January 5, 2015
Dear members of the Association for Justice and Reconciliation (AJR),
During this moment in which the Guatemala justice system is retrying the case against Efraín Ríos Montt and José Mauricio Rodriguez Sánchez, we here at NISGUA want to acknowledge this long process in search of justice and particularly recognize the bravery of the witnesses who testified during the first genocide trial. We are honored to have been able to accompany the AJR for more than 15 years, through difficult moments of complete legal paralysis, through victorious moments such as the sentence in the Ixil genocide case. Each human rights accompanier who has passed through your homes has been changed by your stories; these testimonies will forever be carried in the hearts of people who have heard them, motivating them to spread your messages while working towards a better world.
We write you today to re-affirm our commitment to stand in solidarity with you, as survivors and heroes continuing the struggle for justice for your loved ones. We also want to take this moment to remember and acknowledge the testimonies we heard during the 2013 trial.
We remember the testimonies of those who survived massacres only to be forced into model villages and civil defense patrols. We remember the testimonies of those who lived in the mountains in near-starvation for years. We were heartbroken, listening to the ten incredibly courageous women who testified that after they survived their own rape, they were then forced to witness the rapes of their mothers and children. We recognize the immense and ongoing psychological and physical trauma associated with having survived such brutality. We remember testimonies of witnesses who survived massacres as children in their communities, only to be taken away by the military to live in orphanages.
We remember the more than 100 Ixil witnesses, whose testimonies strengthened the case against Ríos Montt and his military high command, demonstrating that racist policies against the indigenous population were intentional and that the genocide was planned. People spoke about the massacres of their families, the destruction of their crops, the inability to bury their loved ones with dignity, extreme sexual violence and slavery, and attempts to sever connections with ancestors. These stories are themselves incredible testimonies to survival and resilience, and these same accounts honor those who were killed.
We are privileged to have stood by you during the verdict, where Ríos Montt became the first former head of state in the world to be tried and convicted in a national court for crimes against humanity and genocide. We do not forget the spontaneous applause and cries of “Justicia!” in the courtroom when Judge Barrios confirmed what you have always said — “Sí hubo genocidio!” (It was genocide!) We continue to uphold that sentence with you, as testimony to what happened here in Guatemala with training and military support from the United States. The annulment of the verdict is also a testimony to the powerful structures that exist in Guatemala, which continue to maintain impunity and deny genocide. We recognize the incredible risks you took in speaking out against these powerful actors and know that you continue to face danger despite having your testimony validated by a court of law. These actors may be powerful, but the truth is even more powerful and it will prevail.
Today, we re-affirm our support for you as you continue the retrial and in your ongoing search for justice. We will continue standing by you and call on our US base and other international allies to do the same.