News Update: September 21-27

Ex-police chief sentenced to 40 years

Hector Bol de la Cruz, chief of police from 1983-85, was convicted in the 1984 kidnapping and disappearance of student union leader Fernando Garcia. The court also sentenced former senior police officer Jorge Gomez to 40 years for his role in the kidnapping.

Former Kabil Standing Trial in U.S. for Lying on Citizenship Application

Federal prosecutors are accusing Jorge Sosa, a former Kabile, of lying on his citizenship application by concealing his involvement in the 1982 Dos Erres massacre that left over 200 people dead. Sosa, who is married to an American, was originally denied asylum in 1985. If convicted, Sosa could be stripped of his United States citizenship and face 15 years in prison. Guatemalan authorities will seek his extradition to charge him with crimes against humanity as well.

Guatemala to Rent Drones for Video Surveillance

The Interior Ministry announced that in 2014 it will rent a fleet of drones, for video surveillance. The Ministry stated that the drones would be used in military and security capacities. They will permit the government to, among other things, monitor drug trafficking along the country’s borders, criminals and criminal activities, and protests.

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News Update: May 3-22

Genocide Trial Update:  

Ríos Montt Genocide Ruling Overturned

On the evening of May 20th, the historic May 10th ruling that convicted former General Efraín Ríos Montt of genocide was overturned.  The Constitutional Court met to rule on a constitutional challenged raised by Ríos Montt’s defense attorneys at the very end of the trial. The 3-2 ruling in favor of the challenge sets the case back to April 19th, at which point all testimonies had been heard. However, while the annulment does not include the testimonies, it remains unclear whether the trial will be reconvened or repeated altogether.

Overturned Ruling Was Laden With Opposition

Challenges to the conviction do not come as a surprise. Since the trial’s conclusion, business and hard-line military supporters have issued numerous statements calling for its annulment. The Coordinating Committee of Agricultural, Commercial, and Industrial Finance (CACIF) stated in a press release that the trial was illegal, that “justice had been prey to ideological conflict,” and the conviction of genocide was “an opinion of the court that we did not share.” Ríos Montt supporters have organized demonstrations protesting his conviction. Moreover, presidential spokesman Francisco Cuevas criticized the international community for “driving the polarization” of Guatemalans following the trial. He also claimed that foreign interference from NGOs in the trial court proceedings ultimately influenced the landmark genocide verdict.

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Organizaciones saludan avance en Caso Genocidio

En un pronunciamiento público del 16 de abril, decenas de organizaciones y juristas respaldaron el proceso judicial contra Ríos Montt y Rodríguez Sánchez.

La carta recuerda que “han transcurrido cuatro semanas desde que inició el histórico juicio en contra de los generales en retiro José Efraín Ríos Montt y José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez por su participación en la comisión de los delitos de genocidio y delitos contra los deberes de humanidad en perjuicio de la población maya ixil”.

Expresa que “los imputados Ríos Montt y Rodríguez Sánchez no se encuentran en ninguna situación de desigualdad jurídica que limite el ejercicio de sus derechos” y expresaron su preocupación por el uso abusivo de la figura del amparo.

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Weekly News Round-Up, March 18-25

Day 1 of Genocide Trial
On March 19, 2013, the historic trial opened against Rios Montt and Rodríguez Sánchez. After almost two hours of delays by the Defense, the trial began. The public prosecutor stated that the objective of military operational plans under Ríos Montt was the destruction of the Mayan Ixil population as part of a counter-insurgency campaign that characterized civilians of this ethnic and linguistic minority as an “internal enemy”. Attorney Edgar Pérez rejected assertions that the act of seeking justice is itself an act of terrorism or an effort to destabilize Guatemalan society. Political pressure on the actors involved has been intense, and just before the trial begain, President Otto Perez Molina’s denied that genocide took place. Perez told reporters: “It is important to state it because I lived it: there was no genocide in Guatemala.” Marcie Mersky, Program Director at the International Center for Transitional Justice, says such comments may influence legal proceedings and are inappropriate.

Lolita Chávez participates in month-long speaking tour in Canada and US
In events in Montreal, Ottowa, Vancouver, BC and Washington, DC, Lolita Chavez spoke about the work of the K’iche’ People’s Council and community resistance to harmful transnational development projects. In an interview with Montreal Gazette, Lolita stated that: “Canadian companies are the main protagonists in this invasion that brings only death and destruction.” A short video interview is available here.

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Weekly News Round Up

Updates on the Genocide Trial:
The trial of Efraín Ríos Mont and José Rodríguez Sánchez for genocide and crimes against humanity on August 14th of this year. Rodríguez Sánchez’s defense filed an injunction against the decision by Judge Miguel Ángel Gálvez to send the former military leader to trial. According to Rodríguez Sánchez’s lawyer, Gálvez did not explain the reasons for open debate against his client. Ríos Montt’s defense has now filed a similar legal action in which he claims that the crime he is being charged with does not exist in the legal code. Ríos Montt has also objected to the fact that Judge Patricia Flores is presiding over his appeal to the Court of Constitutionality. His lawyers claim that Flores is unfit to hear his case because she was recused from the proceedings against Héctor Mario López Fuentes, also accused of genocide.

International Crisis Group warns against use of military in maintaining public order
In a recent report featuring the October incident in Totonicapán, the ICG warned about the dangers of using the military to maintain public order in the country, especially where marches and social protests are concerned. Mary Speck, an analyst from ICG, observed that tensions are higher in indigenous areas where issues of mining, access to land, electricity and education have been prominent. She pointed out that these conditions have made the creation of trained civil security forces all the more urgent. The civil security forces should be used to confront protests without the use of violence.

Xincas oppose mining activity
Xinca communities and organizations demanded an end to the licensing of mining projects  in their territory in Santa Rosa, Jutiapa because of environmental damage. Juan Pablo López, director of the Coordinating Council of the Xinka People asked that the Environmenal Ministry consult with the indigenous communities before releasing a decision on environmental impact studies. López says that the San Rafael Las Flores mining company contaminates more than 6 million liters of water in the area daily. Continue reading

January News Round Up

Ríos Montt on trial for genocide and crimes against humanity
The trial against former head of state Ríos Montt and along with former general José Rodríguez, began on January 30th, two days after Judge Ángel Gálvez announced his decision to try the two men for genocide and crimes against humanity. The much-anticipated announcement drew a large crowd which included many survivors of the armed conflict as well as journalists, retired military personnel, and human rights activists. The decision was hailed as a victory for the victims of one of the most violent conflicts in Central America.

Spanish delegation comments on conflict in Santa Cruz Barillas
A group of Spanish representatives on a mission to investigate human rights in Guatemala held a press conference last week to talk about several of the cases they looked into during their visit. One of the cases that they highlighted was the conflict in Santa Cruz Barillas, Huehuetenango surrounding the dam proposed by the Hidro Santa Cruz energy company. One Spanish representative expressed concern for the human rights violations there including the assassination of a community member, illegally long detentions of political prisoners and the absence of a means of democratic communication between the community members and authorities. Another representative, Josep Nuet, expressed a desire for Hidro Santa Cruz to start the project anew, this time with the input of the community.

Limitations on the Inter-American Court of Human Rights repealed
The executive branch announced on January 17th Government Agreement number 30-2013, which repealed an earlier decision to not recognize the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on violations prior to February, 1987. The original agreement (number 370), which was announced on January 2nd, was met with much criticism, forcing the President to suspend it the next day.

An analysis of President Perez Molina’s first year in office
During his first year in office, President Pérez Molina launched the Cero Hambre and Bolsa Segura programs to combat malnutrition and hunger. His critics allege that these programs have not yet reached much of the at-risk population and have not done enough to break the cycle of poverty. Credit should be given to the attorney general, police commissioner, and interior minister, and the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala for the improvements in the murder rate as well as the security situation. “In 2012, Guatemala recorded 5,174 homicides, approximately 500 fewer than in Colom’s last year, thereby reducing the country’s murder rate from 39 to 34 per 100,000. However, while the government’s increased reliance on the military and mano dura policies has not led to an increase in homicides, there is good reason to be concerned with the government’s increasing reliance on the military to perform acts better suited for police.” writes Mike Allison. Continue reading

Ríos Montt Goes to Trial for Genocide

(español abajo)

Statement from the AJR and CALDH, on the Jan. 28 decision to take Generals Ríos Montt and Rogríguez Sánchez to trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.

WALKING TOWARD JUSTICE*

Today Guatemalan society is witness to a 6, cprhistoric event. For the first time in our country, a judge has ordered the opening of a trial for the crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity. Judge Miguel Ángel Gálvez ordered the opening of the public oral debate that allows the court to hear the respective evidence in this groundbreaking case. This step toward justice is of utmost importance for thousands of survivors of genocide in Guatemala.

The Judge of the High Risk Crimes Court has decided to take this step almost one year after indicting General Efraín Ríos Montt, more than one year since indicting José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, and after 75 legal challenges (incidents, injunctions, objections, appeals, etc.) to this case.

We value the actions taken by the Judge of the High Risk Crimes Court B and we hope that if the ex-generals’ defense appeals to higher courts, that these courts act in accordance with the law and take prior rulings into account.

Today’s ruling sends a message of hope for justice to those who still suffer the consequences of the internal armed conflict. It also sends a message to the material and intellectual authors of genocide and crimes against humanity committed during this time period: that genocide, extrajudicial executions, forced disappearance, sexual violence and massacres, among other violations, will not remain in impunity.

This event represents the path walked by thousands of victims of genocide. It allows the path of memory, truth, and justice to continue, which offers a solid foundation for the construction of a more just country. We are hopeful that this case will proceed according to established laws and that soon we will have a ruling against those who ordered genocide in Guatemala.

For the right to a just country!
Association for Justice and Reconciliation – AJR
Center for Human Rights Legal Action – CALDH
Guatemala, January 28, 2013

*English translation by NISGUA and GHRC. Photo: CPR-Urbana


Comunicado de AJR y CALDH, sobre la decisión del 28 de enero de abrir un juicio contra los generales Ríos Montt y Rogríguez Sánchez por los delitos de genocidio y delitos contra la humanidad.

CAMINANDO HACIA LA JUSTICIA

La sociedad guatemalteca hoy es testiga de un hecho histórico, por primera vez en nuestro país se dicta apertura a juicio por los delitos de genocidio y delitos contra deberes de humanidad. El juez Miguel Ángel Gálvez ordenó la apertura de un debate oral y público que permita dar a conocer a un Tribunal las pruebas respectivas en este trascendental caso. Este paso hacia la justicia es de suma importancia para las miles de personas sobrevivientes del genocidio en Guatemala.

A casi un año de haber sido ligado a proceso el general Efraín Ríos Montt y más de un año del general José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, y después de que el caso haya sido entrampado por 75 recursos (incidentes, amparos, recusaciones, apelaciones, etc.) el Juez de Mayor Riesgo decide dar este paso.

Valoramos positivamente lo actuado por el Juzgado de Mayor Riesgo B y esperamos que si la defensa del militar apela a otras instancias, éstas actúen apegado a derecho y tomando en cuenta lo ya resuelto.

La resolución presentada hoy encía un mensaje de esperanza en la justicia a quienes aún padecen las consecuencias del conflicto armado interno. También a los autores materiales e intelectuales de los graves delitos de lesa humanidad y genocidio que se cometieron en ese período, ya que no pueden quedar en la impunidad el genocidio, las ejecuciones extrajudiciales, la desaparición forzada, la violencia sexual, tortura y las masacres, entre otras violaciones.

Este hecho representa el caminar de miles de víctimas del genocidio. Posibilita continuar el camino de memoria, verdad y justicia, que ofrece bases sólidas para la construcción de un país más justo. Esperamos que el caso continúe tramitándose conforme lo establece la ley y pronto podamos tener el juicio contra quienes ordenaron el genocidio en Guatemala.

¡Por el Derecho a un País Justo!
Asociación para la Justicia y Reconciliación – AJR
Centro para la Acción Legal en Derechos Humanos – CALDH
Guatemala, 28 de enero 2013