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Dianna Ortiz
Source: RFK Human Rights

Ashoka Fellow Dianna Ortiz, American Nun Tortured in Guatemala, Dies at 62

This article originally appeared on New York Times

Dianna Ortiz, an American Roman Catholic nun whose rape and torture in Guatemala in 1989 helped lead to the release of documents showing American involvement in human rights abuses in that country, died on Friday in hospice care in Washington. She was 62.

The cause was cancer, said Marie Dennis, a longtime friend.

While serving as a missionary and teaching Indigenous children in the western highlands of Guatemala, Sister Ortiz was abducted, gang-raped and tortured by a Guatemalan security force. Her story became even more explosive when she said that someone she believed to be an American had acted in concert with her abductors.

Only after years of extensive therapy at the Marjorie Kovler Center in Chicago for survivors of torture did Sister Ortiz start to recover, at which point she began to hunt down information about her case. She went on to become a global champion for people subjected to torture, and her case would help compel the release of classified documents showing decades of U.S. complicity in human rights abuses in Guatemala during its 36-year civil war, in which 200,000 civilians were killed.

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Ortiz became a champion of torture survivors. “She has moved our collective consciousness on how destructive torture is and how important it is to support the well-being of survivors,” said Meredith Larson, a friend and fellow human rights activist who was also attacked in Guatemala.