Campesinos Bear Witness as Trial Continues for Former Guatemalan President Ríos Montt

 

The genocide case against Efraín Ríos Montt and two officials under his command, former General and Army Chief of Staff Hector Mario López Sanchez and former Director of Military Intelligence José Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez, is moving forward this week in Guatemala City. The process has been stalled by several procedural issues and, on Wednesday morning, attorneys for Rodriguez Sanchez continued with stalling tactics, filing a motion to recuse the current judge, Judge Ángel Gálvez.

Still, the progress being made on this case represents an incredible advancement for human rights in Guatemala as Ríos Montt was the de facto President and a national leader during the bloodiest years of Guatemala's 36-year Civil War. The case against him was only just beginning because, until January of 2012, Ríos Montt enjoyed political immunity as an elected official, having become a Congressman immediately after his Presidency, holding the position until January of this year.

The genocide case has gained incredible progress because of footage from the documentary "When the Mountains Tremble", directed by the American film-maker Pamela Yates. The film is some of the only footage of the Guatemalan Civil War and may include enough incriminating statements by Ríos Montt, then the de facto President of Guatemala, for the judge to prove direct responsibility and proceed with genocide charges.

This past week, as the court proceedings advanced in Guatemala City, hundreds of campesinos arrived to bear witness to the long-awaited trials of Ríos Montt and his high command. They gathered in front of the courthouse and performed Mayan ceremonies on the front steps, shared stories and solidarity, and waited for the outcomes that might provide justice after years of violence and repression. The people demonstrated incredible resilience, even in the face of discrimination when they were denied entry into the court to witness the proceedings.

The people have continued to organize themselves under groups such as the AJR (Association for Justice and Reconciliation). With their amazing work on-going, the spirit of hope is alive for observers of this case. You can continue to witness the developments at the NISGUA (Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala) Website here!