FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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 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

More articles by:
May 30, 2016
Ron Jacobs
The State of the Left: Many Movements, Too Many Goals?
James Abourezk
The Intricacies of Language
Porfirio Quintano
Hillary, Honduras, and the Murder of My Friend Berta
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes on ISIS are Reducing Their Cities to Ruins
Uri Avnery
The Center Doesn’t Hold
Raouf Halaby
The Sailors of the USS Liberty: They, Too, Deserve to Be Honored
Rodrigue Tremblay
Barack Obama’s Legacy: What Happened?
Matt Peppe
Just the Facts: The Speech Obama Should Have Given at Hiroshima
Deborah James
Trade Pacts and Deregulation: Latest Leaks Reveal Core Problem with TISA
Michael Donnelly
Still Wavy After All These Years: Flower Geezer Turns 80
Ralph Nader
The Funny Business of Farm Credit
Paul Craig Roberts
Memorial Day and the Glorification of Past Wars
Colin Todhunter
From Albrecht to Monsanto: A System Not Run for the Public Good Can Never Serve the Public Good
Rivera Sun
White Rose Begins Leaflet Campaigns June 1942
Tom H. Hastings
Field Report from the Dick Cheney Hunting Instruction Manual
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail