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Otilia Lux De Coti on Guatemala’s Rios Montt Trial

Our partner Otilia Lux de Coti spoke out at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues about Guatemala’s prosecution of Efraín Ríos Montt, the former dictator who carried out a brutal genocide against Indigenous Peoples (you can find out more here and see a collection of resources here). Below is her statement in Spanish and a complete translation.

Otilia Lux de Cotí on Guatemala's Rios Montt Trial


It must be acknowledged that the trials against the generals, beginning with General Ríos Montt’s trial, have demonstrated to Guatemala and the whole world that justice is possible when there is the will to enforce it.

This is not the case when there are, let’s say, economic forces and political forces which unite in order to go on encouraging impunity in Guatemala and other countries. These forces are dark and factual that prevent the enforcement of laws because they know this would go against their interests; this is so because they hold responsibility for many negative events that have happened in our country.

It is regrettable the revocation of the trial by the Constitutionality Court three days ago. To annul a trial that has obeyed all the procedural steps… The fact that an attorney was not allowed at the courtroom because he declared he was an enemy of the jury does not mean that the whole trial was a mistrial. In fact, this was a strategy aimed at undermining the whole process.

They did not succeed on the first phase because the Judge was scrupulously respectful of the Law. If she had stopped the trial, this one would have been declared illegal. But she did not do so; she continued the lawsuit.

This is why the Judge gave a sentence of 80 years in prison to the icon of the military regime and genocide in Guatemala.

However, they know that if this case goes on, there will follow other people, automatically, to be prosecuted.

So what they are doing now is to undermine this legal process so that nobody can be sued for justice, no businessman, no politician, no more military men or maybe no civil person.

Now, with this sentence, I think that the lawyers, the attorneys of the victims’ families should present other appeals.

Anyway, the battle has been won. Because there are legal battles in which applications for amparo can be filed, which should be the right submission here,  or petitions in error, as it is also known, as another legal resource.

So we consider that the victims’ families must be safeguarded. On the other hand, the attorneys must have already submitted appeals, I guess since I still have to confirm this information today.

However, the revocation of this trial represents an outrage for the Mayan People and for all the Indigenous Peoples in the world. It constitutes an outrage for the victims’ families.

Because they sued someone who officially ordered, signed the decrees with different plans, like Plan Sofía as the military plan conceived in 82 and 83; there, you can read a lot about the orders to massacre villages, families, entire towns.

This genocide has been studied by the Commission of Historical Clarification; this study includes all the events. A suitable methodology was applied to carry out the study, with four groups.

It was determined a genocide had been committed in the light of multiple events, like the massacres, the compulsive displacement of many peoples, burning everything and leaving just scorched earth behind; they burned houses, they burned animals. So the people had to flee in order to survive.

All these elements demonstrated that there was genocide. However, there were other elements, for instance, the sexual assault of little girls, adult as well as old women, the devastating murder of pregnant women.

According to what the Ichile women testified, the military men opened the pregnant women’s wombs in order to extract the seed and “eliminate that seed”, as they said, “which was the internal enemy of the Guatemalan army”…

So all those elements made the law experts determine that there really was a genocide in Guatemala. There really was! We saw it, we can confirm it.

As I say, this is a trick, the bad habits of some lawyers, to set legal traps so that their defendants can be acquitted.

In this case, what is rightful now is the appeals.

But this is regrettable for the Guatemalan justice, the Mayan Peoples and for all Indigenous Peoples because this sets a negative precedent in Guatemala. Anyone can commit a genocide and he will be set free? Won’t they find him guilty of anything?

Sometimes, the massacres are ordered; the person who does it does not do it willingly but because he received orders.

The real origin of those orders have also been determined.

The very military men said that the orders come from their hierarchy. What does that mean? If there’s a Defense Minister, who is his superior? They said this themselves in the trial.

We consider that having their testimony, it should be necessarily understood that the order came from the highest rank.

Furthermore, Colonel Ayuso testified: “We have a hierarchy; orders come in a hierarchical order and the Chief of State in those times was General Efraín Ríos Montt”.

This has been registered, recorded; he said it now at the court room. What does this mean? That there was a mandate.

We now question, if there has been a legal process, why didn’t the generals come to present their deposition? They never came to say “this is false”, never. This means that what was said was the truth.

With this shameful Constitutional Court sentence, we can say that they are extremely compliant of the Guatemalan corporations, compliant to the military men, compliant to some intellectuals who said that there was no genocide in Guatemala, compliant to military retirees, who are associated to Avenir Foundation, they are compliant to the Association Against Terrorism, compliant to the terrible lawyers that exist in Guatemala, because they are really a mafia.

Therefore, I think the Mayan People feels thorougly insulted; we call this an outrage, because this constitutes the utmost insult against the dignity and the spirit of our people.

Because it is not a question of only accepting that there were massacres. What does it mean five hundred corpses found just one and a half year ago in a place called Alta Verapaz, en Cobán? Five hundred corpses…

What does it mean the existing police files where all the information can be found? There is the information. What does the research and studies carried out by various academics? The academic is scientifical, he sticks to reality. An academic cannot lie in a scientific work, he has to stick to the scientifical methodology.

In this sense, there are proofs and bases upon which it can be said that there was a genocide in Guatemala.

Unfortunately, the trial has been suspended right now. A resolution has been issued to continue this trial.

I think the organizations will go on with it.

But I would really like to ask from the international communiy; in fact, I asked for it at the International Forum of Indigenous Peoples that United Nations could have a say in this. We have the Security Council, the Human Rights Council, the Rapporteurs should also say something about this.

They have to say something about this because this will bring justice in the world so that peace can be achieved, to achieve reconciliation and harmony. It is United Nations’ main aim to keep peace so they must say something; they cannot keep silent.

In this way, they would help strengthen the justice systems in any country, not only in Guatemala, in any country.

Because, today a blow has been given to justice in Guatemala, a terrible blow to peace and to the state of law. We cannot go on like this.

Then, what are laws for? What are laws passed for?

In Guatemala, there are laws that should be enforced. Besides, we have signed Conventions that are binding. These Conventions should be honored because they are international legal instruments that inspire national laws.

Also, we have the Constitutions, which are crystal clear in this sense and where it is clearly stated that these crimes against humanity must be punished.

In my opinion, all human beings must unite for justice because justice is universal.

Thank you very much.