Rios Montt Trial: MADRE Calls for Justice

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Our eyes are on the genocide trial of Guatemala’s former head of state Efraín Rios Montt and former head of military intelligence José Mauricio Rodríguez Sanchez. In process since March 19, 2012, it represents an opportunity for the justice and accountability that Indigenous communities in Guatemala have been denied for over 30 years. 

The people of Guatemala endured decades of bloody civil war, and the regime of Rios Montt between 1982 and 1983 was marked by a dramatic increase in brutal attacks against Indigenous Ixil Peoples. During this time, Rios Montt received moral and material support from the Reagan Administration. As part of a peace process in 1996, the United Nations organized a commission to investigate the civil war’s human rights violations. In its report, the UN characterized the mass killings and forced displacement as part of a deliberate government policy of genocide against Indigenous Peoples.

In these weeks of testimony, Indigenous people took the stand to shine a light on the violations perpetrated against communities. Many of them were children who witnessed soldiers murdering their families. Women testified to surviving sexual violence, targeted against them as a weapon of war. 

When MADRE Executive Director Yifat Susskind traveled to Guatemala, she met with our sister organization Muixil, a group of Indigenous Ixil women.  In this report, she retold the stories she heard: 

"My name is Rosa," said one young woman with a little girl on her lap, "and my parents were executed when I was five." Rosa told us about crawling out from the hiding space where her mother had placed her when she saw the soldiers coming. She told us about sitting with her parents' dead bodies waiting for someone to come. But so many in her village had been killed that no one came for two days. Finally, her uncle arrived, and they hid in the mountains, eating grass to ward off their hunger. They came to Cotzal after wandering for a long time, and she grew up here, but this, she says, is not her land. 

Another woman spoke. "My name is Magda, and my parents were executed when I was nine." One by one the women introduced themselves this way and told their stories of massacres, displacement, hunger, fear.  "We are victims," they told us. "We are survivors." 

As the Rios Montt trial proceeds, MADRE honors those who have bravely stepped forward to testify to the violations they faced. We underscore our commitment to stand with our sisters in Guatemala as they continue to heal and rebuild their communities. And we echo their call for justice.

Selected MADRE Resources:

Rios Montt Trial: Indigenous Women Speak Out (April 8, 2013)

Reclaiming Women's Human Rights in Guatemala (July 12, 2012)

Cultivating a Brighter Future for Ixil Women: Catarina's Story (June 6, 2012)

Demanding Women's Human Rights in Guatemala: At a Glance (March 22, 2012)

Indigenous Woman Testifies Before Human Rights Committee On Guatemala Human Rights Record (March 19, 2012)

MADRE Applauds Conviction of Guatemalan Soldier; Urges Conviction of Former Dictator Ríos Montt (March 14, 2012)

Justice Delayed But Not Denied for Indigenous Peoples in Guatemala (February 6, 2012)