News Update: October 28-November 1

Impeding or Furthering Justice in Guatemala

GHRC Assistant Director Kathryn Johnson and George Mason Professor Jo-Marie Burt discuss recent developments in the Rios Montt trial, focusing on how the decision will affect the future of justice in Guatemala.

IACHR affirms need for investigations of genocide

After the Constitutional Court opened the door for amnesty last week, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reiterated today the need for a proper investigation of genocide, despite the Amnesty Law, and called on the country to put a stop to obstructions of this investigation. The UN High Commissioner on Human Rights also affirmed that amnesty should never apply to genocide.

Constitutional Court Paves the Way on Rios Montt Controversy

On Tuesday, the Constitutional Court rejected a measure by the Legal Action Center for Human Rights (CALDH) to clarify its ruling regarding the possibility of amnesty for Efrain Rios Montt. Now, the First Chamber of Criminal Appeals will have five days to rule why the application of Decree 8-86, which grants amnesty for crimes committed during the Rios Montt era, does not apply to Rios Montt’s case.

In a related article, Montt’s defense lawyer Francisco Garcia Gudiel discusses the recent request for amnesty in an interview with El Periodico.

Criminalization of protest claims presented to the IACHR

On Monday, October 28th, several indigenous and human rights groups presented claims to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington D.C. about the criminalization of social protests in Guatemala. The groups also requested that local communities be involved in the consultations related to mining and resource extraction in their own territories. Rubén Jiménez, representing the indigenous community in Santa María de Xalapán, stressed that the State not only “systematically criminalizes social protests,” but also does the same with human rights activists. GHRC was a petitioner in this hearing.

Guatemala receives little tax revenue from hydroelectric dams

According to Guatemala’s Vice-Minister of Energy and Mines, Edwin Rodas, hydroelectric companies “practically do not pay taxes because they are encouraged to invest in the country.” Rodas made this observation during a meeting with the centrist Renewed Democratic Party where he was questioned by party members about the benefits of mining and hydroelectric projects in Alta Verapaz. Rodas said that there are 39 mining projects in Alta Verapaz, the largest of which is the Fenix mine.

Totonicapan activist explains opposition to mining and hydroelectric projects

In an in-depth interview with Andrea Ixchiú Hernandez, President of Natural Resources for the 48 cantons of Totonicapan, she outlined the reasoning behind opposition to existing and proposed mining and hydroelectric projects in Totonicapan. Hernandez noted that communities oppose mining as the model to generate wealth because energy is not evenly disbursed and local communities miss out on quality services. She stressed that communities are not against renewable energy, but oppose non-transparency on the part of the corporations and their tendency to send money out of the country instead of providing jobs for Guatemalans. Andrea also touched on the lack of respect for prior consultations and the dialogue process under the current government.

Constitutional Court to rule on injunction related to supreme court presidential election

The Constitutional Court will rule on an injunction, filed by lawyer Ricardo Sagastume, which gave the Supreme Court of Justice 48 hours to elect a new president. The injunction would also remove interim President Erick Alvarez Mancilla on grounds of unconstitutionality.

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