A momentous week in Guatemala?

Certainly one with promise for human rights and the struggle against impunity.

The Guatemala Human Rights Commission (GHRC) has highlighted two major events – the stand out news that former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt has been charged with genocide and crimes against humanity.

Following the recent elections, Ríos Montt had lost his seat in Congress and so his immunity to face charges. Now, on January 26th, “the Public Prosecutor read the evidence against him…and read…and read…until he had summarized the crimes committed by armed forces under Rios Montt’s command in 1982-83 which constituted acts of genocide in Guatemala’s Ixil Triangle (San Juan Cotzal, San Gaspar Chajúl and Santa María Nebaj): the forced displacement of 29,000, the deaths of 1,771 individuals in 11 massacres, as well as torture and 1,485 acts of sexual violence against women.”

Many people did not think that this would be possible but it is only a step, although important, in holding the former President to account. He has yet to use the General Pinochet/Jack Straw defence – being unfit to stand trial, unlike former General Mejia Victores, Ríos Montt’s successor.

Although the sight of the former dictator being charged is a great event, we have to wait and see the outcome.

The other event of significance, taking place on the same day, was the Guatemala Congress’s ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. This Statute allows for the ICC to prosecute any human rights abusers if Guatemala fails to do so.

More on the significance of this week from Renata Avila on Global Voices.

Also more here on Al Jazeera, BBC, New York Times, Guardian, and El País.

Categories: Genocide, Justice

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