"Impunity is a perverse state that damages not only the
victim, but society in general." - Judge Flores
"We have to celebrate this historic event. Our struggle has become reality. It was worth it." - AJR activist
Last night, Judge Carol Patricia Flores ruled that there was sufficient evidence to formally charge former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt with genocide. The U.S.-supported dictator ruled Guatemala in 1982 and 1983, while the military carried out a scorched earth policy at the height of the 36-year internal armed conflict. Although this particular charge addresses massacres carried out in the Maya Ixil region, massacres were carried out throughout Guatemala and over 80% of the war's victims were indigenous Maya.
|Graffiti artists created a mural that reads, "Ixil region - we demand justice".|
"We can establish these are acts so degrading, so humiliating that there is no justification," the judge said after detailing the human rights abuses from survivors' testimonies. In her decision, the judge clearly stated that the extermination of the civilian population was the result of military plans, and that these plans were executed under the command of Ríos Montt.
|A memorial quilt with the names of family members killed during the conflict.|
As the judge read the decision, family members, activists and supporters gathered outside the court applauded, hugged and lit firecrackers to celebrate. Yesterday represented a huge symbolic and concrete step forward in the struggle against impunity for past and current crimes in Guatemala.
|Impunity - Neither yesterday, nor today.|
Ríos Montt posted bail and will be held under house arrest until his next trial date. The Association for Justice and Reconciliation (AJR) and the Center for Human Rights Legal Action (CALDH) will be busy in the upcoming months preparing for trials against Ríos Montt and other members of his high command already facing genocide charges.
"We are trying to achieve justice so that our children never experience these massacres. We ask the international community to be on alert and to support us in the struggle," the president of the AJR said yesterday outside the court.
We are honored to have shared this historic moment and to have accompanied the survivors, their families and their legal advocates in this process for so many years. We hope the courts will continue to proceed in accordance with international and national laws.
Thank you to all of you that have participated in the international support network!
Please stay tuned and take action in the critical months ahead:
- Join us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter (@NISGUA_Guate) and receive email updates.
- If you haven't already, sign the Justice for Genocide petition!
- Support the Guatemala Accompaniment Project, that provides accompaniment to human rights defenders seeking justice in Guatemala.
- Contact us to host an event, join our media efforts and get involved.
- CALDH and the Para que se conozca blog
- Al Jazeera video interviewing members of AJR, CALDH, and GHRC
- New York Times article
- Albedrio (in Spanish)
- Plaza Pública (in Spanish)
- Photo essay (in Spanish) - CPR Urbana
- Photo essay (in Spanish) - Entre la milpa