Guatemala National Court Genocide Prosecution Against Rios Montt
January 26, 2012, Guatemalan Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz indicted former dictator General Efraín
Ríos Montt for genocide for his role in the “scorched earth” campaign
during the country’s civil war in the 1980’s. The accusations include
torture, genocide, forced disappearances, state terrorism, and crimes
As a result of CJA’s work on the Guatemalan Genocide Case in Spain, Paz y Paz
invited CJA to play a more active role in supporting the national
prosecution of the genocide case in Guatemala in 2011. We
have been working closely with the prosecutors to help develop the case,
from drafting legal briefs to preparing experts. We have also shared
all of our expert reports and evidence from the case in Spain. Two key pieces of evidence unearthed by CJA that Paz y Paz introduced to
support the indictment are Fredy
Peccerelli’s work and the film footage of Rios Montt admitting that he
had command responsibility.
After the indictment, CJA
has continued to assist the prosecution. For example, we helped develop
four expert witnesses’ reports, which were filed in April 2012. Three
of the reports are based upon evidence previously introduced in the case
in Spain. They are from the following country experts: Charlie Hale
of the University of Texas, Beatriz Manz of U.C. Berkeley and Marta
Casaus of the Autonomous University of Madrid. The fourth expert report
was prepared by Juan Méndez, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture.
On January 28, 2013, Guatemalan Judge Miguel Angel Gálvez ordered Rios Montt and his intelligence chief, José Mauricio Rodríguez
Sánchez, to stand trial for genocide and crimes against humanity. A three judge panel will begin hearing evidence against Rios Montt on
Thursday March 19 2013. CJA’s international attorney, Almudena Bernabeu,
will serve as technical advisor to the Prosecutor and the plaintiffs’
lawyers during the entire trial.
CJA has been an instrumental part in a 13 year international collaboration to hold Guatemalan officials responsible for the crimes they committed during the Guatemalan Civil War. Lawyers from Guatemala, Spain, the United States and Europe have joined forces with domestic and international human rights organizations, victims advocacy groups, and scholars to bring cases in both Spain and Guatemala. Click here for the complete chronology of events.
Top photo by Consejo de Juventudes Indigenas, Bottom photo by Saul Martinez
It is estimated that over 200,000 people were killed or disappeared
between 1960 and 1996 in Guatemala; countless others were victims of
torture and other abuses. Although the conflict formally ended with the
signing of the Oslo Peace Accords in 1996, the situation remains
fragile today. Many of the perpetrators of torture, mass killings,
rapes, and other crimes during those years still live in the same
communities where they committed these atrocities, resulting in an
environment of ongoing fear.
Although some cases have been successfully
prosecuted against lower and medium ranking police and military, none
of the high commanders in power during this reign of terror have been
held accountable in Guatemala. Until recently, all attempts to seek
justice within the Guatemalan legal system have been thwarted due to
corruption, malfeasance, indifference, and fear. In that way, “impunity
for past crimes and impunity in the present are inextricably bound
together.” Guatemala’s impunity problems were so great that in 2007
the United Nations and the Guatemalan government created the
International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).