Monday, April 29, 2013

Genocide trial still suspended: Supporters remain hopeful, public dialogue continues

NISGUA continues ongoing coverage of the trial in Guatemala of Efraín Rios Montt and Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez for genocide and crimes against humanity.

The air in Guatemala is tensely optimistic as various injunctions and appeals related to the fate of the genocide trial are one by one being resolved in Guatemalan courts. The genocide trial has been suspended for just over one week and both Guatemalan civil society and the international community have reacted with widespread popular response. Energy remains high and hope holds strong that the trial quickly resumes.

Survivors gather in vigil on Thursday, April 18.
Following Judge Flores' shocking resolution on April 18 ordering an annulment of the genocide trial proceedings, survivors gathered together in vigil to call for the trial to continue and also to name the impunity at work behind Flores' decision. In the aftermath of the decision, the CICIG and the Attorney General's office qualified the Flores decision as illegal and the next day Judge Barrios followed suit, stating her court would not comply with illegal resolutions. Barrios was, however, forced to temporarily suspend the trial while the Constitutional Court resolves Flores' resolution and other outstanding issues.

Surrounding these recent events, the hashtag phrase #SiHuboGenocidio (#YesItWasGenocide) has swept the top Guatemalan Twitter trends several days in a row. Guatemalans shared family stories, facts and figures, personal declarations and political statements, in an incredible show of public discourse on the topic of genocide in Guatemala. The international community swiftly followed the example and the topic has become a popular forum for dialogue --see the trend in-action for yourself!

A physical display of tweets pulled from the #SíHuboGenocidio Twitter
trend meets the crowd outside Judge Barrios' courtroom on Friday, April 19.

Survivors and supporters marched to the CC later Friday morning to demand
a quick resolution by the Court. Photo: James Rodríguez.
See more of his beautiful photo-essay of the demonstration here.

While popular opinion on the Guatemalan genocide trial is not new, the Twitter phenomenon highlights a new level of conversation being seen in the public arena. An outpouring of support for the trial proceedings has taken place in the form of statements from international experts, organizations and diplomats, sign-on letters from Guatemalan and international organizations and civil society petitions and pledges, all urging the Guatemalan justice system to allow the trial to conclude.

An off-season rain poured on Guatemala City late Friday night and into the next morning but it did not stop genocide trial supporters from gathering in a press conference on Saturday, April 20 to continue to pressure the Constitutional Court. Rigoberta Menchú Tum described the scene, "We are gathered here together today, a day in which even the sky has cried with us." Others interpreted the unusual rain as a sign of cleansing, especially in the context of impunity and corrupt decision-making. Association for Justice and Reconciliation President Benjamin Jerónimo told the crowd, "We continue our search for justice, a justice that is fair. We don't want a dark or dirty justice."

Since it first became apparent the trial proceedings were at risk, an atmosphere of uncertainty has loomed over the outcome of the genocide case trial. Will the trial continue or not? Will the trial restart from where it left off or will it go back to an earlier date? In spite of these questions, CALDH lawyers assured the public, "This is a setback for justice, for the victims, but this is not a defeat."

On Tuesday, April 21, misinformation won the day when erroneous reports flooded Guatemalan and international press stating the trial had been officially annulled. Tuesday morning, approximately 50 buses brought Ixiles from Quiché to Guatemala City for a protest in denial of genocide. A number of Ixil members of the group reported being manipulated to hold signs and banners in protest of the genocide trial. They had been promised fertilizer and only upon arriving in the capital city were informed of the real motive behind the caravan. Ricardo Méndez Ruíz, director of Guatemala's Foundation Against Terrorism, was visibly present amongst the demonstrators and later gave troubling declarations about imminent violence.

Throughout last week, Guatemalan press and genocide trial supporters rushed to the Constitutional Court at any mention of a resolution announcement. On Thursday, April 23, the prosecution team received a resolution from the CC and met an anxious crowd outside only to explain that Judge Flores still had to rule on evidence that was previously rejected by Judge Gálvez. On Friday, she did just that and accepted said evidence. While the genocide trial is rumored to restart at any moment, there are a multitude of legal motions still in play that need sorting out.

A human wall of women holding "Sí hubo genocidio" signs set
the scene for a demonstration in front of the CC on April 26.
Genocide trial supporters join ceremonies honoring
Bishop Gerardi on the 15th anniversary of his murder.

On Friday, April 26, genocide trial supporters banded together once again in front of the Constitutional Court. In a show of cross-movement solidarity, supporters marched to Guatemala's Metropolitan Cathedral to join the commemoration of Bishop Juan Gerardi's 1998 assassination. Bishop Gerardi was murdered two days after publicly presenting the REMHI truth commission report revealing that state security forces were responsible for 93% of killings and massacres during the internal armed conflict. Bishop Gerardi is honored as a defender of truth and justice.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (
stand in solidarity with justice for Guatemala.
Outside of Guatemala, visual support for the trial keeps flowing in as our ongoing photo campaign in support of justice for genocide continues to grow. In another beautiful demonstration of cross-movement solidarity, the Florida-based worker and immigrant rights organization, the Coalition of Immokalee workers, demonstrate their support for justice for genocide. See the slideshow of the full photo album and take your own photo of support today!

NISGUA has provided human rights accompaniment to the witness' organization, the Association for Justice and Reconciliation, and their lawyers, the Center for Human Rights Legal Action since 2000. We will continue to bear witness to the truth and bravery of these survivors throughout this historic trial. To bear witness with us, stay tuned to our ongoing live Twitter coverage @NISGUA_Guate, like our Facebook page and sign up for email updates

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