Harbury v. CIA – International Human Rights and Solidarity – CCR Docket Fall 1995

CCR is representing a woman determined to uncover the truth, no matter what the cost, about the fate of her Guatemalan rebel husband.

Along with the National Security Archives and the private firm of  Morrison and Forrester, CCR filed a suit under the Freedom of Information Act on July 31, 1995 on behalf of Jennifer Harbury, a U.S. lawyer in the federal District Court for the District of Columbia  to compel the CIA to release all information pertinent to the disappearance of her husband, Efrain Bamaca Velasquez.

Harbury has confronted the military of both the U.S. and Guatemala since March 19, 1992, the day her husband–known as Commadante Everardo–was  wounded in battle and then “disappeared.” It took her more than three years–and three life-threatening hunger strikes–to begin to sweep aside the stonewalling of the U.S. government and the outright lies of the Guatemalan military.

In March 1995 Rep. Robert Torricelli, Democrat of new jersey, blew the whistle on the connection between the U.S. intelligence community and the Guatemalan military. Torricelli lambasted the Clinton Administration’s failure to tell Harbury what it knew, (Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich publicly chastised Torricelli his statements and tried unsuccessfully to force him to resign from a congressional intelligence panel.)

During her three-year battle, Harbury uncovered reports that a supposed CIA “asset. “Guatemala Colonel Julio Roberto Alpirez, was involved in her husband’s interrogation and torture. She learned that the Guatemalan military had lied when it claimed that Everardo had died in combat. She learned that U.S. officials covered up the connection between the CIA and Col. Alpirez and that they had falsely denied knowing anything about what had happened to her husband.

Harbury’s Texas-born lawyer, had long supported the human rights of Guatemalans when she met her husband, the sole surviving Mayan leader of the rebel movement there, in 1990. They met again in 1991, and married in September of that year. Six months later, in Guatemala, Everardo “disappeared.”

Guatemalan authorities insisted that Everardo had been killed in battle but refused to disclose where he had been buried. However, information in early 1993 from an escaped guerilla–who had been captured and tortured by the Guatemalan military–disclosed that Everardo had been captured alive and that Col. Alpirez had overseen his torture.

In response, the Guatemalan military produced a body which they said was his. Harbury appeared at an exhumation and proved, by medical and dental evidence, that the corpse shown her could not possible be that of her husband.

Then followed a two-year unremitting public campaign by Harbury to find out what had happened to her husband. As she was in the throes of her third hunger strike, Rep. Toricelli met with her,and issued a public demand for clarity.U.S. agencies and the White House conceded that mistakes might have been made in the way the information was given to Harbury and that Col. Alpirez had been on the CIA Payroll at some time.

However, since then U.S. government agencies have issued a host of conflicting statements. While admitting that the CIA “did not keep ambassadors appropriately informed in several important instances.” They cruelly referred to her husband’s “presumed” death. despite the fact that two months earlier the State Department gave Harbury a report about the “disposition of her husbands remains.” The government further muddied the waters by saying that Col. Alpirez might not have been involved in the affair, after all.

In addition to FOIA litigation, CCR is working with Harbury to explore other means of holding accountable those responsible for her husband’s :disappearance.”

Harbury, noting  that a total of 150,000 are dead or “disappeared” in Guatemala. says: This is the army that the U.S. put into power in 1954 and sheltered, trained, and funded–and lied for–ever since. I can only say, ‘Don’t kill in my name'”

Beth Stephens, Margaret Ratner, Michael Ratner, Jennifer M. Green, James X. Dempsey, Robert Loeffler