May 31, 1999

Two accused thieves lynched in Guatemala

                  GUATEMALA CITY (AP) -- A mob beat and burned to death two men
                  they accused of thievery in a village in northern Guatemala Monday, bringing
                  to 19 the number of lynching victims nationwide so far in 1999.

                  About 1,000 residents of the village of Setul, in Alta Verapaz province about
                  60 miles (90 kms) north of Guatemala City, captured the two men, aged 21
                  and 27, and beat them severely before burning them alive, said Angel Conte,
                  director of the National Civil Police.

                  Another group of villagers blocked police and human rights officials from
                  entering the village while the lynching took place, Conte said. By the time
                  officials made it into Setul, the charred bodies had been buried.

                  Another four men, who villagers claimed belonged to the same criminal gang,
                  escaped. Residents are reportedly searching for those men in surrounding

                  A 30-year-old man was lynched in the same area one week ago.

                  About 50 people were lynched in Guatemala in 1998.

                  In a January report, the U.N. Verification Mission in Guatemala said the
                  mob justice threatens the rule of law there, sometimes targets people known
                  to be innocent of the alleged crimes and are often tolerated by local officials.