The defence lawyers of Rios Montt showed that they are well practised in the Guatemalan art of the dilatory amparo, or injunction. Earlier this year they filed an injunction against an order that insisted that military plans be
provided to the court handling the genocide case being brought by the Asociacion Justicia y Reconciliacion (AJR). This argument started last year, when the
defence claimed that the details of the notorious yearly plans, such as “Ceniza 81” “Victoria
82”, “Firmeza 83” were classified, but having pursued this up to the Constitutional Court they lost this case on 15 April.
Undeterred they then filed another one claiming that the judge who was to receive the documents was incompetent deal
with it, and that the case should be transferred to a military court. This has recently in turn been rejected, but it could now go to the Constitutional Court. CALDH, who act as the AJR’s legal team, and the AJR characterised this as
“una clara pretensión de retrasar el proceso judicial que se lleva en su contra, confirmando el uso y abuso de los
amparos como una medida dilatoria para negar la justicia a las víctimas del genocidio.” – “a clear attempt to retard the judicial case which is brought against them, confirming the use and abuse of amparos as a dilatory measure to deny justice to the victims of gencode”.
The use and abuse of the amparo to delay cases is nothing new. Apparently last year half a million amparos were filed and most
judged inadmissable – eventually – just another way in which an already struggling legal system is further clogged up.
The most notorious case I ever came across personally was that of the trial of the intellectual authors of the murder
of Myrna Mack in September 1990. After the material author was convicted in 1993 Helen Mack, Myrna’s sister, filed a suit to ask that his superiors be tried. From that time on the defendants used every possible legal delaying tactic to prevent the trial. Every amparo wound its way up to the Constitutional Court to be resolved. By the time arguments about whether a case should be heard in a military or civilian court, whether amnesty applied, even under which penal code to proceed – after some deliberation it was decided to start again using the penal code in force at the time of the murder, before that decision was rescinded and it started all over gain using the one it originally started under – eight years elapsed and fourteen since the murder. The three individuals accused finally came to trial in September 2002, when ex-Colonel Valencia Osorio was convicted. After a series of back and forth appeals which absolved and reconfirmed his conviction he went on the run and is still at large.
In the other genocide case brought by Rigoberta Menchu in Spain there has been another twist. One of the accused,
retired General Ángel Aníbal Guevara, has filed a criminal lawsuit in Guatemalan courts against Spanish Judge
Santiago Pedraz. In his claim, Aníbal Guevara accuses Pedraz of breach of trust and violation of the Constitution.