Thursday, March 21, 2013

Genocide on Trial in Guatemala, Day 2: Ixil Voices in the Halls of Justice

Read our coverage on the first day of the trial.

The second day of proceedings in the Guatemala genocide case trial opened with unresolved tensions around accused former general Efraín Ríos Montt's legal representation. He started the day once again without any of his previously designated lawyers. Francisco Palomo, who has defended Ríos Montt for over a year in the genocide case as well as other cases, was present in court. However, he made clear he was there to represent co-defendant former general José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez and would not defend Ríos Montt. In fact, Palomo stated he plans to submit a challenge to the judicial process on the point of Ríos Montt's representation, suggesting that the changes to Ríos Montt's defense team the first two days of the trial were undertaken with this goal in mind.

The powerful testimonies of 13 Ixil witnesses in their Mayan language characterized the second day of the proceedings. One after another, witnesses shared their stories of the brutal murders of their loved ones at the hands of the military, as well as the burning of their homes and crops.

The day concluded with the moving testimony of Pedro Chavez Brito about the events of November 4, 1982. The military arrived in his community of Nebaj and killed Chavez Brito's mother. Chavez Brito, approx. 6 or 7 years old at the time, hid with his siblings in the temascal (traditional sauna). His siblings included his older sister, who had just given birth a few days before and was also hiding her newborn child.

The soldiers opened the door of the temascal and found my sister with her baby.
They asked us, "Where is the guerrilla?"
"Please don't kill us," my sister replied. The house was already on fire around us.
"You are a guerrillera, you gave food to the guerrilla," they said to my sister. They took my sister to over to the fire...

I don't know what I did, I managed to get out. They set fire to the house. I hid beneath a tree trunk. For 8 days I was beneath that trunk. I came out once in a while, I could hear them walking. I hid like an animal for 8 days, without food, without a blanket, I didn't have any clothes, I was naked.

...I don't know how many they [soldiers] were, they were like ants.

As an organization with 12 years of experience accompanying the AJR, NISGUA is moved by the long-awaited opportunity for this testimony to be heard in the courts and saddened by the similiarities between these testimonies and that of the hundreds of witnesses we have accompanied in the five regions of the AJR since 2000.

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