Statement from CALDH and AJR
The Court has restored hope to Guatemalan society, which has waited nearly 30 years for the atrocities committed against the Mayan people to be recognized. In an historic and momentous act for thousands of victims, Judge Carol Patricia Flores linked General José Efraín Ríos Montt, who functioned as head of state and one of the authors of the genocide, to the legal process. The members of the military high command in 1982 and 1983 are being held accountable, something that had seemed impossible, but today is a reality in Guatemala.
We applaud without hesitation the judge’s decision to incorporate Ríos Montt in the trial for genocide and crimes against humanity. However, we express our discontent with the house arrest authorized for him, due to the serious nature of his crimes that are of national and international significance. This decision is also inconsistent, as the other two former members of the military accused of the same crimes are in preventative detention.
These facts show us that although there are judges and judicial officials who act according to the law, structures of power and impunity that favor certain sectors remain embedded within the country’s justice system. The Public Prosecutor detailed to the judge the elements of genocide and planning in which the accused participated – the same acts which were acknowledged by the judge and taken into consideration in the decision. Likewise, the Public Prosecutor justified the application of appropriate coercive measures for the accused, but this line of reasoning was rejected.
In 2001, surviving victims of the genocide filed a legal action against the military high command of 1982-83, comprised of the Head of State, Efraín Ríos Montt, the Minister of Defense, General Oscar Humberto Mejía Víctores, and General Héctor Mario López Fuentes. After almost 10 years of knocking on the doors of justice, the Public Prosecutor requested the first statement from Ríos Montt, linking him to the process.
These processes are a historic opportunity for the Guatemalan justice system to break with impunity, and to show the entire world that we are a country that complies with its law and with international human rights norms. Justice is the cornerstone that guarantees the non-repetition of violence. Therein lies the urgent necessity to apply it, for both the crimes of the past and the present.
The judge set a deadline of two months for the Public Prosecutor to present the indictment, after which a public hearing will be held to decide whether the case merits a public trial. We hope that the rest of the process will continue in accordance with the law; that the system of justice will not be unresponsive because of the significance of this case; and that it will not become complicit to delaying actions and obstructions that have characterized the strategy of the accused in other related cases.
On such a special day – marked on the sacred Mayan calendar by /Doce Tz´i´,/ which symbolizes justice, authority, the guardian of material and spiritual law – Guatemala takes a step forward in a landmark case for the country. We ask that the State respond in accordance with the law and the demands of justice. The State has a debt to the victims and survivors of the internal armed conflict.
TRUTH AND JUSTICE ARE THE ONLY ROAD TO RECONCILIATION.
Guatemala, 26 of January 2012
Association for Justice and Reconciliation (AJR)
Legal Action Center for Human Rights (CALDH)