Friday, 19 April 2013

Visiting the trial of Rios Montt - former dictator on trial for genocide in Guatemala

Testimony from Catalina-Sanchez-Solis. Indigenous women gives evidence against Rios Montt, Guatemala's former  president on trial for genocide.
 I was as in Guatemala's National Court with Trocaire on Friday the 19th of April observing the trial of the former dictator Rios Montt for genocide. Trocaire along with some of their legal partners CALDH and AJR had helped to bring the former dictator to trial. This is a very historical case as it is the first time a former head of state has faced genocide charges before their national court (as opposed to an international criminal court).

Rios Montt - former army general and president of Guatemala and currently on trial for genocide and crimes against humanity.

The room was very tense as there was a very real chance that the trial was going to collapse on Friday due to events the previous day. Because of this there were a lot of big hitters in the room to support the case like UN High Commissioner on Human Rights in Guatemala, national ambassadors (the Uruguayan ambassador was 2 seats to my left!), a Guatemalan Nobel prize winner sitting directly behind me, Francisco Dall'anese the head of the International Committee against Impunity in Guatemala (

Indigenous women in court to give evidence in the genocide trial
The previous day Judge Patricia Flores in a lower court had tried to annul the Tribunal.

The place erupted into applause once Judge Yazmín Barrios confirmed that trial would continue as they did not recognise the resolution of the lower court.
Barrios then declared that the trial would be temporarily suspended so that the Constitutional Court could resolve the legal issue at stake.
As proceedings concluded more than half of the packed to capacity court auditorium were on their feet chanting and clapping "Justicia, Justicia, Justicia..." like it was a football match. 

Court room erupts into chants of "Justicia, Justicia, Justicia..." at the end of the days proceedings

One of the banners outside the courthouse quoting:  "Yes there was a genocide and sexual violence"

Another banner outside the court house depicting some of the violence of the genocide

There was a large congregation outside the courthouse where there were a few speeches.
Then without further ado a few hundred people marched out into the chaotic traffic of Guatemala City and through the downtown to the constitutional court where there was then more excitement about not letting press in, censorship and more chanting and protesting. After about an hour the Constitutional Court eventually let the press in.

After we marched through the streets of Guatemala to the Constitutional Court there was a protest outside to let the media in.

It was an incredibly interesting and moving day and not something I will ever forget. Real lump in the throat kinda stuff to be witnessing history so raw and close up as this. If you are interested to find out more about the Rios Montt trial for crime of genocide please see which is in both English & Spanish.

No comments:

Post a Comment