Guatemala: Judges rule on reparations; no land to be returned to Ixil victims

An Ixil woman in the genocide tribunal courtroom, one hour before the guilty verdict was handed down in the trial of Rios Montt. Photo: Xeni Jardin.

Following the conviction of Guatemala's former military dictator Rios Montt on Friday, judges met today to consider reparations for victims. While the genocide will be commemorated and formal apologies made to his victims, property taken from them during the worst years of civil war will not be returned.

The court ruled for 12 forms of reparation, in accordance with Convention 169, ratified by Guatemala in 1996 (same years as peace accords). The Guatemalan state must apologize to victims, and include them in Reparations Law.

But significantly, judges denied plaintiff's request that stolen land be returned.

The sole economic request made by victims was return of land stolen during the seventeen-month '82-'83 Rios Montt regime. Judges denied this, serving a major defeat to the victims.

In a direct response to Rios Montt's defense team, and in an indirect response to statements by conservative, pro-Rios Montt groups, the judges clarified that the state isn’t being condemned in this case.

While the judges said that mechanisms of the Guatemalan state will be used to provide reparations, this will not include giving back stolen land.

The state was also ordered to build monuments and genocide education centers in the Ixil municipalities—locations where people already know very well what happened.

Judges also ordered, however, that ceremonies commemorating the genocide take place in the Palacio National in Guatemala City, the headquarters of the government, and in Ixil communities. March 23, the date Rios Montt seized power in a 1982 coup, was declared “National Day against Genocide."

Judges also ordered that personal apologies be made to Ixil women who survived sexual violence, a symbolically important move.

Plaintiffs have also asked court to require the executive branch of government to consult indigenous people in all actions affecting natural resources and land use.

Follow proceedings and analysis of the legal battle under way to overturn the conviction and annul the trial: NISGUA, Plaza Publica, and the OSJI's trial monitoring account are good places to start. You can follow them and others on this Twitter list. The site is the best source I've found for legal analysis.

Guatemala coverage archives
Rios Montt found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity
1983 "MacNeil/Lehrer Report" on debate over military aid
1982 MacNeil/Lehrer on reports Ríos Montt committed atrocities
• "I am innocent," Ríos Montt tells court in genocide trial
Ríos Montt trial enters final phase, 75 years sought
The science behind historic genocide trial of General Ríos Montt: PBS NewsHour video report
Guatemalan Government declares State of Siege after Mining Protests: PBS NewsHour video report
PBS NewsHour reporter's notebook: Guatemala—Why We Cannot Turn Away
Waiting. Snapshots from Ríos Montt genocide trial courtroom
Guatemala: Rios Montt supporters protest; court considers reparations for genocide victims


  1. Maybe they can get ‘anywhere miles’ (square miles, mineral and water rights; too bad it’s restricted to where Guatemalan Quetzal are honored.)

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