The Association for Justice and Reconciliation (AJR) represents the witnesses and survivors of Guatemala’s genocide and are co-plaintiffs in the case against Efraín Ríos Montt and José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez. For more than a decade the survivors have struggled for the opportunity to have their case heard in a court of law. The last 20 days of public oral debate in the genocide trial have demonstrated to the world their unwavering commitment to truth and justice.
With more than 100 witnesses from Ixil communities, echoed details in the survivors’ stories made clear the systematic nature of the Guatemalan military’s scorched earth campaigns, as one after another witness told of the soldiers’ extreme and indiscriminate cruelty; of the deliberate destruction of food, crops, animals, homes, and everything necessary for survival; of the violation of women’s bodies and traditional clothing.
Expert witnesses included 33 forensic experts from FAFG (Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Association), psychologist Nieves Gomez, historian Ángel Valdez Estrada, statistician Patrick Ball and specialist in woman’s law Paloma Soria. Rodolfo Robles Espina – a retired Peruvian army general, and for many years a consultant on national security and defense issues testified that everthing that took place during the regime’s military operations against the guerrillas in the Ixil region during 1982-83 was a result of the strategies and tactics promulgated by military chain of command.
The defense of Montt in this trial has focused largely on the argument that while he was in power, he could not and did not have control of everything the Army did; he could not know everything that was going on in the remote, rural Ixil region, and cannot be held responsible for any atrocities committed by rogue soldiers.
But the video played in court seemed to contradict this argument.
“If I can’t control the Army,” 1982 Montt said on screen, “Then what am I doing here?”
Outside the courtroom, efforts continue to try to delegitimize the genocide case. A 10-page paid insert titled “The Farce of Genocide in Guatemala: a conspiracy perpetrated by Marxists with the Catholic Church” was published in Guatemala City-based newspaper El Periódico on Sunday, April 14. On Tuesday, two Guatemalan newspapers ran a false paid political advertisement in the name of the Association for Justice and Reconciliation (AJR).
In a dramatic turn of events on day 20 of the trial the 6 defense lawyers walked out and declared the proceedings illegal. Judge Flores decision to annul the trial due to a previously unresolved injunction has stunned the prosecutions legal team and witnesses.
Below we share some of their reactions to the day’s proceedings.
Yesterday I was very happy because we were close to having the sentence. Unfortunately, the Courts of Justice have stomped on the constitution. They change the laws to fit their needs; they do whatever they want with them, whatever they crave. But right now I feel excited because the lawyers are not saying that we will stop here. We have to move forward with the struggle until the end. This is not going to be just half way finished.
-Former AJR board member
Statement by the Center for Human Rights Legal Action (CALDH), the lawyers representing the AJR and co-plaintiffs in the case
HISTORY WRITES ONE MORE PAGE OF IMPUNITY
The women victims of sexual violence, the children stolen from their families, the men and women survivors of the massacres committed by the Guatemalan army during the internal armed conflict, WERE MOCKED, by the resolution issued by the Judge of the First Court for High Risks Crimes “A”, who we consider to have erroneously interpreted all of the decisions issued by the Appeals Court, the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court.
Their resolution will be named in the pages of Guatemalan history as IMPUNITY, which is why we call on all of the bodies of the justice system to appeal this decision. This judge is attempting to give orders to the Trial Court, when she does not have the authority to do so.