On March 19, Guatemala's former president Efraín Ríos Montt and José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez are going to trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity for massacres committed against indigenous civilians in Guatemala's Ixil triangle.
Photo by Bob Phares
This historic case is the first time that a former head of state is being tried for genocide in a domestic court. It is crucial for the nation’s healing process, and will be a key step in ending impunity for the atrocities committed during the war.
Prosecutors, expert witnesses, and genocide survivors are diligently preparing their case, even as they suffer threats and intimidation. The presiding judge has already received death threats. International organizations like the Guatemala Human Rights Commission (GHRC) will be monitoring the process, offering moral support, and spreading the word to the international community.
GHRC believes, as do our Guatemalan partners, that a representative of the U.S. government should attend the trial in order to send a positive message of support to all involved: judges, prosecutors, lawyers, and victims. The U.S. presence would send a clear signal that the international community cares about judicial independence, due process, and rule of law.
In 2010, President Obama stated, "From Nuremberg to Yugoslavia to Liberia, the United States has seen that the end of impunity and the promotion of justice are not just moral imperatives; they are stabilizing forces in international affairs… Those who intentionally target innocent civilians must be held accountable, and we will continue to support institutions and prosecutions that advance this important interest."
Victims and civil society organizations have pleaded with the U.S. ambassador to be present at the trial itself, as the previous Ambassador, Steven McFarland, regularly did. The U.S. Embassy is still considering the request.
Send an email calling on the U.S. ambassador to Guatemala to attend the genocide trial and demonstrate the U.S.'s commitment to ending impunity. It’s the least we can do.
Go to the GHRC website to send a message.