Guatemala News Update: November 2-8

Rios Montt trial pushed to January 2015

The trial of Efrain Rios Montt for genocide has been pushed back to January 2015; a court official said that judges were too busy with other cases to resume the trial during 2014. Families of victims of the armed conflict expressed regret at the decision to push the resumption of the trial back this far. Hector Reyes, a lawyer with the Center for Human Rights Legal Action (CALDH), criticized the new date and said that the court decision is a violation of victims’ rights.

Rios Montt case petitioned at IACHR

Prosecutors of the Rios Montt genocide case presented a complaint to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on Wednesday, November 6, to reinforce the 80-year prison sentence that was handed down to Rios Montt earlier this year. Petitioners stated that Guatemala failed to guarantee justice because of irregularities throughout the trial and a lack of access to military archives. Previously, the IACHR has requested that Guatemalan authorities investigate human rights abuses committed during the civil war and affirmed that Guatemala’s amnesty law does not impede that process.

Ex-military commissioner arrested for genocide

Agents of the Public Prosecutor’s Office arrested ex-military commissioner Baltazar Muñoz in Tactic, Alta Verapaz on November 6. Muñoz is being charged with genocide and crimes against humanity committed during the country’s 36-year internal armed conflict. Muñoz is now in Guatemala City under heavy police custody. Coincidentally, the capture took place the same day that representatives from the Ixil community filed a complaint against the State of Guatemala before the IACHR in Washington, DC regarding the denial of justice in the Rios Montt case.

Community representatives accuse Mining Office of illegal action

Representatives of communities impacted by the El Escobal mine in Santa Rosa went to the Constitutional Court to accuse the Ministry of Energy and Mines of failing in their legal obligation to process complaints submitted by residents. Villate Jimenez, a community leader, said that the ministry’s office summarily rejected over 300 statements opposing the mine without following legal procedures. The Ministry of Energy and Mining believes that it lacks the capacity to rule on “environmental crimes” — the principal focus of citizen concern.

Paz y Paz reforms could be in jeopardy

Many suspect that the impressive strides Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz has made during her tenure could be undermined if she is succeeded by a candidate backed by status quo political forces. Paz y Paz has still not said whether she will run for reelection in 2014. At the same time, there is a high level of distrust of the nomination commissions that select positions, including that of the Attorney Genera. Mario Polanco, of the Mutual Support Group, discusses the alarming trend that groups of power and influence are able to manipulate the nomination commissions and affect the selection of state institution leaders.

Candidates for Guatemalan Supreme Court of Justice presidency abandon bids

The Guatemalan Supreme Court of Justice will have two new candidates competing to lead the body during the 2013-2014 term. Luis Pineda and Arturo Sierra Gonzalez received 6 and 7 votes in their favor during 34 rounds of voting, lacking the 9 needed to be elected. The new candidates will be Gustavo Bonilla and Mynor Franco. Legal experts affirm that the change of candidates is not an act of good will, but rather a move that again confirms the struggle of power and personal interests on behalf of two divided groups of judges.

Trial set to begin against former Minister of the Interior in Spain

Carlos Vielmann will face prosecution in Spain for his involvement in the killing of ten prisoners while he held his position in the Guatemalan Department of the Interior from 2004 to 2007. He will be tried in Spain, as Guatemala refused his extradition in 2011. Others implicated in the case are Javier Figueroa, who was recently absolved in Austria, and Erwin Sperissen, who is in prison in Switzerland. Vielmann denies his involvement in the killing of protesters and said in an interview that he will prove his innocence.

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