US War Crimes Ambassador Speaks at Forum in Guatemala City

Following the two-year anniversary of the genocide sentence in Guatemala, experts on transitional justice and rule of law – including US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, Stephen Rapp – gathered on May 11 to share reflections and analysis about the genocide case.

In Ambassador Rapp’s comments, he highlighted the importance of the case and the ongoing commitment of the US government to support victims’ struggle for justice and an independent judiciary:

“My role With President Obama’s administration is to work with these international courts, including the International Criminal Court (ICC), so that they can be effective – but recognizing always that it’s better when justice happens near the scene of the crime, near where the victims live, near the affected communities.

Even in the principles now of international justice, we’ve established that certainly it’s important that we hold responsible — if the evidence is there — the most powerful people in societies. And if it we can do that at the national level, that’s where it should be done. At the ICC they call that complementarity – that the international system is only a complement; it only fills in the gaps where the national system fails.

But we know, and you know, how challenging it can be to establish justice against powerful forces in society; power does not yield willingly, it doesn’t yield to orders, necessarily, on a piece of paper, and can use the kind of power and violence they’re accused of to intimidate and destroy the possibility of fair justice. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: May 11-15

Guatemala Gets New VP in Wake of Tax Fraud Scandal

On May 14, Alejandro Maldonado was named as Guatemala’s new vice president following the resignation of Roxana Baldetti amid the revelation of a tax fraud scandal. On May 15, Erick Archila, head of Guatemala’s Ministry of Energy and Mines, also resigned due to what he called “political persecution.” Archila was summoned to appear this morning before a congressional commission investigating allegations of corruption against him, but refused to appear.

Meanwhile, citizens have continued to call for the resignation of President Otto Pérez Molina and will move forward with another wave of national protests set for Saturday, May 16.

In Washington, DC, the Mayan League is also organizing people to gather in front of the White House at 10 am in an expression of solidarity with the thousands in Guatemala demanding an end to corruption and impunity.

Guatemala Ex-police Chief Loses Appeal Against Life Sentence

Ex-police chief Erwin Sperisen’s attempt to appeal a life sentence has been struck down by a Swiss court. Sperisen — who also has Swiss nationality — was found guilyy last year in Switzerland of killing seven prisoners in a jail in his home country of Guatemala. Continue reading