June 13th, 2001


Inter American Court of Human Rights Makes Historic Awards to Families of Murdered Guatemalan Street Children

Casa Alianza

The Inter American Court on Human Rights (“the Court”) today ordered the State of Guatemala to pay a total of more than half a million dollars to the families of five street children who were brutally tortured and murdered by two National Policemen in June 1990. This is the first ever case in the 20 year history of the Court where the victims of a resolved case were children.

On an overcast June 16th, 1990, street children Julio Roberto Caal Sandoval (15); Jovito Josue Juarez Cifuentes (17) and their street youth friends Henry Giovani Contreras (18) and Federico Clemente Figueroa Tunchez (20), were sitting in an empty parking lot at the corner of 18th street and 6th Avenue in downtown Guatemala City. Suddenly a pickup with two armed men pulled up beside them. With guns drawn, the two men shouted, “You guys are pending” and started beating the youth. They literally threw them into the back of the pick up and drove away. The kidnappers were later found out to be two National Policemen: Samuel Rocael Valdes and Nestor Fonseca.

Several days later, the mutilated bodies of the homeless kids were found in a residential area called “Bosques de San Nicolas”, with their eyes gouged out and bullets through the back of their heads. Nine days after the initial murders, yet another friend of the four victims, Anstraum Villagran, was shot dead in the same parking lot by the same two policemen.

Casa Alianza’s Legal Aid Office immediately presented a formal accusation against the murders which, after four years of impunity in the Guatemalan judicial system, ruled that the policemen were innocent as charged. In 1994, Casa Alianza – a Catholic agency that provides residential and legal defense services for street children in Mexico and Central America – and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) – took the case to the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (“the Commission”) in Washington, looking for justice.

The State of Guatemala refused to consider a friendly settlement in the case proposed by Casa Alianza and CEJIL. As a result, the Commission sent case number 11,383 to the San Jose based Court. Guatemala accepted the jurisdiction of the Court in 1990 which, in December 1999, ruled that the State of Guatemala had violated numerous Articles of the American Convention of Human Rights in this kidnapping and murder. The Court held hearings on reparations in April of this year.

“This ruling is clearly historical in both our having finally been able to condemn the State of Guatemala for these horrendous crimes against street children and also for the amount of damages awarded”, explained Bruce Harris, Casa Alianza’s Regional Director for Latin American Programs and the original accuser of the two Guatemalan policemen in 1990. “Let this be a lesson to any State that mistreats it’s most important asset – the children”.

The decision of the Court was unanimous and the State has been given six months to comply with today’s ruling. Apart from the monetary awards to the family members (please see the detailed breakdown below), the Court also ordered Guatemala to name a school after the five victims and to allow the exhumation of the mortal remains of Henry Contreras who was buried as “XX” in a public cemetery, allowing them to be transferred to Casa Alianza’s cemetery in Cd. Vieja, Sacatapequez.

The Court also ordered the State of Guatemala “to adopt the legislative, administrative and any other measure necessary” to make sure Guatemalan law reflects Article 19 (Rights of the Child) of the American Convention on Human Rights. Casa Alianza, together with Guatemala’s social sector, has voiced outrage at the fact that the Guatemalan Congress suspended indefinitely the “Children and Adolescents Code” which brought Guatemalan law in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“The Court’s ruling that orders Guatemala to change it’s laws that defend children is a clear signal that Guatemala must let the Children and Adolescent’s Code come into effect”, demanded Harris. “Guatemala has been signaled for it’s illegal adoptions; for the violence against street children and for it’s lack of an adequate juvenile justice system. All this needs to change and children need to be given their place of importance on the national and international agenda”.

The Court also ordered the State of Guatemala to pay the legal expenses of both Casa Alianza and CEJIL who brought the case against the State of Guatemala.

“I pray to God that these five children and young people may now finally rest in peace”, finalized Harris.


For more information or photos of the victims, please contact Casa Alianza in San Jose, Costa Rica at +506-253-5439 or <bruce@casa-alianza.org> A full copy of the ruling will be available on Casa Alianza’s homepage tomorrow after all parties have been notified <www.casa-alianza.org>

CEJIL can be contacted at +506-280-7608

Inter American Court on Human Rights can be contacted at +506-234-0581




Awarded by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in San José, Costa Rica, 8 June 2001, Case No. 11,383. The state of Guatemala is ordered to pay the following reparations:

Name / Pecuniary Damages/  Moral Damages ((section 2) Moral Damages (section 3)Moral damages (section 4)) / TOTAL


Matilde Reyna Morales García (mother of Anstraum Aman Villagrán Morales)

$32,286 / $23,000/  $26,000 -- $81,286


Reyna Dalila Villagrán Morales( Sister of Anstaun Aman Villagrán Morales)

-- -- -- $3,000 $3,000


Lorena Dianeth Villagrán Morales(Daughter of Reyna Villagrán Morales)

-- -- -- $3,000 $3,000


Gerardo Adoriman Villagrán Morales(Son of Reyna Villagrán Morales)

-- -- -- $3,000 $3,000


Ana María Contreras (mother of Henry Giovanni Contreras)

$30,995 $27,000 $26,000 -- $83,995


Mónica Renata Agreda Contreras(Sister of Henry Giovanni Contreras)

-- -- -- $3,000 $3,000


Shirley Marlen Agreda Contreras(Sister of Henry Giovanni Contreras)

-- -- -- $3,000 $3,000


Osman Ravid Agreda Contreras(Brother of Henry Giovanni Contreras) -- -- --

$3,000 $3,000


Margarita Urbina (grandmother of Julio Roberto Caal Sandoval)

$31,248 $30,000 $52,000* -- $113,248


Marta Isabel Túnchez Palencia (mother of Federico Clemente Figueroa


$30,504 $27,000 $26,000 -- $83,504


Guadalupe Concepción Figueroa Túnchez(Sister of Federico Clemente Figueroa


 -- ---- $3,000 $3,000


Zorayda Izabel Figueroa Túnchez(Sister of Federico Clemente Figueroa

Túnchez) -- -- -- $3,000 $3,000


Noemí Cifuentes(mother of Jovito Josué Juárez Cifuentes)

$28,181 $30,000 $26,000 -- $84,181


TOTALS $153,214 $137,000 $156,000 $24,000 $470,214


(*) The Court awarded a sum of $26,000 each to Sra. Urbina and her daughter, Rosa Carlota Sandoval (RIP). The reparations due Sra. Sandoval will be delivered to Sra. Urbina.


The Court also ordered the state of Guatemala to pay the legal fees of the plantiffs, a total of $38,651.91. Of that sum, $27,651.91 will be paid to Casa Alianza and $11,000.00 to the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL).


The total reparations due the families of the victims for the June 1990 murders of:

Anstraun Aman Villagrán Morales,17

Henry Giovanni Contreras,18

Julio Roberto Caal Sandoval,15

Federico Clemente Figueroa Túnchez,20

Jovito Josué Juárez Cifuentes,17

The State of Guatemala must pay total damages of $508,865.91