Ortiz v. Gramajo – International Human Rights and Solidarity – CCR Docket Fall 1992

Sister Dianna Ortiz, a U.S. nun who was living and teaching literacy and religion to school children in San Miguel Acatan, Guatemala, was abducted by military and security personnel under the direction and control of Hector Gramajo Ortiz was stripped, raped, burned with a lit cigarette, and held in a pit filled with dead bodies and live rats while being interrogated for a period of twenty­ four hours, until a man who spoke Spanish with a U.S. accent suddenly exclaimed, “Idiots, she is a North American. Let her alone. It’s already on the news and on television.” He drove Ortiz to Guatemala City where she jumped out of the car, escaped, and then returned to the United States. Ortiz still suffers the effects of the torture.

CCR filed suit on her behalf in June 1991 in the District Court of Massachusetts, seeking compensation for torture and other personal injury and also for defamation stemming from Gramajo’s false public statements that Ortiz’s abduction and torture were the result of a love affair.

Gramajo spat on the hand of the  process server. He responded pro se but failed to provide his current address or to send his answer to Ortiz’s attorneys. CCR filed a motion requesting both.

As in Xuncax v. Gramajo, the district court judge ordered Gramajo to comply, and his order was published in La Prensa, the largest circulation Guatemalan daily newspaper. Because of Gramajo’s failure to respond, the judge found him in default. In June 1992, CCR submitted extensive documentation to support plaintiff’s demand for a substantial money judgment.

The submissions include an affidavit from 27 international law scholars who state that rape and other sexual abuse constitute torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, and are therefore prohibited by international human rights agreements.

A decision on the default judgment is pending.

Beth Stephens, Michael Ratner, Jose Luis Morin, and Jennifer M. Green; with Paul Soreff; Susan Shawn Roberts of the Center for Human Rights Legal Action; and Mark A. Simonoff and Noel A. Gittens of Hill & Barlow