Former Guatemalan Dictator Rios Montt to Stand Trial for Genocide

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UPDATES

UPDATE #1, May 13, 2016. In the first case in which a former head of state was convicted by a national court, a Guatemalan tribunal found 86-year-old Efrain Rios Montt guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity, and convicted him, on Friday, May 6, 2016, to 80 years in prison. Montt was found to have been involved in the massacre in the early 1980s of more than 5 percent of Guatemala’s Mayan Ixil Indians. He had blamed this massacre on guerillas. His trial, which began in 2012 had been suspended several times.

Mayan Ixil Indian women listen to Spanish-Ixil translation of court proceedings during Efrain Rios Montt's genocide trial (Photo credit: Bobertson https://www.flickr.com/photos/9975353@N03/ ).

Mayan Ixil Indian women listen to Spanish-Ixil translation of court proceedings during Efrain Rios Montt’s genocide trial (Photo credit: Bobertson https://www.flickr.com/photos/9975353@N03/ ).

Ríos Montt to stand trial for genocide

By Danilo Valladares
IPS

English | Spanish

Guatemala City, Guatemala – After a hearing that lasted more than 11 hours, a Guatemalan court ordered the trial of former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt (1982-1983), who could face up to 30 years in prison if he is convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity.

“On Mar. 25, 1982 they killed my three sisters, my mom, and five brothers who were all kids. First they were questioned by (military officers), who tried to get them to give up the guerrilla members (they were looking for); and when they couldn’t give them what they wanted, they were shot on the spot,”

Elena Chávez, a survivor of a 1982 army raid and mass killing in western Guatemala, told IPS.

This Ixil woman has been fighting relentlessly ever since to bring the perpetrators of this massacre committed during Guatemala’s long civil war (1960-1996) to justice.

But she had to wait until this year for the first positive sign, which finally came on Thursday when Judge Patricia Flores issued the order initiating criminal proceedings against Ríos Mott.

For the time being, however, he will be eluding jail, as the judge has allowed the retired general to stand bail. According to the judge’s order, the defendant poses “no obstruction of justice or flight risk, and therefore a 500,000-quetzal bail (about 65,000 dollars) is set and the (defendant) is placed under house arrest with limited movements.”

The decision has upset the victims’ families, who demand that Ríos Montt be jailed immediately.

“We want him in prison, we want to see justice done and the law enforced, because he’s responsible for the human rights abuses committed against my relatives in the massacre at Nebaj, Quiché,”

in northwestern Guatemala, Chávez said.

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Former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt (left) at court hearing, next to his lawyer (Photo credit: Danilo Valladares/IPS).

At the hearing, Prosecutor Manuel Vásquez accused Ríos Montt of carrying out the “Victoria 83” and “Firmeza 82” operations, under which the armed forces massacred thousands of indigenous people in Guatemala, in actions that amounted to genocide and crimes against humanity.

The prosecution described how during the dictatorship headed by the now 85-year-old Ríos Montt, at least 1,771 people were killed, 1,485 girls were raped, and 29,000 people were forcibly displaced from their homes.

For these crimes, the Public Prosecutor’s Office asked the judge to initiate criminal proceedings against the retired general.

When the time came for the defendant to speak, Ríos Montt laconically responded that he had “heard and understood the prosecution’s charges, but (preferred) to remain silent.”

While he has repeatedly denied the charges of genocide brought against him, the memories of the tragedy remain vivid in the victims’ minds.

“I was only 11. How could I be the enemy? There was no need to kill women and children to combat the enemy,”

Antonio Caba, another Ixil survivor of the Quiché massacre, told IPS.

Caba lost a grandmother and two brothers in 1982 when government security forces razed his village in Quiché, the region most targeted by the army during the war waged against the left-wing guerrillas.

“What we’re asking for is justice, so that this won’t happen ever again, because if these crimes are left unpunished they could be repeated,”

said Caba, who hopes to see Ríos Montt in jail soon.

Two hundred thousand people were either killed or disappeared during Guatemala’s 36-year armed conflict.

Ninety-three percent of these crimes were perpetrated by members of the armed forces, according to the report issued in 1999 by the independent Historical Clarification Commission set up to investigate abuses committed during the war.

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Memorial Shrine to Bishop Juan Gerardi and Genocide Victims, Cathedral Nebaj, Ixil Triangle, Guatemala, December 2014 (Photo credit: Adam Jones https://www.flickr.com/photos/adam_jones/ ).

The U.N.-backed truth commission also found that Ríos Montt’s dictatorship marked the most brutal period of human rights violations, which targeted primarily the indigenous population.

The truth commission was set up as a result of the Peace Accords signed in 1996 between the armed forces and the then-insurgent group Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca, with the mandate of clarifying “with all objectivity, equity and impartiality the human rights violations and acts of violence that have caused the Guatemalan population to suffer” during the armed conflict that lasted almost 40 years.

The case against Ríos Montt has generated national and international expectations, as he is the first high-ranking military officer to be brought to trial.

Throughout the hearing, he was accompanied by his daughter, Zury Ríos.

“I have faith in justice and the law and I’m here to stand by General Ríos Montt as his daughter and his friend. The prosecution will now have to prove all the charges,” she told IPS.

Outside the courthouse, a large crowd of people carrying placards and photographs of the disappeared followed the hearing closely.

The hearing ended with a smile on Ríos Montt’s face and a bittersweet feeling among the survivors and relatives of the victims.

Sources:  IPS  | Haiti Chery

 

Ríos Montt procesado por genocidio

Por Danilo Valladares
IPS

español | inglés

GUATEMALA, — Tras más de 11 horas de audiencia, la justicia de Guatemala dispuso enjuiciar por genocidio y crímenes contra la humanidad al exdictador Efraín Ríos Montt (1982-1983), quien logró eludir la cárcel por ahora pese a que esos delitos son penalizados con hasta 30 años de prisión.

“El 25 de marzo de 1982 asesinaron a mis tres hermanas, a mi mamá y a cinco hermanos menores de edad. Primero (los militares) los interrogaron para saber quiénes eran los guerrilleros (que buscaban) y, como no dijeron nada, los fusilaron”,

relató a IPS Elena Chávez, sobreviviente de un incursión del ejército en 1982 en el occidente de Guatemala.

Desde entonces esta indígena ixil no cejó en su afán de llevar ante los tribunales a los máximos responsables de esta masacre, perpetrada durante el conflicto armado interno (1960-1996).

Pero no fue sino hasta este jueves 26 que escuchó por primera vez una señal favorable, cuando la jueza Patricia Flores dispuso abrir el proceso.

Sin embargo, la magistrada libró al general retirado de ir a prisión por el momento.

“No existe obstaculización a la verdad ni peligro de fuga, razón por la cual considero pertinente exigir una fianza de 500.000 quetzales (unos 65.000 dólares) y disponer su arresto domiciliario y limitar su libertad de locomoción”,

señaló en su dictamen.

Esta última decisión provocó desazón en los familiares de las víctimas, quienes piden la cárcel de inmediato para el militar retirado.

“Queremos que vaya a la cárcel, queremos justicia y que se cumpla la ley, porque violaron los derechos de mis familiares durante la masacre que cometieron en Nebaj, Quiché”,

situado en el noroccidente del país, dijo Chávez.

En la audiencia, el fiscal Manuel Vásquez acusó a Ríos Montt de haber implementado los planes “Victoria 83” y “Firmeza 82” por medio de los cuales el ejército cometió genocidio y delitos contra la humanidad en poblaciones indígenas guatemaltecas durante su gestión.

La parte acusadora señaló que durante la dictadura de Ríos Montt, hoy con 85 años de edad, murieron al menos 1.771 personas, se cometieron 1.485 violaciones de mujeres menores de edad y 29.000 personas fueron desplazadas a la fuerza de sus hogares.

Por tales hechos, el Ministerio Público solicitó a la jueza abrirle un proceso judicial al militar retirado.

Llegado el turno del acusado, Ríos Montt respondió lacónico:

“He entendido lo que ha querido decir la fiscalía, pero no responderé”.

A pesar de que en innumerables ocasiones ha dicho que es inocente de las acusaciones de genocidio, las víctimas guardan intactos sus recuerdos de la tragedia.

“Yo era un niño de 11 años, no podía ser un enemigo. No era necesario matar niños y mujeres para combatir al enemigo”,

dijo a IPS el indígena Antonio Caba, otro sobreviviente de la masacre de Quiché, el departamento más azotado por el ejército durante la guerra que libró contra la guerrilla izquierdista.

Este miembro de la etnia ixil perdió a su abuela y a dos hermanos durante la embestida de las fuerzas de seguridad del Estado en 1982.

“Lo que estamos reclamando es justicia para que esta historia no se repita porque, si no se castigan estos hechos, podrían repetirse”,

sostuvo Caba, quien espera que el destino próximo del militar sea la cárcel.

En los 36 años de conflicto armado en Guatemala fueron asesinadas o desaparecidas más de 200.000 personas, con el ejército como responsable de 93 por ciento de esos crímenes, según la independiente Comisión para el Esclarecimiento Histórico (CEH).

Esta comisión reportó, además, que durante la dictadura de Ríos Montt se llegó al punto máximo en cuanto a las violaciones a los derechos humanos, teniendo como principales víctimas a los indígenas.

La CEH fue creada a partir de los Acuerdos de Paz firmados en 1996 entre el ejército y la entonces insurgente Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca, para aclarar

“con toda objetividad, equidad e imparcialidad”

las violaciones a los derechos humanos cometidas en los más de 30 años de guerra.

El proceso que se le sigue a Ríos Montt ha generado expectación nacional e internacional sobre este país, donde ningún miembro de la cúpula militar había sido juzgado hasta ahora.

Zury Ríos, la hija del militar retirado que lo acompañó durante la cita en los tribunales.

“Confío en la justicia y las leyes de la república y vengo a acompañar al general Ríos Montt porque es mi padre y porque es mi amigo. El Ministerio Público tiene ahora que probar todas las acusaciones”, dijo a IPS.

La audiencia en la que compareció el militar retirado fue seguida con un gran interés en las afueras de la torre de tribunales, donde se observaron pancartas y fotografías de los desaparecidos.

Al finalizar la jornada, Ríos Montt terminó con una sonrisa y las víctimas con un sabor agridulce.

Fuentes: IPS

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