Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Ríos Montt ordered to undergo a full psychiatric review

"We can't allow the massacres in our communities to remain in impunity. We've already achieved our sentence, but we're ready for it to be declared a second time because we know there was genocide." - Julia Cortéz, spokesperson for the Association for Justice and Reconciliation (AJR), plaintiff in the genocide case.

Questions surrounding ex-general Ríos Montt's health and mental capacities took center stage on Thursday during attempts to restart the Guatemala genocide trial, ending in a court order to intern the former dictator for ten days at the Federico Mora psychiatric hospital. Judge María Eugenia Castellanos, president of the High Risk Crimes Court Tribunal B, ordered Ríos Montt to undergo a physical and psychiatric review to determine whether he is mentally fit to be re-tried. This order was undermined by a habeas corpus filed with a separate court and which halted the transfer scheduled for Saturday, July 25.

The July 23 decision came after 8 hours of fits and starts in the proceedings due to a procedural delay in the morning, multiple defense arguments that the ex-general is unable to move or stand trial and technical problems with the internet teleconference in Ríos Montt's home. The Public Prosecutor slammed the INACIF (National Forensic Institute) report issued two weeks ago, claiming Ríos Montt is unfit to stand trial, or even be re-evaluated. The report describes that at the time of the evaluation, Ríos Montt was under the influence of medications which could present a serious health risk to the 89-year old, including Olanzapine (anti-psychotic), Tramadol (opiod) and Valdure (analgesic). Other anomalies in the INACIF report were the use of a psychological and not psychiatric methodology and that Ríos Montt’s private physician and his daughter, presidential candidate Zury Ríos, were the only people present at the evaluation.

After a long deliberation, the tribunal ordered the ten-day internment at the state-run mental health facility for a full physical and psychiatric evaluation. That Ríos Montt was ordered to Federico Mora, a state mental health facility with a reputation for its poor conditions, caused surprise in the courtroom.

On Saturday morning, the Public Prosecutor and National Police arrived at Ríos Montt’s home to carry out the order issued by Tribunal B. However, the defendant’s lawyers appeared with notification of a last-minute habeas corpus, successfully preventing his transfer. Legal experts question the habeas corpus filing with the Femicide Appeals Court, which has no jurisdiction over the case. Ríos Montt remains under house arrest.

This is the second attempt to restart the trial after the Constitutional Court overturned the 2013 verdict sentencing Ríos Montt to 80 years in prison for crimes against humanity and genocide against the Ixil people. Judge recusal motions and claims that Ríos Montt is unfit to stand trial have been the primary strategy of the defense in stalling the opening of the second public hearing. Until the issue of Ríos Montt’s evaluation is resolved, the 2nd public hearing of the genocide is stalled.

For more information about the INACIF report, read the response from survivors after the report was issued.

Ongoing accompaniment and international observation is being requested by both the survivor organization and their legal teams for the re-trial. 

NISGUA, through the international coalition ACOGUATE, has provided human rights accompaniment to the witness' organization, the Association for Justice and Reconciliation since 2000. Follow NISGUA_Guate on Twitter for live updates.

Monday, July 13, 2015

In wake of Guatemala corruption scandals, Tahoe Resources’ Escobal license faces legal challenge

On July 12, 2015, the Guatemalan Center for Environmental and Social Legal Action (CALAS) filed criminal charges against former Minister of the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM), Erick Archila, and former mines director at MEM, Fernando Castellanos. CALAS is accusing Archila and Castellanos of violating the Constitution and for breach of duty for having granted Tahoe Resources an exploitation license for the Escobal project without adequate consideration of more than 250 community complaints against the project. CALAS called on the UN-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) to fully investigate the Escobal licensing process, citing Archila's possible involvement in influence trafficking and illicit enrichment.

CALAS’s complaint reflects ongoing and widespread opposition to mining in Santa Rosa and Jalapa, which the government and company alike have ignored. Beginning in December 2011, more than a year before MEM granted Tahoe Resources its license, residents from various communities in Santa Rosa and Jalapa began filing administrative complaints against the project, according to provisions within Guatemala's mining law. The complaints, over 250 in all, expressed opposition to the project based on anticipated environmental impacts, which would violate residents' rights to water and to live in a healthy environment. 

According to the mining law, MEM is required to hold a hearing with the affected individual and the mining company in order to resolve each complaint. However, on April 3, 2012, less than one hour before the press conference when the approval of Tahoe’s exploitation license was announced, all of the complaints were dismissed.[1] CALAS argues that the Escobal license was therefore granted illegally and in violation of constitutional rights.[2] In May 2013, they initiated legal proceedings to repeal MEM's decision.[3]

On July 23, 2013, the Civil and Mercantile Division of Guatemala's First Court of Appeals decided in favor of the communities, upholding the appeal and putting the legality of the Escobal exploitation license in question. Tahoe Resources' Guatemala subsidiary Minera San Rafael appealed the decision, sending the case to the Constitutional Court. A final decision is pending. 

The recent charges come in the wake of an ongoing political crisis in Guatemala sparked by joint CICIG and Public Prosecutor investigations that revealed rampant corruption in the social security and customs offices, as well as in the judicial system and Congress. So far, 42 people, including President Molina's former personal secretary, his general secretary and the head of the national bank, have been arrested. Vice President Roxana Baldetti resigned on May 8 under suspicion of illegal enrichment and Congress is considering stripping Otto Perez Molina of his presidential immunity. Former MEM Minister Erick Archila resigned on May 15 and is facing allegations of corruption, money laundering and anomalies in the granting of numerous government contracts.

[1] Prensa Libre, “MEM inválida oposiciones en Santa Rosa” (5 April 2013), online:

[2] La Hora, “Tensión por proyecto minero en San Rafael Las Flores” (10 April 2013), online: http://www.lahora.com.gt/index.php/nacional/guatemala/actualidad/176076-tension-por-proyecto-minero-en-san-rafael-las-flores

[3] El Periodico, “Despues de recibir ataques, CALAS anuncia acciones legales contra mina” (4 April 2013), online: