Asociación Justicía y Reconciliación:
CJA represents the Association for Justice and Reconciliation (AJR), a Guatemala-based NGO founded by survivors of Guatemala’s military campaign against indigenous villages in the Ixil Region. AJR, represented by the Center for Human Rights Legal Action (CALDH), are plaintiffs in the Guatemalan case against General Efraín Rios Montt for Genocide. The victims’ organization has been a complainant since 2000 when the genocide case was filed in Guatemala. Two of its members, Jesus Tecu and Juan Manuel Jeronimo are also CJA clients and individual plaintiffs in the Guatemalan genocide case in Spain.
AJR represents hundreds of Ixil Mayans from the Quiché department of Guatemala who were victims of the massacres carried out by General Rios Montt while he ruled the country from 1982—1983. AJR’s tireless efforts in conjunction with CALDH and CJA have been instrumental in the long and arduous fight against impunity for genocide in Guatemala before the Spanish National Court and now, finally, in Guatemala. While each victim’s story is unique, the experiences of two of AJR’s individual representatives who have been working very closely with CJA’s attorney Almudena Bernabeu, illustrate the pain suffered by the Ixil population at the hands of the Guatemalan military.
Tiburcio Utuy (pictured here with CJA International Attorney Almudena Bernabeu) is from Chajul, from the village of Xix. In March of 1982, when he was 40 years old, he fled with his wife and children after soldiers had destroyed his village twice and killed whoever they could catch. Later, in March, he was kidnapped by soldiers while searching for food. At the hands of uniformed soldiers he was beaten, burnt with coals, cut, electrocuted, and left without food for days on the bloody floor of his torture chamber. For eight months he was moved from base to base, interrogated and beaten anew, and went as long as 28 days without food. One day, with no explanation, he was simply allowed to leave. With bullets flying by his head he walked away from his torturers and began his long journey home.
Mr. Utuy was present in the January 28th hearing when the Guatemalan Judge overruled multiple defense motions to dismiss the case and ordered the trial against General Rios Montt to finally go forward.
Antonio Caba Caba:
Antonio Caba Caba is also from the village of Ilom, in the municipality of Chajul, El Quiché department, Guatemala. Ilom was a Maya Ixil community which, despite the war, he remembers being quite peaceful. However in January of 1982, when he was 11 years old, Antonio experienced the horror of Rios Montt’s scorched earth policy first hand. He remembers the military entering his community late one night, breaking into houses and taking about 30 villagers, who were never seen again. Just over two months later, on March 23rd, the military returned and killed nearly 100 more people. He remembers being forced to march through the village market over the dead bodies of his loved ones, including pregnant women and children. The remaining villagers were taken to a farm in Santa Delfina, a type of makeshift refugee camp next to a military base. His grandmother and sister, who both survived the initial massacre, later starved to death in this camp.
Both Mr. Utuy and Mr. Caba Caba are scheduled to be witnesses in an unprecedented trial that starts Tuesday, March 19th, 2013