Benjamin Manuel Geronimo, massacre survivor, and representative of Association for Justice and Reconciliation (AJR), speaking in the genocide trial in Guatemala City on May 9, 2010.
As regular Boing Boing readers know, I traveled to Guatemala for two months earlier this year to cover the trial of former US-backed military dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt. He and former chief of intelligence José Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez were on trial for genocide and crimes against humanity. The court reached a guilty verdict for Montt on May 10, and just 10 days later, another court effectively threw out the verdict and turned back the clock on the trial to where proceedings stood on April 19. As things stand, some form of the trial is due to re-open in April 2014, but the recent developments amount to a huge and damaging blow to those who believe the trial is just and important, and an historic opportunity to bring some justice to the mostly indigenous victims of Guatemala's internal armed conflict.
Anthropologist Victoria Sanford, who was featured in the PBS NewsHour piece I produced from Guatemala with Miles O'Brien, today sends word of a Change.org petition asking "Public Institutions of the State of Guatemala" to "Observe and ensure due process of law for the Guatemalan Genocide." One small thing those of you in the US can do to draw attention to what remains a fragile process.
It's in English and Spanish, and a beautifully written document. Here's the English version:
Public Institutions of the State of Guatemala
We, the undersigned, as individuals committed professionally, academically, and personally to the struggle for human rights and to the preservation of a just and equitable world, affirm our interest in the judicial process regarding the accusations of Genocide and Violations of Human Rights brought against the former head of state of Guatemala, General Efraín Rios Montt, and the former Head of Intelligence, José Mauricio Sánchez.
The ruling of the Constitutional Court on the Proceedings of the First Court for High Risk Cases, which sentenced the former Commander General of the Armed Forces and the former Head of State, Ríos Montt, to 80 years imprisonment, obliges us to examine a justice system characterized by the policies of impunity that have done so much harm to the Guatemalan society.
This document is a clarion call for justice in a country that requires as much in order to establish a culture of peace and progress. A trial and judgment for Genocide has been and will continue to be a means for Guatemalans to demonstrate to themselves and to the entire world their level of commitment toward an inclusive society that respects the rights of all individuals.
We cannot allow the usual clandestine operations that manipulate the entire State structure to re-emerge, obfuscating issues as important as Genocide and Human Rights violations. Nor can we allow these issues to be ignored, as they must be confronted with the gravity, profundity, and objectivity that respect for human dignity demands.
We admire the victims, survivors, witnesses, judges, attorneys, and plaintiffs who have withstood the pressure placed upon them, a pressure intended to eliminate any and all adjudication or accountability for these types of crimes—crimes that, in any other part of the world, would receive the highest degree of condemnation. This is a pivotal moment in the reconstruction of the justice system, a moment in which all Guatemalan citizens and all interested parties must participate in re-creating an objective and independent system of justice. No more interference. No more manipulation. No more threats. It is time for justice.
Accordingly, we urge the victims, survivors, and all Guatemalans in general to continue their historic struggle for justice, truth and reparations.