Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Genocide trial sentence overturned; CALDH press conference called sentence, "An opportunity for peace"

The Guatemalan Constitutional Court emitted a resolution late Monday evening to annul the genocide trial verdict and revert proceedings back to April 19. Judge Barrios of the First Court for High Risk Crimes "A" has 24 hours after being notified of the resolution this morning to comply with the Constitutional Court. The full impact of this decision is yet to be determined.

Yesterday morning, the Center for Human Rights Legal Action called a press conference to publicly share the genocide trial sentence. A cross-section of Guatemalan society gathered to celebrate the sentence as a fundamental step in achieving peace.

See our full translation of yesterday's press release below.

"Yes, it was genocide. Guatemala walks firmly toward peace"

The Genocide Sentence
An Opportunity for Peace

Today Guatemala has a new opportunity for peace, an opportunity that is constructed on the foundation of memory and truth of the Maya Ixil people and on the foundation of justice and strengthening the rule of law.

The First Court for High Risk Crimes "A" has condemned General José Efraín Ríos Montt for genocide and crimes against humanity. The sentence against Ríos Montt verifies that the crime of genocide was committed in Guatemala and situates his participation in grave human rights violations committed during the internal armed conflict.

With this historic sentence, the Court has given evidentiary value to the brave testimonies of the Ixil men and women, who after 31 years have been heard and had their suffering recognized by the Guatemalan justice system.

Through these testimonies, as well as scientific and documentary evidence, the court proved the evidentiary value and demonstrated the intention to destroy the Ixil who were identified as the internal enemy, "the violent actions committed against the Ixil weren't spontaneous but rather the concretization of previously elaborated plans that formed part of state policy aimed at eliminating a specific ethnic group… Having proved to society that they were civilians, dedicated to agriculture."

The sexual violence was a systematic attack against women, which contributed to the destruction of the social fabric and whose objective was to eliminate the Maya Ixil ethnic group. Women suffered intentional violence and humiliation, not only as a means to inflict mental and physical harm, but also as a means to impede the physical and cultural reproduction of the group.

The prevailing racism in Guatemala was "the machinery of extermination," and was the foundation for genocide. "Racism expresses itself in the conduct, imagery, and racist practices and ideologies that occupy distinct spaces and reach society as a whole… Racism profoundly affects, provokes, collaborates and contributes to the genocide that occurred in Guatemala." Historically, a stereotype of an "indian" has been constructed as an inferior, as "a bad person, thief, ugly and who smells bad." The elites have historically presented the idea of "their elimination" or the necessity to "improve the race". This was what was put into practice in the Genocide.

Through this trial, networks of impunity have been uncovered which are still deeply entrenched in the justice system. There are also powerful groups that continue to deny the possibility of living in a full democracy with true rule of law. We've witnessed illegal resolutions; malicious litigation and the attempt to discredit actors within the justice system through various means. It is important to reiterate, that during this trial, it is the public oral debate which determines if the means of evidence reached their evidentiary value. This is what gives force and credibility to the rule of law and not the hundreds of appeals submitted to delay and obstruct justice.

The survivors of the genocide have taught Guatemalan society a lesson; It is possible to move forward and resolve controversies through established democratic means. Those who invoke hate and violence or those who are afraid of democratic processes are those who have never believed in peace or democracy.

We call upon Guatemalan society to not be convinced by these violent, racist and discriminatory messages of those sectors that threaten actions, and even violence if the ruling is not revoked.

We share the idea that this sentence is part of a watershed moment in the history of Guatemala, as it opens up the opportunity for us to once again ask ourselves as a society what it is we desire for the present and future of our country. Guatemala has a new opportunity, shaped by the long path toward justice that the victims undertook decades ago. This path symbolizes the claims and recognition of true reality, not only for the Maya people but also for the thousands of the victims arbitrarily executed, disappeared and massacred in our territory.

Association for Justice and Reconciliation, AJR; Ancestral Maya Authorities of the Ixil Region, Victims Movement Association for the Integral Development of Northern Quiche; Departmental Youth Association of Sololá Kaji Batz; Association for Development and Recovery of Alta Verapaz, AJODER; Caja Lúdica Association; The Association of Family Members of the Detained and Disappeared of Guatemala, FAMDEGUA; Community Studies and Psychosocial Action Team, ECAP; Center for Human Rights Legal Action, CALDH; Collective We the Women; National Coordination of Guatemalan Widows, CONAVIGUA; Coordination of Ixil Women "Baxil B'atz"; Committee of Victims of the Ixcán; Coordination of Youth for Guatemla, CJG;  Coordination Genocide Never Again; Coordination and National Convergence Waqib Kej; the Guatemalan Religious Confederation, CONFREGUA; Relatives in Search of Truth and Justice for the Victims of the Military Diary; Rigoberta Menchú Foundation; HIJOS Guatemala; Institute for Comparative Studies in Criminal Science, ICCPG; Institute for Sustainable Development Teaching, IEPADES; Julio Solorzano Fopa; Women Transforming the World, MTM; Movement of Maya Youth, MOJOMAYAS; Archbishop's Office on Human Rights, ODHAG;  Pastoral Youth Ministry of San Marcos, Network of Ixil Youth "Chemol Txumb'al"; Security in Democracy, SEDEM; Women's Sector; Civil Society for Youth Development/ Foundation for the Youth; National Unity of Guatemalan Women, UNAMG

Read the complete sentence here:

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