Guatemala News Update: October 27 – 31

IACHR Hearings on Guatemala

At hearings at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on Tuesday in Washington, DC, Guatemalan organizations discussed access to justice and the legacy of the internal armed conflict, as well as the situation of human rights defenders, militarization and judicial independence.

In addition, the IACHR has expressed concern about the excessive militarization of Guatemala. The organization points to the presence of the military in schools, civilian security squadrons, and the use of martial law. In response, the Guatemalan government has denied the existence of militarization in the country and claims that the army only supports the police in security matters if the situation requires it.

Inter-American Court of Human Rights Finds Guatemala Guilty of Failing to Investigate Activist’s Death

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) announced that it found Guatemala guilty of failing to investigate the death of human rights defender Florentin Gudiel Ramos. The court also determined that the government failed to provide adequate protection for his daughter, Makrina Gudiel, who is also a human rights activist. The State has failed to comply with eleven similar rulings in other human rights cases, prompting the IACtHR to declare Guatemala in contempt of court in August 2014.

Makrina visited the US this year as part of GHRC’s Spring Speaker’s Tour. Read more about Makrina’s fight for justice here.

Guatemalan Officers Face Sexual Slavery Charges in Historic Trial

Guatemalan activist and feminist Luz Mendez writes about another historic case moving forward in Guatemala. On October 14th, Guatemala’s High Risk Court ruled that two army officers would be charged for sexual crimes perpetrated against Q’eqchí women at the military outpost of Sepur Zarco. These crimes were committed over a six-year period between 1982 and 1988. The trial is the first for sexual slavery during armed conflict that has been presented in the country where the acts took place, and could establish an important precedent in ending impunity for crimes of sexual violence.

Public Forum on Genocide in Guatemala: The Future of the Trial against Ríos Montt and Rodríguez Sánchez

Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF), Guatemala Human Rights Commission (GHRC), International Platform against Impunity, Latin American Studies at George Mason University, Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI), and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) are please to invite you to a public forum on
Genocide in Guatemala: The Future of the Trial against Ríos Montt and Rodríguez Sánchez
Featuring:

Claudia Paz y Paz
Georgetown Law and former Attorney General of Guatemala

Francisco Soto
Center for Human Rights Legal Action (CALDH)

Edwin Camil
Center for Human Rights Legal Action (CALDH)

Edgar Pérez
Human Rights Legal Office (Bufete Jurídico de Derechos Humanos)

Jorge Santos
International Center for Human Rights Research (CIIDH)

Claudia Samayoa
Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Guatemala (UDEFEGUA)

Marcia Aguiluz
Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL)

and moderated by

Jo-Marie Burt
George Mason University and WOLA Senior Fellow

Friday, October 31, 2014
9:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
2nd floor, Room B and C
1779 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, D.C. 20036

To RSVP, please click here. For more information please contact Ashley Davis at +1 (202) 797-2171 or adavis@wola.orgThe event will be held in Spanish.
On May 10, 2013, the ex-dictator of Guatemala José Efraín Ríos Montt was sentenced to 80 years in prison for genocide and crimes against humanity for his role in the extrajudicial execution of 1,771 indigeous Ixil Mayans between 1982 and 1983. Just ten days later, the Constitutional Court, under pressure from business and military sectors, overturned part of the proceedings, thereby nullifying the verdict. Since then the genocide case has been in a holding pattern. The tribunal now in charge of the case announced last year that it would reopen the case in January 2015. The world will be watching as Guatemala struggles to pursue accountability for the crimes of the past.

Speaking at this event are members of Guatemalan civil society and former Attorney General of Guatemala Claudia Paz y Paz, who created space in the Public Prosecutor’s Office for victims of Guatemala’s armed conflict to access truth and justice after more than three decades. The speakers will discuss the legal status of the genocide proceedings, the political environment and how it influences the legal situation, the effects of the stalled proceedings on the victims, and the status of the petition filed by the victims before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Guatemala News Update: October 13-17

Process for the Election of Judges in Guatemala in Question

At least 80 actions have been filed with the Constitutional Court related to the process of selecting the magistrates for Guatemala’s Supreme Court and appeals courts.

The United Nations, the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office and several national and international organizations have requested that the Constitutional Court (CC) order a repeat of the process from the very beginning, alleging that there were various violations of the law which governs the process. The CC also ordered that until it is able to rule on the actions, the appointment of the new magistrates is suspended, and the existing magistrates will remain in their positions.

In addition, one judge who was appointed to a court of appeals, Claudia Escobar, resigned in protest claiming that she had been pressured by a member of Congress, Gudy Rivera, to rule in favor of Vice President Roxana Baldetti and the ruling Patriot Party in exchange for the appointment to the court. In response, the CICIG requested the Rivera’s immunity from prosecution be removed.

In a separate process, two lawyers have been charged with abuse of power with the Third Appeals Court Judge, Erick Gustavo Santiago de Leon. The Public Prosecutors Office alleges that the attorneys offered Santiago de Leon Q16 million to reduce a fine for a company from Q93 million to Q3 million. Meanwhile, the magistrate was reelected to the appeals court. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: September 29-October 3

Former Guatemalan Police Chief to Stand Trial

A trial began this week against former police chief Pedro García Arredondo, who is being charged with ordering the massacre of 37 people who were peacefully protesting inside the Spanish Embassy in 1980. The massacre, which involved soldiers and police setting fire to the embassy, occurred in the context of Guatemala’s 36-year-long civil war. Thirty-seven people, most of them indigenous Mayans, were killed.

Child Migration to US “Neither Sin or Crime” Says Guatemala Foreign Affairs Minister at United Nations General Assembly 2014

Guatemalan Foreign Affairs Minister Carlos Raul Morales spoke to the United Nations General Assembly on the importance of promoting greater prosperity in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, in light of the recent child migration crisis. Morales spoke about the importance of working with the United States to resolve the issue, but warned against criminalizing the children, citing the culpability of human trafficking networks.

European Union Donates $15.4 Million To Strengthen Justice in Guatemala

The European Union has appropriated $15.4 million in aid to Guatemala. The money will go towards improving the quality of justice services, such as the Institute of National Forensics and the Penitentiary System, among others. Continue reading

GHRC Congratulates FAMDEGUA on 22 Years of Searching for Truth, Justice, and Memory

On the 22nd anniversary of its founding, GHRC would like to recognize the important and brave work carried out by the women and men of the Asociación Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos de Guatemala (The Relatives of the Disappeared and Detained in Guatemala), also known by its Spanish acronym, FAMDEGUA.

Members and supporters of FAMDEGUA attend a mass at the Metropolitan Cathedral to commemorate the organization's 22-year anniversary.

Members and supporters of FAMDEGUA attend a mass at the Metropolitan Cathedral to commemorate the organization’s 22-year anniversary.

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

March 2014 Inter-American Commission Hearings on Human Rights in Guatemala

By Lindsay Pollack

Lindsay Pollack is a master’s candidate in the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University, and is a GHRC Spring 2014 Intern.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights held its 150th session of hearings in March. The hearings on Guatemala took place on March 25, 2014, and dealt with transparency and honesty in the justice system and providing reparations for victims of the country’s internal conflict.

About the Commission

At 55 years old, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is the oldest human rights body in the Americas. The themes of human rights issues have expanded greatly in the last 55 years and in response, the agenda of the Commission has changed rapidly to include topics such as gender-based violence and LGBTQ issues. The Commission’s staff is comprised of 65 people, 32 of whom are lawyers. The Commission itself is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence. According to an IACHR official, human rights issues have gained more attention in recent years, but the Commission’s funding has not increased in response, leaving the Commission with a shortage of funding. According to its website, the Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. [1]

Photo courtesy of Daniel Cima of the IACHR

The panel of petitioners at the first hearing on appointing justice operators in Guatemala. Photo courtesy of Daniel Cima, IACHR

The First Hearing: The Process of Appointing Justice Operators in Guatemala

Currently, the Guatemalan judicial system is undergoing significant changes. With the announcement that Dr. Claudia Paz y Paz, the country’s attorney general, will end her term in May instead of December of this year, there is widespread concern about the process of choosing a replacement. After much deliberation, Paz y Paz did decide to run for a second term, but there is no guarantee that she will be selected.

There were various complaints about the process thus far. For example, without advance notice, the nominating committee shortened the period of public comment on candidates for the attorney general position to only five days. This made it difficult for organizations to prepare their comments in time. Continue reading

Parting Message from Justice Barrientos Called for Continued Reforms, Commitment to Justice

(Read in English below)

El Magistrado César Barrientos Pellecer se esmeró en alcanzar los más altos estandardes de la justicia y el estado de derecho. Sus esfuerzos valientes a implementar reformas al código procesal penal llevó a numerosas reformas procesales y administrativas, así como a la implementación exitosa de los tribunales de mayor riesgo, en los cuales jueces conocen casos de profunda importancia para la nación. El Magistrado Barrientos nunca vaciló en cuestionar el estatus quo y sus votos razonados defendieron y permitieron mayor respeto para víctimas, protecciones más fuertes para poblaciones vulnerables y para los derechos indígenas y el cumplimiento estricto con las obligaciones del Estado de Guatemala bajo leyes internacionales.

El siguiente mensaje es muy probablemente el último que envió la mañana de su muerte el 2 de marzo de 2014. Ofrece una visión clara y sucinta de lo que debe ser – y puede ser – el proceso penal. Aunque escrito en una voz imparcial, está claro que este breve manifiesto representa su compromiso firme y ferviente con la justicia. Es, en gran parte, un llamado apasionado a dar seguimiento a lo que él inició.

— — — Continue reading

15 Years After Presentation of Historical Clarification Commission Report: A Message of Solidarity

DiadeVictimas-fotoFifteen years after the presentation of the UN Historical Clarification Commission report on Guatemala’s internal armed conflict — a day that has become known as the National Day of Dignity of the Victims — we express our solidarity with and respect for all the victims and survivors of the conflict. We also recognize the organizations and institutions that have accompanied them, and all those who have contributed in one way or another to processes seeking truth, historic memory, justice and just reparations.

On February 25, 1999, the UN Historical Clarification Commission (CEH) presented its report “Guatemala: Memory of Silence” in Guatemala City. Those present included then president Álvaro Arzú, the military high command, representatives of the URNG and a multitude from civil society.

In 12 volumes, the CEH reported the results of its investigation into the horrors suffered by the population during 36 years of internal armed conflict. From the data collected, it was possible to estimate the impact of the violence: 200,000 dead, 45,000 forced disappearances, and the displacement of one million people. The report found that 83% of the victims were Mayan indigenous and that at least 93% of the atrocities during this period were committed by State forces or paramilitary groups linked to the State. Continue reading