Friday, May 10, 2013

Genocide on Trial, Day 26: Benjamin Jerónimo on behalf of AJR, "I ask that justice be done... so the survivors can feel peace"

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

Read our previous summaries: Day 1, 2, 3, 4/5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11-14, 12, 13/14, 15/16, 17/18, 19, 20-1, 20-2, 21, Constitutional Court decisions, trial suspension, Day 22, 23, 24/25 and our full archive of ongoing live Twitter coverage.

Benjamin Jerónimo, plaintiff on the genocide trial, was given an opportunity to address the court and make a request to the judge on behalf of the survivors and as President of the Association of Justice and Reconciliation. We are honored to provide the complete unofficial transcript. You can listen to the recording (in Spanish) of his full statement here.
See our full coverage of day 26 conclusions here.

Benjamin Jerónimo makes statement in genocide trial. Photo: Xeni Jardin 
Good afternoon honorable court. Madame Judge, thank you for the space you’ve given me to speak. The truth is I want to express the following; I want to say to you, in name of the victims, in name of the survivors, in name of Guatemala, I also want to say I'm a survivor of [the massacre of] 256 members of my community in the time of Efraín Ríos Montt.

In name of the Association [for Justice and Reconciliation], I want to express that during this trial, we have seen much opposition on behalf of the defense of the accused. We have seen the opposition that they have not had the courage to [inaudible]. The truth is, God created man and woman in his own image to multiply in the world.

And this image, in the first two articles of the Constitution of Guatemala it is established that the state has the obligation to guarantee and protect life, freedom, security, the peace of those created in God’s image. Nonetheless, honorable tribunal, things were done in the opposite manner by the military. Although they came here to say they were not responsible, that they were coming to the communities to protect the population, this is false. These are lies. I saw them with my own eyes. I didn’t come here to lie. As the witnesses said, one of them said it wasn't only in the Ixil that massacres were committed but in five regions of the country, against the Maya Ixil people.

I want to say to you honorable tribunal, please issue a condemning sentence against those responsible. We ask that a sentence be issued to create precedent for the people of Guatemala. In that time, in 1982, we the indigenous were accused of being terrorists, communists, subversives and genocide was committed. Defenseless children, pregnant women, elderly were killed.
Genocide was committed, crimes against humanity were committed and today, 100 witnesses came to tell the truth, to ask for justice for all that we suffered, publicly.

Even our lawyers are being threatened, for being subversives, terrorists, communists. However, honorable tribunal, a terrorist never comes to ask for justice through and in accordance with the law as we have in this tribunal. Never. The military were terrorists because they committed genocide and crimes against humanity. 100s of women and children were disappeared.

The defense lawyers say there is no document that says that it was done intentionally. Nonetheless, honorable tribunal, no one sets fire to their own house. And that’s why it doesn’t appear in any document.

In this manner I supplicate you to do justice, for the murdered victims, so the survivors can feel peace, can feel trust and that they can have a renewed trust in the authorities.

Not only does our Constitution establish justice, respect but there are also international conventions and treaties that obligate respect for the life of human beings. All who died, all the family members that we lost, we were not animals, they were not dogs or beasts or other type of animal, they were human beings who had the right to life, the right to freedom, right to peace, to security. Nonetheless what is established was not complied with.

Also, the bible says, A bad person knows their fellow bad person. Hypocritical people also know their fellow hypocrites. And that’s why much has been discussed in this tribunal so as to not accept the truth. After hearing the witnesses, the experts, once again they accuse us of being guerrillas, subversives, communists.

In this way, I ask you once again, honorable tribunal, that you do justice in accordance with the law, in accordance with our Guatemalan constitution, in accordance with international treaties & conventions. Also, that those responsible for genocide and crimes against humanity be investigated and prosecuted.

I also ask you, we should no longer have the military in communities, continuing to threaten the Ixil people, the Maya people, the Achí people. It’s no longer time for that; this is why the Peace Accords were signed, to respect rights.

Also, the family members, those linked to them, the veterans’ association, they come to this tribunal, they say publicly that this justice endangers the peace accords. This is false, honorable tribunal.

We are not looking for vengeance, we are looking for a true peace with justice, with respect, with equality, with dignity, that is why we are here.

So I ask you once again, the moral reparations to the victims, the protection of the witnesses, of our lawyers, that all of the Maya people be respected and protected. It is written that it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich genocidal person (un rico genocido) enter into the kingdom of heaven.

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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