Guatemala News Update: April 3-23


Update: Rios Montt Genocide Case

The Guatemalan court hearing the case against Rios Montt will be moved to Santa Maria Nebaj in western Guatemala for three days to hear 15 elderly witnesses who are too unwell to travel to the capital. They will testify on the murders, displacement, and the burning of their fields that occurred during the civil war.

Guatemalan Congressman tied to war crimes

BaudilioHichos, who was a member of the Guatemalan Congress for 25 years, has been linked to a “white van unit.” These units, also known as “white van” death squad, were tied to Guatemala’s Treasury Police during the Guatemalan civil war. These units were used to disappear citizens at all hours of the day, and became a form of psychological terror. Hichos spent approximately 12 years as a part of the Treasury Police.

Suspension of Molina Theissen Case

The intermediate-stage hearing scheduled for April 19 in the Molina Theissen case, an emblematic case GHRC and international partners have been closely monitoring. Yet it was suspended by the presiding judge before it began. As the trial was set to begin the judge stated she had processed an appeal filed by one of the accused, Letona Linares, challenging a prior ruling from March 1, 2016 denying application of the National Reconciliation Law (“amnesty law”). In sharing her decision, she said that although the law required the hearing to move forward, she considered it necessary to suspend the opening of the hearing to avoid later rulings that could force the repetition of previous stages of the trial. The judge’s decision allows for more delay tactics which violates the right to access to justice for the victims of serious human rights violations, and was immediately denounced by the Molina Theissen family.

Land & Water Rights

March for Water

The Popular and Social Assembly planned a march in defense of water, drawing hundreds of supporters, which began on April 11thin Tecún Umán, San Marcos and will conclude on Earth Day, April 22nd, in Guatemala City’s Constitutional Plaza. The objectives of the march, as stated by the Quetzaltenango Maya K’iche’ Council are to demand the return and protection of the rivers, lakes, lagoons, and coastal areas from economic purposes, fortify their fight in defense of water, denounce criminalization and political persecution of water rights defenders, and raise awareness among the Guatemalan public on these issues.

Lawsuit against Canadian mining company to move forward

Thousands of documents will be handed over to the lawyers of numerous Guatemalans whom have filed negligence Margarita Caal Caal who along with 10 other women from her village were reportedly raped in 2007 when being evicted from her land by men saying that the land belonged to a Canadian mining company. The lawsuit, filed in Canada against Hudbay Mineral, Inc, is the first of its kind since previously Canadian courts have claimed to not have jurisdiction over cases where the incident occurred in another country. In addition to the claims of rape, Hudbay is also facing claims over the death of local leader Adolfo IchChaman and the shooting and paralysis of a bystander German Chub in 2009.

Dam threatens to displace communities in Mexico and Guatemala

60 communities from both sides of the Mexico-Guatemala border are opposing a hydroelectric project that would potentially displace those communities. The Boca del Cerro dam is just one of five hydroelectric projects planned for the Usumacinta River which runs between the two countries.

Guatemala called on to suspend the granting of mining licenses

On April 7, environmental analysts from the US, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Guatemala reported on Guatemala’s extractive industries and called on Guatemala to stop awarding mining licenses as well as begin consultation processes to determine how best to regulate the industry. The study shows that due to legal and institutional weaknesses, the Guatemalan government “runs the risk that the holders of mining titles will not assume their responsibilities” and public money and resources will have to be used to finance the expenses of mine rehabilitation and closure.

14 accused of forcing farmers to sell their land

In early April, 14 people were arrested on suspicion of forcing poor farmers to sell their land at cut-rate prices. Approximately 28 farms were bought in this way and then resold at market prices. This land had originally been given to the farmers as part of the 1996 Peace Accords.

1 killed in tunnel collapse at Marlin mine

On April 14, a tunnel collapsed inside Goldcorp’s Marlin mine. Originally reported as missing and likely trapped underground, 26 year old Jaime Lopez has since been reported dead. The National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction, David de Leon, has assured that the accident occurred to seismic activity and the rescue teams had followed all rescue procedures. A family member of one of the miners said the managers of the mining company took away their cell phones so they wouldn’t publicize the incident.

Indigenous Rights

UN Meets with Jimmy Morales over Indigenous Issues

Indigenous leaders are meeting with the United Nations this week to plan a meeting on global indigenous issues.

President Jimmy Morales has a poor record on indigenous rights issues, having mocked them in his past occupation as a comedian and his failure to halt large scale extraction projects and agriculture that lead to indigenous displacement.

Nevertheless, sixteen representatives from indigenous communities around the world met with leaders like President Morales and to discuss issues important to indigenous groups, such as cultural, social, and economic rights, as well as education, health and the environment.

Protests continue in Guatemala over lack of changes

President Jimmy Morales took office almost 100 days ago on a platform calling for change in corrupt practices, however Guatemalans claim that they have seen little changes in administrative practices. This comes in addition to the Observatory of Guatemala’s Indigenous Communities claimed that the new government under Jimmy Morales was “racist,” “discriminatory,” and “aimless.” They stated that they had seen “100 days of political backsliding and 100 days of growing corruption and poverty.”


President Jimmy Morales requests extension of CICIG

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales requested an extension of the anti-corruption body, the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, this week on his first visit to the United Nations in New York. While the mandate had already been extended by former President Otto Perez Molina (ousted due to corruption charges last year) to last until 2017, President Morales’s new request stretches the Commission’s mandate until 2019.

Ex-President Otto Perez Molina accepted bribes from Spanish Company

The Spanish company, Group TCB, paid the former president and vice president of Guatemala approximately $25 million in bribes in exchange for securing a 25 year contract for building and managing a new port terminal. While the president stated that Group TCB offered the best deal for the country, there were no competing bids. These charges will be added to those that the former president and vice president are facing for their involvement in the customs corruption scandal known as La Linea, or the Line. Other government officials who were in office during Perez Molina’s presidency have also been linked to the corruption scandals.


Genocide Trial Resumes, Then Is Suspended Once Again

Yesterday, Jan. 5, the retrial against both Efraín Ríos Montt and José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez was set to begin. However, after a series of delays, the proceedings against Guatemala´s former dictator and his head of national intelligence were suspended almost as soon as they began.

Almost 19 months have passed since the original trial concluded, on May 10, 2013, when Ríos Montt became the first head of state in Latin America to be convicted in domestic courts of genocide and war crimes. The guilty verdict, however, was annulled just 10 days later by Guatemala’s Constitutional Court on questionable legal grounds.

Last month, the Constitutional Court removed one of the biggest impediments to the new trial — an appeal to send it back to November 2011, before Ríos Montt had been indicted. Although this recent decision cleared the way for a new trial to begin, the matter of a 1986 amnesty law and whether it could apply to Ríos Montt remains unresolved. International groups have reiterated the illegality of any amnesty, as has Spanish Judge Baltazar Garzón.

The retrial, which was set to begin at 8:30 AM on January 5, was initially delayed as Ríos Montt’s defense team sought to excuse him on medical grounds. Ordered by Judge Valdéz to present himself or be declared in contempt of court, Ríos Montt was eventually wheeled into the packed courtroom on a gurney. His defense team attempted to further delay the trial by filing a last minute recusal against Judge Valdéz, arguing that an academic thesis written by Valdéz on genocide in 2004 meant she could not preside fairly over the trial. With two of the three judges from the tribunal accepting the recusal, the trial is now suspended until a new tribunal can be formed.

The Genocide trial is an emblematic case in Guatemala, not only because of the historic nature of the proceedings, but also because it provides a barometer for measuring the strength of the justice system. While the genocide case is the most controversial, numerous other transitional justice cases are awaiting trial and could be impacted by the outcome – or lack of resolution – of the genocide trial.

Follow updates on Twitter via @NISGUA_Guate (English), @cmiguate (Spanish) and @HijosGuatemala (Spanish), and by following #EyesonJan5 and #Sihubogenocidio.

Additional Resources:

Eighteen Months After Initial Conviction, Historic Guatemalan Genocide Trial Reopens but is Ultimately Suspended (International Justice Monitor blog, English)

Derecho guatemalteco e internacional prohíben la aplicación de amnistía a los crímenes contra la humanidad y a genocidio (GHRC press release, Spanish)

Guatemalan Genocide Trial Set to Resume Amid Amnesty Battles (Article by Jo-Marie Burt, English)

A 15 años de la presentación del Informe de la CEH: Un mensaje de solidaridad

Dia de VictimasA 15 años de la presentación del informe y de que se constituyera ese día como el Día Nacional de la Dignidad de las Víctimas, enviamos un mensaje de solidaridad y de respeto hacia todas las víctimas y sobrevivientes del conflicto. Así también, un reconocimiento a las organizaciones e instituciones que les han acompañado y que de una u otra manera han contribuido en los procesos de búsqueda de la verdad, memoria histórica, justicia y reparación digna.

El 25 de febrero de 1999, la Comisión para el Esclarecimiento Histórico (CEH) presentó su informe, “Guatemala Memoria del Silencio,” en la ciudad de Guatemala. Asistieron el entonces presidente Álvaro Arzú, el alto mando del ejército, la URNG y una presencia masiva de la sociedad civil.

En 12 tomos, la CEH recopiló los resultados de la investigación realizada sobre los saldos de horror sufridos por la población durante los 36 años del conflicto armado interno. De los datos registrados, fue posible estimar el impacto de la violencia: 200 mil personas muertas, la desaparición de 45 mil y el desplazamiento de un millón de habitantes. El informe registró que las víctimas eran el 83% de origen maya y que al menos el 93% de las atrocidades cometidas durante ese periodo, fueron responsabilidad de las fuerzas armadas del Estado y grupos paramilitares afines. Continue reading

Vigil Against Impunity, Antigua Guatemala, Jun 4, 2013

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The City of Antigua Guatemala, was recently host to the 43rd General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS). In attendance were 28 Foreign Ministers and Secretaries of State, as well as other diplomats and representatives of the Guatemalan government.

ImageAt the same time that the General Assembly was being inaugurated, the VigilAgainst Impunity was taking place in Antigua’s Central Park. Human rights activists from Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, Uruguay, Paraguay, Colombia, Brasil, Canada, and Guatemala gathered to remember the victims of Guatemala’s internal armed conflict. The participants made clear their disapproval of the Constitutional Court’s annulment of the sentence in the genocide case against General Efrain Rios Montt, an act which denies justice to the Maya Ixil victims and survivors.

ImageThe activists voiced their solidarity with the men and women who survived the genocide, and who valiantly testified in the courtroom during the trial. “Your struggle is our struggle. The judgment against the dictator Rios Montt was also a triumph for justice in all of Latin America,” stated one of the participants.

Women’s organizations highlighted the strength and courage of the Ixil women who were victims of sexual violence during the conflict, and who gave their powerful and heartbreaking testimonies during the trial. They are an example for all the women who suffered under the dictatorships that devastated Latin America.

ImageThe vigil was illuminated by the memory of each one of the disappeared. The music of young artists, poems, and words of solidarity filled the park by Antigua’s cathedral.

Vigilia contra la Impunidad

Antigua Guatemala, 4 de Junio de 2013

En Antigua Guatemala se desarrolló en días pasados la 43 Asamblea General de la Organización de los Estados Americanos (OEA). Asistieron los cancilleres de los países miembros, cuerpo diplomático acreditado en el país y ministros del Estado guatemalteco.

ImageMientras esta Asamblea se inauguraba, se desarrollaba la Vigilia contra la Impunidad en la plaza central de Antigua Guatemala, en ella se congregaron activistas de derechos humanos de México, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panamá, Costa Rica, Honduras, Uruguay, Paraguay, Colombia,  Brasil, Canadá y Guatemala, para recordar a las víctimas del conflicto armado interno en el país; para manifestar su rechazo a la resolución hecha por la Corte de Constitucionalidad (CC), que anula la sentencia por genocidio y deberes contra la humanidad, dictada en contra del general José Efraín Ríos Montt, con esta anulación se niega el derecho a Justicia a las víctimas del genocidio Ixil.

ImageCada uno de los activistas tomó la palabra, manifestando su solidaridad y haciendo un reconocimiento para todas las mujeres y hombres sobrevivientes, que valientemente presentaron sus testimonios ante el tribunal que conocio el caso. Un activista latinoamericano expresó: “Su lucha fue nuestra, la sentencia dictada contra el dictador Ríos Montt, fue también un triunfo para la Justicia en América Latina…”.

ImageAsí también, organizaciones de mujeres manifestaron que la  fuerza, la valentía de las mujeres víctimas de violencia sexual al dar sus desgarradores testimonios durante el juicio, son un ejemplo para muchas que también fueron víctimas durante las dictaduras que azotaron en Latinoamérica.

La vigilia estuvo iluminada con el recuerdo de cada uno de los desaparecidos. La música de jóvenes artistas, poemas y palabras de solidaridad se escucharon esa noche a un costado de la catedral de esa ciudad guatemalteca.


Carta firmada por 50 organizaciones para verdad, justicia y reparación en el caso de genocidio

La verdad, la justicia y la reparación deben prevalecer en el juicio por genocidio en Guatemala

Organizaciones del continente instan a un adecuado proceso, con las debidas garantías.

18 de marzo de 2013- El próximo 19 de marzo dará inicio en Guatemala la audiencia pública en el juicio que se sigue en contra del General en retiro Efraín Ríos Montt y de su ex director de los servicios de inteligencia militar, también General en retiro José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, como presuntos autores intelectuales de genocidio y crímenes de lesa humanidad (asesinatos, desapariciones forzadas, violaciones sexuales, tortura) en contra de casi dos mil personas, la mayoría de ellas mayas Ixil. Los hechos ocurrieron desde marzo de 1982 hasta agosto de 1983, cuando Ríos Montt ocupó el poder en su país.

En el proceso judicial, impulsado por el Ministerio Público, figuran como abogados directores de la parte querellante, la Asociación para la Justicia y la Reconciliación (AJR), los abogados del Bufete Jurídico de Derechos Humanos y del Centro para la Acción Legal en Derechos Humanos (CALDH). Quienes además están siendo apoyados por Abogados sin fronteras Canadá, todos en condición de representantes de las víctimas. La trascendencia de este proceso –inédito en Guatemala- implica el desahogo de aproximadamente 140 testimonios de víctimas y de la comparecencia de unos 70 peritos expertos.

Continue reading