Guatemala Genocide Trial Must Resume, Say Woman Human Rights Leaders

May 2, 2013

A coalition of seven female Nobel Prize winners, including Dr. Rigoberta Menchú Tum of Guatemala, called April 25 for the trial of former dictator Efraín Rios Montt to proceed. Montt was indicted in January for genocide and crimes against humanity, including widespread rape. The trial in Guatemala City was suspended last week mere days before observers expected it to conclude when a lower court judge on April 18 unexpectedly issued a ruling on a legal technicality. Guatemala’s attorney general has called the ruling illegal. The trial marks the first time a head of state has been tried for genocide by his own country’s justice system. Rios Montt is accused of ordering the killings of over 1,700 Ixil Maya people in 1982 and 1983, when he was army general and de-facto president of Guatemala.

Menchú Tum and a panel of human right experts convened a call with reporters last Thursday hours before the country’s constitutional court issued a ruling on an evidence question in favor of the defense, but looming even larger is a pending decision on an annulment ordered by the lower court judge. Until that comes down, it is unclear whether the trial will pick up where it left off, return to the pretrial phase, or revert to a midpoint in the proceedings. The uncertainty has heightened concern for survivors and human rights defenders in the country. Panelists said the over 100 survivors who gave testimony at the trial now face a kind of double jeopardy.

If the defense managed to annul the trial, we would have to wait for, we believe, a long time, maybe years, and this is a period that will be of high risk,” said Claudia Samayoa of the Human Rights Defenders Protection Unit in Guatemala (UNDEFEGUA by its Spanish initials). After similar disruptions in previous high-profile trials, Guatemala’s powerbrokers did not easily relinquish the impunity they have so long enjoyed. “They know which witnesses have the most damaging testimony, and they look for extrajudicial ways of silencing them,” said Samayoa.  UNDEFEGUA has documented 258 attacks on human rights advocates in the two months since the trial began, in contrast to February, when only 14 such incidents were counted.

The excellent and long background report by Alissa Bohling, of the news organisation Truthout is worth reading in full:

Guatemala Genocide Trial Must Resume, Say Human Rights Leaders.

One Response to “Guatemala Genocide Trial Must Resume, Say Woman Human Rights Leaders”

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