[News] The Strange Trial of Ríos Montt

Anti-Imperialist News 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


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 
these groups.

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, 
particularly femicide.

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 
public ministry.

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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