Guatemala News Update: March 9-13

International Women’s Day Celebrated in Guatemala

International Women’s Day was celebrated worldwide on March 8; in Guatemala, the day was marked with festivities, conferences and articles dedicated to women’s rights. Women held a march, and members of the Alliance Against Criminalization held a press release to call for greater protections for women land and human rights defenders.

Guatemalan Vice-president Roxana Baldetti made use of the occasion to address women’s rights at the UN as part of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York. During his recent visit to Guatemala, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy also spoke about gender equality, stating that aid from Spain would prioritize combating gender violence.

Two Reporters Shot Dead, Third Injured in Guatemala

On March 10, 2015, in an attempt to assassinate three journalists in the southern city of Mazatenango, two were killed and one was seriously injured. One of the men killed, Danilo López, had received death threats after reporting on corruption in the region. According to Guatemalan police, one of the suspects has now been captured.

GHRC condemned the attack, and called on the Guatemalan government to thoroughly investigate the incident and bring those responsible to justice. Read a statement from GHRC and partner organization UDEFEGUA here.

Slow Advances in the Genocide Case

A sanction imposed on Judge Yassmin Barrios, for actions she took as judge in the trial of Efraín Ríos Montt in 2013, has been finally been revoked by the Constitutional Court. The initial sanction included temporary suspension from office for one year and a fine of 5,400 Quetzales.

As the genocide case remains indefinitely delayed, one of the witnesses — Pedro Chávez Brito — has died of an illness. Brito is the second witness to pass away while the case remains in legal limbo, calling attention to the need to restart the process as soon as possible.

Activists Protest the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) in Toronto

Activists partnering with the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN) protested on March 1 outside the world’s largest mining convention in Toronto, Canada. Among the conference’s sponsors is Goldcorp, a company well known for its human rights violations in Guatemala. Demonstrators also infiltrated the conference with fake programs for the “Corporate Social Responsibility” events.

Central American Alliance for Prosperity Has ‘Business’ Focus

The “Alliance for Prosperity” plan was initially launched in cooperation between the governments of the Northern Triangle countries (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) and the US to help unaccompanied minors fleeing from Central America to the US. However, Central American officials have prioritized meeting with business representatives over civil society actors — raising concerns that the funds might be diverted to the private business sector.

Guatemala News Update: January 26-30

Update on the Genocide Case

Guatemala’s National Institute of Forensic Science (INACIF) informed on Friday, January 23rd that the results of Montt’s latest medical evaluation show irreversible neurological damage caused by osteomyelitis, the disease diagnosed by INACIF only two weeks before. Though the medical results have proven Montt’s grave status, Judge Flores has ordered weekly evaluations to determine if the he will be able to be present at the next court hearing.

The case continues at a standstill, as further complications and delays have arisen due to concerns from both parties regarding the lack of impartiality of the judges. At the beginning of the re-trial, Montt’s team –though having knowledge of the Judge’s academic background for over a year– suddenly accused Irma Jeannette Valdés Rodas of impartiality.

Judge Valdés was forced to recuse herself from the case and this week, lawyers representing victims in the genocide case presented an objection against the head judge of the Appeals Court that will rule on the recusal. The lawyers argue that Anabella Esmeralda Cardona is not impartial due to her in courses and conferences hosted by the military. The trial will be delayed until both motions are resolved.

Other legal objections from the defense are likely to cause further delay and, according to the International Justice Monitor, it is becoming increasingly uncertain that Ríos Montt will face a re-trial.

Updates in the Spanish Embassy Case

Former chief of the Guatemalan National Police, Pedro García Arredondo, who was found guilty of causing the deaths of 37 people during the 1980 attack on the Spanish embassy case, has been transferred to a hospital in Guatemala City. Moisés Galindo, Arredondo’s lawyer, claims the accused has diabetes and that the disease has created complications on a minor foot injury. Arredondo has been granted a legal authorization for temporary stay at the hospital.

Arredondo was also ordered to pay reparations of Q9 million (approximately US$1.2 million) to the victims’ families. The money is to be divided among the families of six of the victims. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: December – January 20

Guatemalan Ex-police Official Sentenced in Spanish Embassy attack

The trial against former police official, Pedro Garcia Arredondo, came to a close on January 19th. Arredondo was found guilty of orchestrating the 1980 attack on the Spanish Embassy in Guatemala City and was sentenced to 40 years in prison. He was sentenced to 50 additional years for the murder of two students after the massacre occurred.

During closing remarks, the prosecution described the fire as an act of state terrorism, while the defense continued to assert that the fire originated from within the embassy, and that the police force did what it “had to do.”

Nobel laureate Rigoberta Menchú, who was a complainant in the case, spoke on Democracy Now about the importance of the verdict. More information about the history of the case is available on our website, along with a short Q&A with GHRC’s Dania Rodríguez, who was present during the sentencing hearing.

Genocide Trial Resumes, Then Is Suspended Again

More than a year and a half after the 2013 genocide trial concluded, the retrial of Guatemala’s former military dictator Efraín Ríos Montt began, only to be abruptly suspended. Both trials have been, from the beginning, filled with legal impediments which have obstructed and delayed them.

As the trial began on January 5th, 2015, Ríos Montt was wheeled into the Guatemala City courtroom on a stretcher — his health used by his defense team as tactic to delay the trial. Though this attempt failed, Montt’s team then questioned the impartiality of Judge Irma Jeannette Valdez Rodas, citing the fact that she had completed a master’s thesis on genocide. This second objection succeeded in delaying the trial, until a new tribunal can be formed.

Despite this interference, Judge Carol Patricia Flores ordered a new medical evaluation of Montt. The Guatemalan National Institute for Forensic Science (INACIF) delivered the medical results on January 14th, confirming that Montt suffers from osteomyelitis, a bone infection. It will be the judge who ultimately decides if Montt should appear in court; the possibility of videoconference communication has also been discussed. In the meantime, the trial is indefinitely suspended.

Civil society excluded from debate about continuation of the CICIG in Guatemala

Amid discussions about whether or not the UN-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) should continue, President Pérez Molina has stated that the work of the CICIG should be analyzed only by government institutions with links to the justice sector. Even though Molina stated in early January that he would solicit input from organizations interested in participating in the analysis, he is now stating that the period of analysis has “reached it’s end.”

The US government has stated that it will continue to provide financial support for the CICIG, as long as political will exists in Guatemala for its continuation.

Poor Guatemalans Are Taking On North American Mining Companies—and Have the Bullet Wounds to Prove It

This in-depth article from The Nation touches on several land rights cases across Guatemala, focusing on the repression and violence that has been used against protesters who oppose extractive projects.

A related article discusses Canada’s mining dilemma, highlighting violations of environmental and indigenous rights committed by mining companies abroad.

Community Radio Station Raided in Sololá, Guatemala

On Tuesday, December 9, 2014, Stereo Juventud — a community radio with programming in the Kaqchikel language — was raided by the Guatemalan Public Ministry. Two police trucks with about 20 policemen, accompanied by 10 government representatives, arrived at the radio station, cut off its power and seized its equipment. Indigenous authorities joined the community in a march to the courthouse, demanding the return of the equipment.

Intensification of Mexico-Guatemala border security

The Mexican government, encouraged and backed by the Obama administration, has taken actions to stop migration from Central America after a significant flow of underage migrants reached the Mexico-U.S border. The frequent governments raids on the trains on which migrants travel have pushed underage migrants to travel on foot, where they can fall victim to gangs and exploitation, being used as cheap labor, or sexual exploitation.

Daughter of former military dictator Efraín Ríos Montt might run for presidency in Guatemala

The “Partido Liberador Progresista” (PLP) has invited ex-congresswoman Zury Ríos, the daughter of Efraín Ríos Montt, to become the political party’s candidate for presidency in the upcoming 2015 presidential campaign. The party’s inclusion in the campaign depends on her acceptance, which has not been confirmed.

American woman accused of illegal trafficking of minors

Nancy Susan Bailey, founder of the Seeds of Love orphanage in Guatemala, was apprehended on December 17, 2014 in El Salvador, and turned over to Guatemalan authorities via Interpol. Bailey is accused of human trafficking; in Guatemala’s International Commission Against Impunity 2010 report, 3,342 irregular adoptions were noted, mostly to US couples.

 

 

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)

Guatemala News Update: May 19-23

Violent Eviction at La Puya

On Friday, after more than two years of non-violent resistance against a gold mine, the communities in resistance of “La Puya” were evicted from their blockade at the entrance to the mine. Police arrived early in the morning to escort mining company trucks and heavy machinery. By the afternoon, hundreds of police — including many in full riot gear — moved in on the protesters with tear gas and flash bombs, beating those who refused to move. Over 20 people were injured.

Just days before, attempts at negotiation were made, but ultimately stalled when the government refused to allow the negotiations to be recorded. The Vice-Minister of the Interior insinuated that the government had agreed to accompany the mine equipment because the dialogue was effectively “broken.” Community members at La Puya reiterate that they want to complete the negotiation process with the government, but with transparency.

Although machinery was successfully brought into the mine, those at the Puya have already stated they are committed to continue their resistance. GHRC will continue to monitor the situation and support communities’ rights. Continue reading

Guatemalan Congress Seeks Impunity for Genocide

This week 87 members of the Guatemalan Congress passed a resolution denying the existence of genocide during the country’s internal armed conflict. The statement is not legally binding, but is the latest attempt to delegitimize the genocide case and create a de facto amnesty; it also raises concerns that the Congress may be looking to legislate new amnesty provisions.

The resolution was proposed by Congressman Luis Fernando Pérez of the PRI (formerly FRG), the party founded by General Efraín Ríos Montt, who was tried last year on charges of genocide. The statement describes national discussion surrounding genocide as polarizing, as well as an impediment to reconciliation. The resolution also states, “We are committed to study the legislation issued within the framework of the peace agreements.” Continue reading

Commemorating the Genocide Sentence; Guatemala’s New Attorney General

Today, on the one-year anniversary of the genocide sentence, we reaffirm our solidarity with the thousands of Ixil victims and survivors who have witnessed so much suffering, and with those who continue fighting for justice and dignity.

On May 10, 2013, Guatemalan courts handed down an 80-year sentence against former dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt for genocide and war crimes against the Maya Ixil people — a sentence that was a historic step for Guatemala, and for the global community working for justice.

The verdict not only represented justice for the 1,771 Ixil men, women and children assassinated between March 1982 and August 1983, but also for their surviving family members and the thousands of victims from across the country of the internal armed conflict. It signified, too, the possibility of justice for victims who had buried their traumas in silence for more than 30 years, and endured the indifference of a society that has gone so far as to deny that the events even occurred.

A Mayan ceremony performed outside the court asking for justice; General Rios Montt hours before a verdict was handed down Continue reading

May 10: Commemorating the One-Year Anniversary of the Genocide Sentence

genocide-anniversary
(Información de los eventos está disponible abajo en español)

On May 10, people around the world will commemorate the one-year anniversary of the conviction of Ríos Montt for genocide perpetuated against the Maya Ixil people during Guatemala’s internal armed conflict. The sentence was delivered by Judge Yassmín Barrios, of the High Risk Crimes Court “A”, and convicted Montt to 80 years in prison for genocide and war crimes. Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

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