Our Voices

Statement on the Passing of Sister Dianna Ortiz

Sister Dianna Ortiz was a courageous activist, a truth teller, a woman of deep and abiding faith, and my dear friend.

I came to know Sister Dianna in the early 1990s, and was immediately struck by her raw honesty and capacity to articulate the agony she suffered when she was kidnapped, raped, and tortured in Guatemala several years before. “I know what it is to wait in the dark for torture, and what it is to wait in the dark for truth,” she told me then.

In March 1996, Sister Dianna began her silent vigil for truth across the street from the White House, part of an effort to get the United States to declassify long-secret files on Guatemala and shed light on some of the darkest moments of the country’s history and American foreign policy. Then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton later contacted intelligence officials in an effort to get more information released on the U.S. role in torture in Guatemala, a courageous move of her own, paving the way for the release of CIA papers associated with Sister Dianna’s case, and the declassification of decades of documents showing the United States’ support during its genocide of rural indigenous people.

Sister Dianna’s life’s work is a focus of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights’ Speak Truth To Power human rights education curriculum. By sharing her story, tens of thousands of young people around the world have been inspired to transform their own pain into action, and ultimately, healing for the world.

We have lost a heroic voice, a fierce defender, and a spiritual light. My family, the RFK Board, and staff join me in sending our thoughts and prayers to Dianna’s family and the Sisters of the Order of Saint Ursula during this difficult time.

Kerry Kennedy
President, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights