Guatemala: Montt Genocide Trial fate rests with Constitutional Court; remains in limbo (photos, video)

Outside Constitutional Court, Guatemala City, a banner displays the names of civilians disappeared or assassinated during Guatemala's 36-yr civil war. Photo: Xeni Jardin

Julia Cortez, former president of the plaintiff organization AJR (Association for Justice and Reconciliation) celebrates Judge Barrios' declaration that no one person has the right to annul the trial. Photo:

I've been traveling in Guatemala for the past few weeks, reporting on the genocide trial of former Guatemalan General and genocide and de factor dictator Rios Montt, and his then-head of intelligence Jose Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez. Ríos Montt's 1982-1983 regime was supported by the United States; during this era many thousands of non-combatant civilians were killed.

James Rodriguez, a photojournalist in Guatemala, has been covering the trial and all of the activity that surrounds it. Above and below, two images from a photo essay he published about demonstrations that took place here on Friday:

Despite the trial's suspension ordered by High Risk Court Judge Carol Flores on the previous day, Judge Jazmin Barrios reconvened the trial on the 21st day to decide on a course of action. Judge Barrios ruled that Judge Flores' annulment is illegal and will be asking the Constitutional Court, Guatemala's highest judicial body, to rule on the fate of the genocide trial. Afterwards, a protest march walked from the Supreme Court of Justice to the Constitutional Court.

According to the prosecution team, no trial can be suspended for more than 10 business days. Hence, they expect the CC, highest court in the land, to rule by May 2nd.

View the complete photo essay: "2013-04-19. On day 21, the Genocide Trial's fate rests on the Constitutional Court" (

And in related coverage, Kate Doyle at the Open Society Justice Initiative's blog writes:

Four international legal and human rights groups are together urging all concerned to ensure that the current trial in Guatemala of former president Efrain Rios Montt on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity proceeds with due respect for judicial independence.

The four are: the Open Society Justice Initiative, the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).

Over at the blog for Skylight ("Granito," and "When the Mountains Tremble"), Paco de Onís has analysis:

One big factor in play is how much will the prospect of international opprobrium might play in the decisions of the judges, and how much pressure they might be getting from President Otto Pérez Molina one way or the other. While some say that Pérez Molina is wary that the genocide trial could eventually implicate him for his role in 1982 as military commander of the Nebaj army base (in the Ixil region), he has also made a great effort to position himself in the world as a respected statesman, by having Guatemala join the International Criminal Court the day after he took office; getting invited to the Clinton Global Initiative; receiving the Key to the City of Madrid; and so forth. A vote for impunity by the Constitutional Court could deal a serious blow to that image, and could spark a very embarrassing international campaign against impunity in Guatemala that could bring to light many facts beyond what has been presented at the Ríos Montt trial already. This week could tell what the future holds – stay tuned.

And NISGUA's blog contains a thorough update on what went down Friday April 19, and where things stand now.

As I publish this blog post from a hotel in Guatemala City, I'm about to join a number of reporters in heading over to the Constitutional Court building, to observe a demonstration led by Ixil people and human rights groups, who are demanding that the trial be allow to continue unimpeded.