Guatemalan President Colom apologises for 1982 massacre

President Alvaro Colom at a press conference on 1 October 2010 President Colom said recognising the state's role in the massacre was one step on the road to justice

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Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom has apologised to the relatives of the victims of a massacre committed during the civil conflict.

He said the 1982 massacre, in which Guatemalan soldiers killed more than 200 people in the village of Dos Erres, was a stain on Guatemala's history.

It was not until earlier this year that four former soldiers were sentenced to life in prison for the crime.

The soldiers said they suspected the villagers of supporting guerrillas.

"In the name of the state, as your president and commander-in-chief of the armed forces, I officially apologise to the victims and their families," Alvaro Colom said at a ceremony at the Palace of Culture.

President Colom said the road to justice had been long, referring to the fact that no one had been brought to justice for the killings until this year.

One of the survivors of the massacre who attended the ceremony said he was disappointed those who had ordered the killings had not yet been brought to justice.

Francisco Arreaga said "those who had ordered the massacre were more guilty than those who had carried it out".

He asked the president to do his utmost to make sure justice was done.

'Delayed justice'

In August 2011, a court found four former soldiers guilty of committing crimes against humanity in the village of Dos Erres.

The court said they were members of a special unit of the Guatemalan military, the Kaibiles.

Their unit entered Dos Erres in December 1982, during the time of the military ruler, Gen Efrain Rios Montt.

The military suspected the villagers of supporting or harbouring left-wing guerrillas.

Over a period of three days, the Kaibiles interrogated and then killed residents, including women, children, and the elderly.

The massacre at Dos Erres is one of the most violent episodes in Guatemala's brutal 36-year civil conflict.

The four former soldiers received a sentence of 30 years for each of the 201 victims.

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