A few years later, in 1992, after the group dynamics of GAM had changed, Aura Elena and her colleague Blanca Hernandez left to form FAMDEGUA (The Association of Relatives of the Disappeared in Guatemala), with whom she has continued to tirelessly work in defense of human rights for nearly a quarter of a century. FAMDEGUA’s stated goal was "to follow up on the search for the missing, but also to find justice regarding the abuses committed during the armed conflict in Guatemala".
In 1992, when the Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala (FAFG) team was formed, FAMDEGUA started to accompany them as they carried out exhumations of mass (clandestine) grave sites that had come to light. Since that time, FAMDEGUA have trained over 200 human rights’ promoters to work in various regions of the country, they’ve overseen some 120 exhumations from which the remains of over a thousand people have been discovered, and they now are acting as the chief prosecuting agency in several court cases.
Aura Elena, as a representative of FAMDEGUA, has been a plaintiff and supported countless civil lawsuits. Some of the cases in where she has been involved as part of FAMDEGUA are described below. They illustrate Aura Elena’s solidarity with victims of the war, as well as her courage and determination to speak out and organize in spite of what dangers that might present to her personally:
THE CASE OF LAS DOS ERRES
"The slaughter of Las Dos Erres is one of the bloodiest atrocities committed by the Guatemalan army during the armed conflict. The incident occurred on 6, 7 and 8 of December 1982, when members of the Government’s ‘Kaibil’ special forces entered the neighborhood of Las Dos Erres accompanied by a platoon of about 40 soldiers. They subjected the villagers to torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. Several women, including girls and teenagers, were raped repeatedly.
The children were brutally beaten and thrown, many still alive, into a well that was under construction. Women and men were subsequently executed, and then they, too, were thrown into the well …"
(from a FAMDEGUA report)
For those who lost family and friends, what happened at the time has left a wound that is still open today.
In 1996 human rights organizations CEJIL and FAMDEGUA together took the case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The Dos Erres case came to represent an international denunciation by human rights specialists at the Inter-American Court.
On November 24, 2009, over ten years after the filing of the complaint and after a long and arduous process, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued a guilty verdict on the case, which required the Guatemalan State to effectively investigate, convict and punish the perpetrators of the slaughter.
(Whist some progress was made years after the initial ruling, like the sentence of four soldiers in August 2011, the Government of Otto Perez Molina has recently sought to deny the proven facts that led to the convictions, and have openly sought to ‘question the competence’ of the IACHR.)