6 February 2012
Guatemala City / Brussels – Avocats Sans Frontières is pleased with the prosecution of former Guatemalan ruler (1982-83), José Efraín Ríos Montt, an encouraging development in the fight against the impunity for international crimes. Suspected of having given orders for multiple massacres during his time in power, Ríos Montt was ordered to appear in court on 26 January.
After three months of sharing power in a military junta, on June 1982, Ríos Montt forced the two other (military) leaders from the junta to resign, and became the sole political leader, head of the Armed Forces, and Minister of Defense. His regime was characterised by human rights violations, mass murders and forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of mainly indigenous Guatemalans.
The appearance of Ríos Montt before court marks the first formal step in an historical process in Guatemala dealing with the accusations of genocide and crimes against humanity that took place during Guatemala’s internal armed conflict.
Guatemala’s current president, Otto Pérez Molina, has confirmed its commitment to the fight against impunity; following a favorable vote in Congress, Pérez Molina stated his government’s commitment to ratify the Rome Statute. This statute is the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court (ICC), a unique, independent, permanent tribunal which tries people accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Avocats Sans Frontières-Canada assists in the court hearings in the Ríos Montt case. In cooperation with Avocats Sans Frontières in Brussels, the team develops monitoring activities for its programmes aimed at the fight against impunity and international justice in Guatemala and Colombia.