[News] The Strange Trial of Ríos Montt
news at freedomarchives.org
Fri May 24 13:10:04 EDT 2013
*Despite Annulment, Genocide Trial a Breakthrough for Justice and Truth*
The Strange Trial of Ríos Montt
by LUZ MENDEZ
The sentence of 80 years in prison against former de facto president
Efraín Ríos Montt for genocide and crimes against humanity committed
during Guatemala's armed conflict, emitted on May 10, 2013, was annulled
by the Constitutional Court ten days later.
The court's decision is a judicial aberration, since it not only
exceeded its jurisdiction but also openly violated legal precepts and
endorsed the underhanded mechanisms that uphold a system of impunity in
Guatemala. It also demonstrates the lack of independence of the court to
the powerful economic and political groups.
Guatemala is also one of the countries with the deepest social
inequalities, where the dominant economic elite and the military and
political powers have acted with the assurance of immunity and impunity.
The genocide trial against a former head of state put an end to that
assurance. Today we know that at some moment justice can be attained.
That is why they tried to stop the trial and once the sentence was
handed down, joined forces to have it annulled.
For members of the dominant groups--profoundly racist and used to
discriminating and belittling indigenous peoples--it is inconceivable
that indigenous people have accused and taken to court a general, who
exercised brutal power precisely to defend the economic privileges of
Nonetheless, the genocide trial represents a breakthrough for justice
and truth, the fundamental bases for building peace.
In the public hearings the truth emerged in all its rawness--the truth
that government and military officials had sought to bury at all cost.
This has meant an opportunity for younger generations to learn about an
essential chapter in Guatemala's history, an indispensable prerequisite
for tracing a different future.
During the trial, the Tribunal marked that the sexual violence committed
against Ixil women was a constituent element of the genocide.
Testimonies and investigations presented during the trial proved that
the rapes were directed not only to harm women, but also to destroy the
social fabric of the communities, with the clear objective of
annihilating the Ixil people.
The trial fortifies struggles for gender justice for crimes of the past
and the present, which has a huge potential impact on the rampant
impunity that surrounds the violence against women in Guatemala today,
Another of the valuable experiences of the trial was the construction of
broad alliances to support the victims that included human rights groups
and women's, indigenous people's, peasant farmers organizations, along
with intellectuals and progressive individuals and generated strong
international solidarity. All this left the lesson that the unity of
diverse sectors of society on a common objective is possible and
indispensable to advance in just causes.
This emblematic trial is not over. The struggle for justice continues.
The progress made is the result of the untiring efforts of women and men
of the Maya-Ixil people, who will never stop until they attain justice.
In this long road they have had the help of human rights organization
and legal professionals, who also deserve recognition.
Special recognition should go to Yasmin Barrios, President of the Court
of Great Risk who decided the case, along with two more members of this
judicial organ. Also critical in the process was attorney general
Claudia Paz y Paz, and the legal team responsible for the case in the
Faced with a campaign of threats and intimidations unleashed by the most
backwards groups in the country, it is necessary and urgent to guarantee
the security and integrity of the victims, those who brought the case,
the judges and prosecutors, and the human rights defenders who have
accompanied the struggle for justice.
/*Luz Mendez* is president of the Advising Council of the National Union
of Guatemala Women (UNAMG). She participated in the peace negotiations
as a member of the Diplomatic Political Team of the Guatemalan National
Revolutionary Unit. In the international arena, she was a member of the
Team of Experts on Gender for the peace talks in Burundi organized by
UNIFEM, and of the Advising Council of the Global Fund for Women. She is
a contributor to the CIP Americas Program, /www.cipamericas.org
/Translation: Laura Carlsen/
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