On May 10, 2023, the Caravan of Memory and Justice was held to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the historic genocide sentence of May 10, 2013, on which former dictator Efrain Rios Montt became the first head of state in the world to be sentenced in national courts for genocide and crimes against humanity committed by the armed forces in 1982-83 in the Ixil region.
During the trial in the same courtroom where the intellectual authors were present, more than a hundred survivors of the genocide testified, with their testimony they unmasked the structure of racism and oppression behind the genocide.
The commemorative caravan left the central park of Nebaj at 7:30 am. The Coordinadora de Organizaciones de la región Ixil, who organized the activity, estimated the participation of more than 600 people.
The Caravan of Memory and Justice arrived at its first stop, the central park of Chajul, where the demand for justice for all the crimes committed by the state security forces during the war was heard loudly: they recalled the 1982 coup d’état, the scorched earth, massacres and the genocide that the army committed in their communities.
In the plaza, one of the mayors of the Ixil Indigenous Mayor’s Office recalled that this sentence is important for the Ixil people, for the people of Guatemala and for the people of the world, because it was the survivors and witnesses who sat in front of a court of law several of those responsible for the massacres.
After the act in the plaza, a joyful batucada of compañeras accompanied the march to Cotzal. Rebeca Lane’s “La cumbia de la memoria” (The Cumbia of Memory) also played in the cars with audio speakers, as well as the unmistakable voice of Judge Yasmin Barrios as she read the sentence in 2013.
Among the banners and t-shirts worn by the participants, messages such as “No more Rios de Sangre” (No more rivers of blood) could be read.
Upon arrival in Cotzal, the ancestral authorities asked to “make the historical memory alive” and reaffirmed: “The sentence is valid and we are still here”. The Indigenous authorities also called to continue the struggle for the defense of their rivers against hydroelectric plants and dams.
In their statement, the Ancestral Maya Indigenous Authorities of the Ixil territory of Nebaj, Chacul and Cotzal, expressed their solidarity with the victims of genocide in the region and with all those victims and survivors who have open cases of justice for state violence committed during the Internal Armed Conflict.
In the final part of their statement they emphasized “We need to live in peace. Let us not forget our history, not to seek revenge, but for our encounter and reconciliation as diverse peoples in this small territory that has abundant wealth, so that all those who live in our communities have a dignified life and not as we have until now, which continues to be genocidal”.
After a lunch of paches, tortillas and a fresh hibiscus drink, the caravan continued on its way to the center of Nebaj, where closing remarks were given by representatives of local organizations, the AJR, CALDH and concluded with a musical performance by Fernando Lopez.
Ten years after the historic sentence, the families, survivors and human rights organizations tell Guatemala and the world that they remain firm in their search for justice.