On Saturday, we at GHRC had the pleasure of taking part in a powerful art installation in Washington, DC. After three years of preparation, the organization One Million Bones blanketed a section of the National Mall with bones made of various materials to bring attention to genocide committed around the world. The organizers of One Million Bones had extended a special invitation to GHRC and the Guatemala community to take part and commemorate Guatemala’s genocide victims.
GHRC staff, interns and volunteers, joined thousands of others in laying out the bones. Our group took the opportunity to read the names of the victims in the Ixil Triangle included in the charges against former generals Ríos Montt and Rodríguez Sánchez.
We posted a photo of the event on our Facebook page on Saturday afternoon, and were shocked to see the response. Our wall was covered by an energetic debate about genocide in Guatemala. It was heartwarming to see all the comments in support of justice for victims, but sad to see that there were also many comments full of hate, anger, and denial of the crimes committed against Guatemala’s indigenous people.
Unfortunately, many of the people who posted on our wall are the same people who have been spreading the same messages of hate and denial in the Guatemalan media and organizing protests in support of those who committed atrocities.
The courageous genocide survivors, along with their lawyers, the judges, and the organizations who support justice, have been victim to this type of attack constantly since the Ríos Montt trial began. The messages in the media in Guatemala are not just slander. They are threats of violence. For example, Ricardo Méndez Ruiz, founder of the Foundation Against Terrorism, who posted on our wall, said in an interview with Guatemalan TV station Guatevision that the civil society leaders pushing for justice could be assassinated. In his post on GHRC’s facebook page, he called us a “terrorist organization.”
We don’t want to hide this debate going on in Guatemalan society, but we adamantly condemn the use of defamation, threats and messages of hate. We would love to see our page covered with messages of support for justice and for the victims and survivors of genocide. Can you add your voice
Many of the posts are about whether or not genocide was committed in Guatemala. The evidence presented at the genocide trial against Ríos Montt and Rodríguez Sánchez was meticulous and extensive. You can read more about the trial in our publication, El Quetzal, here. For even more detailed information about the evidence presented, you can read www.riosmontt-trial.org.
Those who deny that genocide was committed in Guatemala do so not based on any evidence, but by making claims like “the army was simply defending the country against communists.” Or: “the guerrillas committed abuses too.” The first claim was extensively refuted in the genocide trial.
Survivor testimony, expert witnesses and forensic evidence showed that the vast majority of those killed in the Ixil triangle were not killed in combat, but executed, often in gruesome ways, and that many of the victims were either elderly, or young children.
The second claim is addressed in the report produced by the UN backed Commission for Historical Clarification, which does document that some human rights abuses were committed by guerrilla forces, but that 93% of the abuses were committed by military or paramilitary forces, and only 3% were committed by the guerrillas. In the other 4% of cases it was not clear who was the perpetrator.
There are powerful sectors in Guatemala who benefit from impunity for crimes of the past. These sectors, including Guatemala’s business elite and military, have launched an all-out offensive to ensure that they and their cronies are never held accountable and the courts can be bent to their wishes.
Help us stand with genocide survivors and their supporters in Guatemala as they work for a just and peaceful Guatemala. Post your message for justice on our Facebook wall, and we’ll print them all out and present them to Guatemalan survivors as a show of solidarity.
What fearful and hateful language being used to denounce brave human rights defenders and defile the victims of the Genocide. Thank you, GHRC, for the work you do. I stand in solidarity. Love>Fear – May peace and love prevail.
Thank you Emily for all your support and for the lovely message!
What we -Guatemalans- ask for is that people abroad get informed and know what really happened here and honor our victims as they wish. To know the truth you have to listen to both sides of the story, and you are listening to just one side of it. The word genocide first appeared when former presidente Rios Montt’s trial started, why? There were excesses, it can’t be denied, on both sides, that is the nature of war, The battle field in a country so small as ours could was not outlined and many communities stood in the middle of it. But, there were also a lot of terrorism acts that destroyed a great deal of infrastructure and killed many innocent people. Peace agreements were signed in 1996 to cease the 36-year-long internal war in which more than 200,000 nationals and internationals died. There was amnesty for guerrilla fighters and peace was declared “strong and lasting peace”. Nowhere the word genocide was ever mentioned because all deaths were categorized war casualties. There was no intention to sweep away a given ethnic group (there are 23+, and our population is mainly indigenous). And the said trial for genocide was nulled by the Constitutional Court Then, why should the world (some people’s world) continue to insist on genocide? We do not deny the victims, we want a country in peace,where human rights and the rule of law are respected. We invite you to learn more about our history, not only the one that carpet baggers can sell.
Would you question a resolution approved by the Supreme Court?
This puts the genocide issue on hold, therefore, it cannot be yet advertised as such..
Click to access Exp1904.2013.pdf
Thank you for reading this.
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Thank you GHRC for convening such a powerful day. I was so moved to recite the names of the Ixiles victims as I placed bones on the national lawn, it felt like an overwhelming gesture–honoring the victims, acknowledging their untimely deaths and the United State’s involvement in the Internal Armed Conflict. To participate in this commemoration was so meaningful, and to think that GHRC has received hateful comments for engaging in an activity promoting peace and recognition for the Ixiles lives lost makes me very sad. Brightening my sadness has been GHRC’s energetic response in speaking out and refusal to be silent. I hate to quote cliches, but I am reminded of MLK Jr, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
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