May 8, 1999

UN report: Guatemala army may have helped convicts escape

                  GUATEMALA CITY (AP) -- The U.N. Mission to Guatemala says there is
                  evidence the army helped a mob that broke a dozen ex-paramilitaries out of
                  jail just months after they were convicted of a 1993 killing during the
                  country's civil war.

                  If true, that could represent a violation of peace accords signed in 1996
                  between the government and leftist rebels which ended Guatemala's 36-year
                  civil war.

                  Under the accords, the country's brutal paramilitary Civilian Self-Defense
                  Patrols were supposed to cut all military ties and disband.

                  "The escape constitutes another demonstration ... of impunity regarding
                  human rights violations by the Civilian Self-Defense Patrols," the mission said
                  in a press statement Friday.

                  Army troops had been given responsibility for guarding the jail in
                  Huehuetenango, 80 miles (140 kilometers) northeast of Guatemala City,
                  where the men were serving 25-year murder sentences for the killing of a
                  farmworker, apparently as part of brutal counterinsurgency campaigns
                  against villages suspected of sympathizing with the rebels.

                  Soldiers dressed as civilians were seen in the mob that forced jailers to
                  release the men; mob members may have used army teargas to create the
                  disturbance; and an army commander refused to dispatch troops to stop the
                  mob, according to the statement.

                  "This incident reveals a continuing capacity for organization and operations
                  by former Self-Defense Patrol members. That points to a possible violation
                  of the (government's) commitments under the peace accords," the statement

                  More than 400 people, mainly from the men's hometown, stormed the jail at
                  a police station in April and probably took the men to their municipality,
                  Colotenango, 18 miles (25 kilometers) west of Huehuetenango.

                  The paramilitary groups were formed in 1981 to assist the army in fighting
                  the civil war.