Monday, July 22, 2013

Si Hubo Genocidio!

Disclaimer: This post contains information that explicitly indicates how inhumane the acts committed as part of the genocide were.

Si Hubo Genocidio! <Yes, there was Genocide!>
Image from EATIP
Picture this.
Your country’s faced war. The leader of your country, it appears from all the overwhelming evidence you have, has ordered genocide and pursued other campaigns that have been in flagrant disregard of all things human rights. A special court is constituted to try your leader and it convicts him for genocide. But before you can say genocide, the constitutional court of your country annuls the trial and throws it back by many days to the effect that the decision it passed does not hold good any longer.

Makes you angry, doesn’t it?

Well. That’s what people in Guatemala are going through right now. Why? Well. Because of procedure.
Stretching over thirty years, the Guatemalan Civil War started in 1960, fought between the government of Guatemala and several leftist rebel groups that were supported by many ethnic Mayan indigenous people and economically disadvantaged Ladino peasants, the war witnessed massive human rights violations. The government of Guatemala has been oft condemned for having committed a crime of Genocide, and of having committed widespread human rights violations against the Mayan people. Statistics reveal that as many as 200,000 people died or went missing during the war, including 40,000 to 50,000 people who were subjected to enforced disappearances. The Mayan Ixil are people indigenous to Guatemala, living in primarily three municipalities in the Cuchumatanes Mountains in the northern part of the department El Quiché. The Ixil community wound up becoming the principal target of a genocide operation that involved systematic rape, displacement and imposed hunger during the course of the conflict.

Women were “routinely raped in front of their children, often gang-raped, and others were forced into slave labour – cooking, washing clothes and providing sexual favours under duress – for the army or the civil patrol leaders.” In the Guatemalan Civil War, most of the sexual violence took the form of Femicide. Over 5,000 women and girls in Guatemala have been murdered in the past ten years, many of them raped and mutilated, their bodies discarded in public places. In Guatemala, unlike in other instances where the woman is left to bear the child that was conceived out of rape, the women were brutally forced to abort their children since the use of rape was in pursuit of genocide. In a bid to prevent newborns among the indigenous groups they would take pregnant women and beat their wombs until they would involuntarily wind up aborting. (Genocide Watch, 2012) Sometimes, the wombs of pregnant women were brutally cut open, the babies were taken out and then a stick was put in the anus of the fetus that would come out of its mouth. (Genocide Watch, 2012) Invariably, and unsurprisingly, the mothers died after being cut open.

The President of Guatemala during the time of the Civil War, Efrain Rios Montt, was prosecuted for the commission of Genocide in Guatemala. A judge ruled that Efrain Rios Montt, the former general and Guatemalan head of state, would stand trial for his alleged role in committing a crime of genocide. Jose Efrain Rios Montt, at 86, is among the several ex-officers in Guatemala that are currently facing trial for the crimes they committed during the civil war in the country that raged on for 36 years before it ended in 1996. A year ago, he was arrested and kept under house arrest under the orders of a judge. That itself signaled an epoch making change in the country’s trajectory of grappling with impunity. Attempts were made to have the charges dropped, but the country has still surged ahead with every intention to try the leader. Thus far, no ranking officer has been held responsible for the violence that killed nearly 200,000 people. Consequently, for the nation, the trial is a significant milestone. A truth commission, over a decade ago, determined the elements of violence during the civil war constituted genocide – especially under Rios Montt’s rule where the counter-insurgency campaign prevailed. Though there have been many efforts to bring in changes in Guatemala’s courts, the people seeking change have been met with treats and violence. Consequently, survivors reached out to courts abroad. 

Although laudable, justice was trumped again. Rios Montt was allegedly denied his right to due process, and his trial was annulled and set back to a prior date. With the annulment,   the case goes back into the docket. It is possible that there may be a retrial, it is possible that there may be a conviction, and it is possible that there may not. But the fact of the matter is that Rios Montt remains free. Not meaning to judge the case at all: but when the evidence is overwhelming, why annul the trial? Wouldn’t it have been a wiser thing to offer Montt a chance to appeal against his decision, instead of nullifying it?
 “Si, hubo genocidio en #Guatemala.”
<Yes, there was genocide in Guatemala>