Good news from my friends at NISGUA: Efraín Ríos Montt, who ruled Guatemala during the worst years of that country’s thirty-six year civil war (1982-3), will almost certainly be tried for genocide.
On the evening of Thursday, January 27, Judge Carol Patricia Flores ruled that there was sufficient evidence to formally charge the former dictator with genocide.
This particular charge addresses massacres carried out in the Maya Ixil region, massacres were carried out throughout Guatemala while the military carried out a scorched earth policy at the height of the 36-year internal armed conflict. Over 80% of the war's victims were indigenous Maya.
"We can establish these are acts so degrading, so humiliating that there is no justification," the judge said after detailing the human rights abuses from survivors' testimonies. In her decision, the judge clearly stated that the extermination of the civilian population was the result of military plans, and that these plans were executed under the command of Ríos Montt.
As the judge read the decision, family members, activists and supporters gathered outside the court applauded, hugged and lit firecrackers to celebrate. Yesterday represented a huge symbolic and concrete step forward in the struggle against impunity for past and current crimes in Guatemala.
It's been a long time coming
Ríos Montt posted bail and will be held under house arrest until his next trial date. The Association for Justice and Reconciliation (AJR) and the Center for Human Rights Legal Action (CALDH) will be busy in the upcoming months preparing for trials against Ríos Montt and other members of his high command already facing genocide charges.
"We are trying to achieve justice so that our children never experience these massacres. We ask the international community to be on alert and to support us in the struggle," the president of the AJR said yesterday outside the court.
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