Genocide Trial in Guatemala Drawing to a Close

Over the last month, the historic trial has been moving forward in Guatemala’s High Risk Court charging former Head of State Efraín Ríos Montt and former Head of Military Intelligence José Mauricio Rodríguez Sanchez with Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity. The victims have waited for over 30 years for justice to be served for the atrocities committed against Guatemala’s indigenous people, and finally, a verdict is in sight.

Thanks to all of our supporters who sent an email to U.S. Ambassador Arnold Chacon asking him to attend the genocide trial. Although the trial began on March 19, the US Ambassador didn’t make an appearance in the courtroom until April 9th. The following day the Embassy finally broke its silence regarding the trial and issued a press release reiterating the importance of justice for reconciliation in Guatemala. The press release also expressed the US’s support for justice processes which are “credible, independent, transparent and impartial,” and exhorted “all Guatemalans to respect the legitimacy and integrity of the process.”

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Nobel Peace Prize winner and genocide survivor Rigoberta Menchu greets victims’ families. (Photo: mimundo.org)

Breaking News: We’ve received word that a decision in the trial against Efraín Ríos Montt and José Rodríquez Sanchez may come as soon as the end of this week. The trial has progressed at breakneck speed covering testimony from more than 100 survivors and dozens of experts, despite constant attempts by the defense to stall or derail the process.

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Weekly News Round-Up, April 1-5

Perez Molína sells Puerto Quetzal
Over Easter weekend, Perez Molína sold Puerto Quetzal to a Spanish company. Protesters hung banners around the city denouncing Molína’s decision, and insist that the sale was illegal. The company that purchased the port, Terminal de Contenedores de Barcelona (TCB), plans to construct a dock and terminal that deals directly to Spain.

Paz y Paz named in Newsweek’s 125 Women of Impact
Claudia Paz y Paz was named one of Newsweek’s 125 Women of Impact. This is one of several awards that she has received in recent years for her work as Attorney General of Guatemala

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Weekly News Round-Up, Mar. 26 – Apr. 1

Indigenous leaders publicly denounced Guatemalan government
Ixil, Q’anjob’al, Chuj, Akateko, K’iche’, Mam, Kaqchikel, Q’eqchi’, Ch’orti’, Poqomchi’, Achi’, Xinka and Mestizo leaders presented further proof that the Guatemalan government is racist and disregards lives of indigenous communities. Specifically, they denounced mining laws as unconstitutional and demanded changes.

Update on Ríos Montt Trial
At this point, about half of the 122 witnesses have testified. Prosecutor Orlando López has said that the over 900 pieces of evidence, including testimonies of genocide survivors, are enough to prove Ríos Montt and Rodriguez were intellectual authors of the slaughters of the Ixil population. On April 1, 2013, the court heard testimonies from 12 more witnesses who described the massacres, inhumane conditions and, in one instance, torture suffered during the time of Montt’s 1982-83 rule. Attorneys for the prosecution also arranged for forthcoming testimony from survivors of sexual assault.

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Ríos Montt and the Need for International Accountability for War Crimes in Guatemala

Originally posted in Toward Freedom on February 12, 2013

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President Regan and Ríos Montt

By Cyril Mychalejko

In December 4, 1982, former President Ronald Reagan spoke in Honduras after meeting with Efraín Ríos Montt, the evangelical Guatemalan General who seized power in a military coup a little over 8 months earlier.

“I know that President Ríos Montt is a man of great personal integrity and commitment,” said Reagan. “I know he wants to improve the quality of life for all Guatemalans and to promote social justice. My administration will do all it can to support his progressive efforts.”

Two days later the regime that Reagan said was getting a “bum rap” sent a contingent of Kabiles, Guatemala’s notorious special forces unit, to the department of Peten. There they entered the village of Dos Erres, where they tortured the men, raped the women, took hammers to the children, and in the end murdered as many as 250 people. Afterwards they burnt the village to the ground as part of Rios Montt’s “scorched earth” campaign against the country’s Mayan population.

Thirty years later Ríos Montt may finally face justice. On January 28, 2013 a Guatemalan judge ruled that the former head of state accused of responsibility for “1,771 deaths, 1,400 human rights violations and the displacement of 29,000 indigenous Guatemalans” would be tried for genocide in a domestic court. This precedent-setting decision was lauded internationally by human rights activists and NGOs. Continue reading