Guatemala’s Constitutional Court has overturned the historic ruling convicting former president Ríos Montt of genocide and crimes against humanity. While the ultimate effects of this ruling remain unclear, it is certain that this is an enormous setback for truth and justice in Guatemala. The Nobel Women’s Initiative is continuing to monitor the situation as survivors and human rights defenders remain under threat in the country.
Nobel Peace Laureate Rigoberta Menchú Tum released an open letter regarding the Constitutional Court’s decision on behalf of The Rigoberta Menchú Tum Foundation.
An English translation of the open letter is below.
Read the original statement in Spanish on The Rigoberta Menchú Tum Foundation website.
Ríos Montt Genocide Verdict Annulled, But Activists Ensure US-Backed Crimes Will Never Be Forgotten, Democracy Now!, 23 May 2013.
Guatemala’s Constitutional Court Overturns Rios Montt Conviction and Sends Trial Back to April 19, Open Society Justice Initiative, 21 May 2013.
The decision of Guatemala’s Constitutional Court, issued on May 20, 2013 – which annulled the guilty verdict issued by the Court for High-Risk Penal Sentences on the crime of genocide and crimes against humanity – damages the justice system in Guatemala and sets a harmful precedent confirming the hypothesis that in Guatemala IMPUNITY does not permit sentencing for the crime of genocide and crimes against humanity committed principally against the Maya community, as the judicial system continues to be co-opted by the most obstinate powers of the military, economics, politics and the media.
It is illegal according to the laws of Guatemala, that the judges Alejandro Maldonado Aguirre, Héctor Hugo Pérez Aguilera and Roberto Molina Barreto made this ruling based on the petition of a legal complaint, since through this legal channel the judicial verdicts that have already been pronounced cannot be overturned. This contradicts that which is already established by law and through jurisprudence, in the sense that stages in processes that have already been concluded cannot be taken back, and it makes the court’s work on the ruling lengthier and more untimely. This decision, signed by three judges of the Constitutional Court, politicizes the judicial system, putting it in the service of blackmail, maliciousness and evil, as in the present case with the defence of General Efraín Ríos Montt and Rodríguez Sánchez throughout the entire debate process.
We Maya have a memory that stretches back millennia and we do not forget our history. For this reason, we will fight tirelessly to protect the evidence of genocide, since there is technical, scientific and juridical proof that genocide and crimes against humanity occurred in our country. The crimes were committed under the highest military command and other authority that here and now hinders the judgement, putting at risk the Rule of Law, Democracy and Peace. We demand that the Constitutional Court comply with the decisions it issues, since it does not fall to the court to interfere in the actions of the judges and courts where standard trial proceedings are followed – as in this case – and it limits the possibility of prosecution of other serious crimes committed in this country.
We oppose the media campaign that has been raised by certain sectors, making Guatemalans believe that General Ríos Montt and Rodríguez Sánchez are innocent and had nothing to do with the genocide perpetrated against the Maya community, when in reality the testimony of the genocide survivors, which was directed at the Ixil Maya, are blunt and illustrative of the brutalities committed against their families and communities.
We condemn the fact that the Guatemalan justice system re-victimizes the survivors of genocide, and we consider it a disrespect to their dignity and integrity, being yet another act of racism and discrimination which the Maya community has suffered for centuries.
We make a call to the Guatemalan nation, to groups around the world, to the international community, and to international organizations defending Human Rights, for them to accompany and observe the distinct processes that occur surrounding the sentence – in order to stop allowing setbacks that contribute to absolute IMPUNITY – and thereby strengthen the Rule of Law.
FOR TRUTH AND JUSTICE, NO TO GENOCIDE!
Guatemala, May 22, 2013
Dr. Rigoberta Menchú Tum