMALA CITY, Dec 17 (IPS) - Human rights organisations in Guatemala criticised the army for failing to consult civil society when drawing up its new peace-time policy.
The military brass presented President Alvaro Arz£ with the new "doctrine," which is to replace the one applied during 36 years of armed conflict, on Thursday evening.
According to Jean Arnault, the director of the United Nations Mission to Guatemala (MINUGUA), set up to verify compliance with the December 1996 peace deal signed by the guerrillas and the government, the new military document lacks the backing of society.
The local human rights organisations Mutual Support Group and Myrna Mack Foundation objected that they were left out of the discussions, and complained that the military document was drawn up in secret.
And Miguel Angel Albiz£rez, with the Alliance against Impunity, told IPS that "this issue involves the entire country, not just the armed forces."
Defence Minister Marco Tulio Espinosa described the new armed forces document as a kind of "military Bible."
For Arz£, "the doctrine outlines an armed forces at the service of the people, subordinated to the constituted powers, respectful of human rights, conceived of as a dissuasive force based on the training of its human resources, and integrated in international peace-keeping operations."
Guatemala's 36-year armed conflict claimed more than 200,000 mainly civilian lives. The war ended when the Arz£ administration signed a peace agreement in Oslo in December 1996 with the insurgent umbrella Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity.
One of the agreements signed during the peace talks stipulates that the army is to be governed by principles such as respect for human rights and the constitution, and the defence of national sovereignty and territory.
Arnault acknowledged that the presentation of the new doctrine complied with part of the peace agreement. But he suggested that the text needed to more clearly define the role to be played by the armed forces at an internal level, and that it should more clearly specify that the main mission of the army should be to defend national sovereignty.
"Precisely when the army can collaborate in protecting public order must be more clearly regulated," and "military intelligence bodies should be made more transparent," he added.
The Historical Clarification Commission, set up to examine human rights violations committed in the past few decades, concluded that 93 percent of abuses were committed by army troops.
Helen Mack, with the Myrna Mack Foundation - which carries the name of her sister, killed by the military in 1990 - said the army would not be able to truly follow its new doctrine until it acknowledged the errors committed and the results of the report by the Historical Clarification Commission.
The Defence Ministry announced the creation of a specific body within the armed forces to study the criticism and suggestions put forth by human rights groups regarding the new military doctrine. (END/IPS/tra-so/cz/dg/sw/99)
[c] 1999, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
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