During Rios Montt’s trial, the evidence provided by witnesses, survivors, and relatives of victims placed them at great risk. Some received threats or were harassed. Thanks to an alliance of several human rights organizations (among them Aj Noj-Protection Desk Guatemala and our partner UDEFEGUA), their protection was enhanced, allowing them to testify on several crimes such as rape and sexual violence, destruction of crops, massacres, abduction of children and forcible displacement of indigenous people.
On May 10, 2013, former Guatemala’s dictator Efraín Rios Montt was convicted of genocide and crime against humanity. He was sentenced to 80 years in prison by the judge panel. However, his head of military intelligence, José Mauricio Rodríguez, was found “not guilty of all charges on the ground that he did not have command responsibility.”Since the beginning of the trial, in January 2013, Protection International’s Aj Noj Protection Desk-Guatemala has supported the technical advice provided by our partner organization UDEFEGUA.
Thanks to UDEFEGUA, dozens of witnesses, relatives of victims, and survivors of the massacres committed in 1982-83 have been given continuous support. The Court has heard over 90 witness testimonies of massacres, sexual violence against indigenous women, torture, abduction of children, and enforced displacements of Ixil indigenous people. The weight of their statements contributed to the conviction of Rios Montt.
Due to the recent order by the Constitutional Court to overturn the verdict, in order to address some legal challenges raised by the defense, the trial is however far from being concluded.
The reliable information and solid evidence provided by witnesses, survivors, and relatives of victims placed them at greater risk, which subsequently led to some receiving threats and harassment. Their protection was only possible through the alliance of several human rights organizations. Aj Noj Protection Desk-Guatemala supported these efforts with an advisory survey on risk analysis and consultancies on protection to the Center for Human Rights Legal Action and the Human Rights Law Office. As part of Aj Noj Protection Desk-Guatemala’s work with UDEFEGUA, our colleagues accompanied victims and witnesses facing high risks to several hearings and public demonstrations.
In May 2013, the Association for Justice and Reconciliation explained that from “the moment we began to move forward, the legitimacy of the judicial proceedings was questioned and we heard officials threatening lawyers and judges. […] Today, more than ever, it is imperative we continue to demand justice and face the past to ensure that acts of genocide never take place again in Guatemala and that the Guatemalan state respects, protects, and promotes the rights of indigenous peoples. As long as this does not happen, the state will continue to deny our rights and facilitate the dispossession of the lands and natural resources that are fundamental to the material and spiritual life of indigenous peoples.”
This process had been carried out in both an atmosphere of great expectation on the part of national and international civil society and of equal hostility against human rights defenders by those who continue to deny that a genocide occurred in Guatemala. PI will continue to help victims and witnesses have their voices heard in judicial courts.
For more information:
Daily reports of the hearings (in English and French):
Online streaming and updated information about activities around the case