Nobel Peace Laureate sends message of “truth & justice” to Guatemalan Supreme Court

Lys Anzia – WNN Breaking

Nobel Peace Laureate Rigoberta Menchu Tum on march with collegues in Guatemala
Nobel Peace Laureate Rigoberta Menchú, shown in the center with colleagues, in the 2009 march commemorating the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty on Identity and Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Guatemala. Image: Wikipedia

(WNN) Guatemala City, Guatemala: As former Guatemalan general José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez and his former Commander in Chief, 86-year-old former dictator José Efrain Ríos Montt stand trial for crimes against humanity under genocide, Nobel Peace Laureate Ms. Rigoberta Menchú Tum has released a formal statement through the Rigoberta Menchú Tum Foundation directed to Guatemala’s high court.

“The Nobel Women’s Initiative celebrates this news with Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Rigoberta Menchú Tum and all of our friends in Guatemala,” said the Nobel Women’s Initiative in a recent January 31 release. Rigoberta Menchú Tum is Quiché Mayan, an indigenous people who’s ancestral roots can be found in the highlands of Guatemala.

During the days of ‘genocide’ in what the New York Times has called “the bloodiest period of the country’s long-running civil war” intense targeting and suffering of the Indigenous Maya people occurred, indicate reports. Violent conflict in the country lasted over 30 years, from 1960 to 1996.

The former military leader and former dictator will together be facing prepared evidence in court that includes thousands of listed atrocities committed by the armed forces under their command from 1982 to 1983, including the forced displacement of 29,000 people, the killing of 1,771 in 11 massacres, torture and 1,485 acts of sexual violence against women.

During the trial in what is expected to last in court up to 3 months, more than 150 survivors are expected to be present to testify.

“Culminating the tremendous Guatemalan and international justice effort to date, the legal strategy on behalf of the victims will include all the Guatemalan and international expert witness testimony and other evidence prepared by the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) for the Guatemalan Genocide case before the Spanish National Court,” outlines the CJA – Center for Justice and Accountability based in San Francisco, California, U.S., an agency that has worked closely with the case before the Spanish National Court.

“We are proud to state today that all the work done by CJA’s team was always aimed at one goal, to advance and support a trial for Genocide before the Guatemalan courts,” adds the CJA.

Up to at least 12 expert ‘witness-testimony reports’ from Guatemalan and international professionals will be presented to the court through the CJA in combined efforts with an international legal team.

The following formal statement has been released by the foundation of Nobel Peace Laureate Rigoberta Menchú Tum:

“We victims, and society at large, have waited a very long time for justice to take its place and allow for an advance towards peace and reconciliation. This ruling by the judge Miguel Ángel Gálvez therefore constitutes not only an act of justice, but an act that is ethical, moral and necessary for peace in our country.

It is not about opening wounds, because they are still open. It is not about revenge, because what is sought is justice. It is not about rejoicing, because the memory of the victims still brings us pain and sadness. But we do have the right to feel satisfied, because a ruling like this reaffirms that no person or institution should be granted impunity for the severe acts, like those committed by the military leaders Ríos Montt and Rodríguez Sánchez, which deserve judgment.

This historic ruling should serve to send a message in which historical memory, truth and justice are essential to reconciliation and the construction of a society that is peaceful and democratic and in which impunity is no longer the largest offence for victims.

This is a fundamental step on that road towards genuine peace in the country. We will remain attentive and prepared to support all judicial, social, political and cultural efforts that contribute to justice. We value the effort and honesty of the protagonists, from the Office of the Public Prosecutor to the organizations that have been part of this achievement, as well as the important role of First Judge Miguel Ángel Gálvez.”

Outlining a total of 42,275 victims, including men, women and children, the United Nations sponsored CEH – Commission for Historical Clarification conducted a detailed documentation of the ‘genocide’. Of these, 23,671 were victims of arbitrary execution and 6,159 were victims of forced disappearance.

Eighty-five percent of all cases of human rights violations and acts of violence registered by the CEH are attributable to the Army, acting either alone or in collaboration with another force, and 18%, to the Civil Patrols, which were organised by the armed forces,” outlined the CEH. “These massacres and the so-called scorched earth operations, as planned by the State, resulted in the complete extermination of many Mayan communities, along with their homes, cattle, crops and other elements essential to survival,” continued the CEH. “During the armed confrontation the cultural rights of the Mayan people were also violated. The Army destroyed ceremonial centres, sacred places and cultural symbols. Language and dress, as well as other elements of cultural identification, were targets of repression,” added the CEH.

“Until recently, the idea of a Guatemalan general being tried for these heinous crimes seemed utterly impossible,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “The fact that a judge has ordered the trial of a former head of state is a remarkable development in a country where impunity for past atrocities has long been the norm.”