Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre splashed "CC brings José Efraín Ríos Montt closer to amnesty" across its front page headlines, with the corresponding article publishing excerpts of a leaked ruling issued by the Constitutional Court. Plaintiffs and lawyers still have not received notification of the decision at the time of this writing. The article states that the ruling outlines a legal path for granting amnesty to Efraín Ríos Montt for crimes of genocide. Other major news sources and a spokesperson for the Constitutional Court have since stated the decision does not grant amnesty for Ríos Montt, but directs lower courts to clarify previous rulings that denied him amnesty. The Constitutional Court utilized a similar strategy in annulling the genocide case sentence, providing legal direction towards annulment while ordering a lower court to carry it out.
In a press conference today, the Center for Human Rights Legal Action (CALDH) and representatives from other human rights organizations stressed that genocide and crimes against humanity are not eligible for amnesty as outlined in the 1996 National Reconciliation Law. They highlighted that any resolution granting amnesty for genocide and crimes against humanity would be a political decision not supported by national or international law. Read their press release below for further details.
|CALDH representatives issue statement to the press|
AMNESTY IS NOT APPLICABLE TO THE CRIME OF GENOCIDE AND CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY
The publication of the article in the [Prensa Libre] newspaper with respect to the supposed decision of the Constitutional Court (CC), has once again taken the Guatemalan people by surprise. It is seen as an attempt to justify the possible granting of amnesty for José Efraín Ríos Montt, who was already convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity, crimes that are NOT ELIGIBLE FOR AMNESTY.
Article 8 of the National Reconciliation Law of 1996 foresees the application of amnesty with respect to political crimes committed during the internal armed conflict and limits the possibility for the application of amnesty in the following way: “The extinction of penal responsibility referred to in this law will not be applicable to the crimes of genocide, torture and forced disappearance, nor to those crimes that do not have a statute of limitations or that do not allow for the extinction of penal responsibility, in accordance with the internal law or the international treaties ratified by Guatemala."
The political constitution and the obligations that are derived from international law indicate that the crimes committed in violation of international human rights and humanitarian law are inadmissible [for amnesty] and cannot go unpunished.
The state of Guatemala has been internationally condemned for not investigating, trying and sanctioning the people that committed acts of torture, extrajudicial executions, forced disappearance, sexual violence and other grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights.
None of the people accused in cases for crimes of genocide, torture, sexual violence, forced disappearance and crimes against humanity committed during the internal armed conflict are subject to the application of amnesty, statute of limitations or the extinction of penal responsibility.
According to Prensa Libre, the supposed decision ordered the High Risk Crimes Court “A” Judge to SUBSTANTIATE the decision related to the decree 8-86*, a decree that Judge Carol Patricia already ruled on in the case against Héctor Mario López Fuentes. She argued that, “whilst the existence of the decree 8-86 has been proven… the content of article 46 of the political constitution of the Republic of Guatemala cannot be dismissed in that it established the general principal that human rights treaties and conventions accepted and ratified by Guatemala have preeminence over internal law…the types of crimes for which the accused were ordered to stand trial are universally prosecuted."
Neither the victims nor the plaintiffs in the case have been notified of the resolution. It is strange and inexplicable that the Constitutional Court should provide the information exclusively to one media outlet and not to the interested parties, the rest of the media and the people of Guatemala in general.
It is our opinion that there may be an erroneous interpretation of the information which could produce harmful consequences for the justice system, given that today the secretary of the same Constitutional Court gave a public declaration to the radio station, Emisoras Unidas, clarifying that the CC is not applying amnesty but rather asking the High Risk Court “A” Judge to substantiate [her previous] decision with respect to decree 8-86.
We ask that the international community observe the fulfillment of the State’s international obligations to human and humanitarian rights so that the acts of barbarism committed against the civilian population do not go unpunished.
We ask that Guatemalan society remain alert to the possible maneuvers of the CC and that it advocate for rapid prosecution based on fulfillment of and respect for the political constitution of the Republic and international law so that delinquent acts of any nature do not go unpunished.
We ask that the Human Rights Ombudsmen observe the actions of the Constitutional Court in order to guarantee the fulfillment of the international obligations of the state with regard to human rights.
The victims of genocide and the people of Guatemala ask: “Does this information respond to the interests and structures of those who have publicly demonstrated their intention to maintain impunity for these cases?" The rulings of the CC with respect to the genocide case against Ríos Montt, have proven that there are judges who continue to pave the road to impunity.
IT WAS PROVEN, THERE WAS GENOCIDE
WE SILENCE THE VOICES OF IMPUNITY
Center for Human Rights Legal Action
Guatemala, October 23, 2013
*8-86 was a wartime decree under the Mejía Victores administration granting general amnesty to all those responsible for, or accused of, political and related common crimes committed between March 23, 1982, and January 14, 1986.