Why Do We Need to Keep Up the Pressure to Prosecute Rios Montt for Genocide?

Brigadier General José Efraín Rios Montt, flanked by General Horacio Egberto Maldonado Schaad and Colonel Francisco Luis Gordillo Martínez, at first press conference on 23 March 1982, National Palace, Guatemala City.

Brigadier General José Efraín Rios Montt, flanked by General Horacio Egberto Maldonado Schaad and Colonel Francisco Luis Gordillo Martínez, at first press conference on 23 March 1982, National Palace, Guatemala City. Photo courtesy of Jean-Marie Simon.

Monday’s ruling that General Efraín Ríos Montt and his former head of military intelligence, General José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, should stand trial for the massacre of almost 2,000 people in the 1980s is an encouraging sign in the quest for justice and accountability in Guatemala. But we must keep up our vigilance to make sure justice moves forward!

A little over a month after I wrote a post on this blog about the need to bring Rios Montt to justice, Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina—a former general who served under Rios Montt—issued a decree that said the State of Guatemala would no longer recognize the competence of the Inter American Court of Human Right’s rulings regarding crimes that took place before 1987.  The decree was published on December 28, 2012 – over the holidays when most people are out of their offices.

Pressure from the local and international human rights community convinced President Perez Molina to withdraw this decree in mid-January. But this effort by the President to try and strip away one of the key advocacy tools for relatives of the thousands killed during the internal armed conflict demonstrates that the government is interested in trying to shield perpetrators from justice. We need to keep up the pressure on the Guatemalan government to prevent further efforts to protect Rios Montt and others responsible for widespread human rights violations.

Amnesty International is therefore calling on the government to allow full and free access to military archives from the wartime era so that victims and their families can pursue both truth and justice. You can learn more about efforts to press for justice in Guatemala by listening to this BBC interview with Fredy Peccerelli, Director of the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation.

Please help protect human rights defenders in Guatemala and throughout the Americas by signing a petition calling for public recognition, effective protection and an end to impunity for human rights abuses against defenders.

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2 thoughts on “Why Do We Need to Keep Up the Pressure to Prosecute Rios Montt for Genocide?

  1. Someone once said that "to be able to judge a man you have to first walk one mile in his shoes."

    Rios Mont had a dirty duty in 1982, to stop comunism in Guatemala! and he did it!! I pay my respects to El General Jose Efrain Rios Mont….Guatemala is a better country thanks to him..

    • No matter the end goal, the means of killing even a single person is never justifiable. I am deeply saddened that General Rios Montt resorted to genocide to solve an issue that very plausibly could have been solved otherwise through smart planning and ethical politicking.