Former dictator José Efrain Ríos Montt and former general José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez will stand trial in Guatemala for genocide and crimes against humanity. The evidence against the military leaders includes thousands of atrocities committed by the armed forces under their command from 1982 to 1983, including: the forced displacement of 29,000 people, the killing of 1,771 in 11 massacres, torture and 1,485 acts of sexual violence against women. The Indigenous Maya in Guatemala were deliberately targeted by the military during Guatemala’s long civil war.
“Until recently, the idea of a Guatemalan general being tried for these heinous crimes seemed utterly impossible. The fact that a judge has ordered the trial of a former head of state is a remarkable development in a country where impunity for past atrocities has long been the norm,” stated José Miguel Vivanco from Human Rights Watch.
The Nobel Women’s Initiative celebrates this news with Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Rigoberta Menchú Tum and all of our friends in Guatemala. The Rigoberta Menchú Tum Foundation released a statement about the court’s decision.
An English translation of the statement is below.
Read the original statement (in Spanish) on The Rigoberta Menchú Tum Foundation website.
Ex-dictator Is Ordered to Trial in Guatemala for War Crimes, New York Times, January 2013.
Watch the documentary Granito: How To Nail a Dictator, available to stream for free on the PBS website.
Read these recommendations from Amnesty International’s Human Rights Blog on maintaining pressure on the Guatemalan government and protecting human rights defenders in Guatemala.
1) We victims, and society at large, have waited a very long time for justice to take its place and allow for an advance towards peace and reconciliation. This ruling by the judge Miguel Ángel Gálvez therefore constitutes not only an act of justice, but an act that is ethical, moral and necessary for peace in our country.
2) It is not about opening wounds, because they are still open. It is not about revenge, because what is sought is justice. It is not about rejoicing, because the memory of the victims still brings us pain and sadness. But we do have the right to feel satisfied, because a ruling like this reaffirms that no person or institution should be granted impunity for the severe acts, like those committed by the military leaders Ríos Montt and Rodríguez Sánchez, which deserve judgment.
3) This historic ruling should serve to send a message in which historical memory, truth and justice are essential to reconciliation and the construction of a society that is peaceful and democratic and in which impunity is no longer the largest offence for victims.
4) This is a fundamental step on that road towards genuine peace in the country. We will remain attentive and prepared to support all judicial, social, political and cultural efforts that contribute to justice. We value the effort and honesty of the protagonists, from the Office of the Public Prosecutor to the organizations that have been part of this achievement, as well as the important role of First Judge Miguel Ángel Gálvez.