Three alleged rapists were burned alive by an angry mob in the province of Huehuetenango, Guatemala, local police said Monday.
The men were captured last Saturday by a local vigilante group from the village of Yalamciop. The mob believed the men were guilty of rape and kidnapping though their alleged victims were not named in any reports.
Later, the three were tied to a tree and burned alive, Deputy Provincial Police Chief Henry Delgado said in a Fox News Latino story.
Two of the men, Enrique and Rigoberto Martinez Ramos, were brothers. They were 26 and 18 years old, respectively. Their nephew, 18-year-old Leonardo Herrera, was also killed, Delgado said.
Erick Villatoro, a local representative for the national ombudsman’s office said the killings were unfortunate and added that “they are an incorrect way of applying justice.”
Lynchings and vigilante justice are a widespread problem in Guatemala. The phenomenon reportedly dates back to the 1996 peace accords that ended Guatemala’s decades-long civil war.
Mutual Support Group, a human rights watchdog, estimates lynchings in 2013 killed 36 people and left 173 injured.
The Guatemalan Attorney General’s human rights office estimates lynchings resulted in 295 deaths and 1,700 injuries between 2004 and the end of 2013.
Volunteers and organizers are working with the government to put a stop to vigilante justice.
Mildred Luna, the coordinator of Guatemalan Judicial Authority’s Lynching Prevention Program National Support Commission, is one of those organizers but she says local culture and lack of understanding of the laws make that difficult.
“There are different points of view on the meaning of justice, and people don’t understand the way in which the processes are carried out,” Luna said in a story that appeared in Diálogo. “Because of this lack of knowledge, [people] see weakness in the system and take justice into their own hands.”
Axel Romero, a prevention consultant in the Vice Ministry of the Interior said the government is working to both improve the local economy and partner with non-violent groups in the areas most effected by mob violence in order to curb the problem.
“We are seeking to create a joint agenda for the Convention for Security, Justice, and Peace,” he said. “We can’t try to take back control of the community if employers don’t provide jobs to the people who live in high crime areas.”
“We have identified networks of young people who work in the area of the prevention of violence across the entire country,” Romero said. “These are isolated, local and modest efforts. We are trying to identify these factors to organize the institutions and support them."