Guatemala City, October 13, 2021 – Disability Rights International (DRI) published a report detailing how survivors of the fire and children who were detained at Hogar Seguro Virgen de la Asuncion in Guatemala are still at risk. On March 7, 2017, boys and girls protested the physical and sexual abuse, rape and trafficking they suffered at the institution Virgen de la Asunción. As a punishment, the girls who had protested were locked in a tiny auditorium overnight. In the early hours of March 8, a fire broke out and forty-one girls died.
According to the government, there were 600 boys and girls detained at the facility at the time of the fire. Of the 600 ‘former detainees’: 61 have died, some of them in violent circumstances; the government has activated an Amber Alert for 94 children, who were missing or are still disappeared; and 160 children remain institutionalized – with an overrepresentation of children with disabilities. “The government has completely failed to take the steps necessary to protect survivors – much less provide them with the support and reparations they deserve as survivors of abuse at the hands of State authorities,” said Eric Rosenthal, Executive Director of DRI.
Four years after the fired occurred, the death of the 41 girls and the serious physical and psychological harm caused to the survivors continue to go unpunished. Nine people have been indicted, among them the Director of Hogar Seguro, but all of them have been indicted for ‘minor’ crimes that are linked to negligence rather than torture, alleged trafficking, and murder. The Director of the Children’s Unit at Attorney General’s Office has been indicted for mistreatment of minors and culpable homicide but, despite being one of the accused in the criminal case he remains in his position. “This is an inherent conflict of interest” said Édgar Pérez, Director of the Bufete Jurídico de Derechos Humanos.
The State has also failed the families who lost their daughters in the fire at the institution. Families have received no support and face tremendous risks as they seek justice for their girls. Two mothers have been murdered after their daughters were killed by the fire at Virgen de la Asuncion. Another mother has suffered threats and has been physically abused, along with her children. “It is imperative that the government investigates each of these deaths and threats and takes meaningful steps to guarantee the right of the families to access justice,” said Priscila Rodriguez, DRI’s Associate Director.