On Friday May 10, at approximately 6:30PM, Judge Yassmin Barrios declared General Efraín Ríos Montt guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity. “Justice is a right for the victims; these acts should never happen again,” she stated.
Rios Montt was found guilty of masterminding and overseeing the massacre of 1,771 Ixil Mayans in the department of El Quiche, as well as the forced displacement of 29,000, and 1,485 acts of sexual violence and acts of torture. He was sentenced to 80 years in prison and was ordered into police custody. His director of Military Intelligence, Jose Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez, was absolved of both crimes.
During a one hour statement, Judge Barrios recounted evidence of the indiscriminate massacres committed against the civilian Ixil population, systematic physical and psychological control meant to destroy the social fabric of the Ixil culture. She noted the brutal use of sexual violence. These acts were carried out as state policy and destroyed 5.5% of the Ixil population.
Over the course of the trial, 100 survivors testified in the trial which began on March 19. They were joined by dozens of expert witnesses. In closing arguments yesterday, Benjamin Jeronimo, a survivor and representative of the Association for Justice and Reconciliation, stated: “We are not looking for vengeance; we are looking for a true peace with justice, with respect, with equality, with dignity, that is why we are here.”
GHRC applauds this historic sentence and stands in solidarity with the Ixil survivors, their lawyers, state prosecutors, judges, and supporting organizations, who have risked their lives to make justice possible. Furthermore, this case demonstrates that accountability – for even the nation’s most powerful actors – is not out of reach, and is a victory for all Guatemalans who strive to build a nation based on the rule of law, opening the door for the further pursuit of justice and the defense of historic memory.
For more background on the trial, check out our genocide trial timeline