Washington, D.C.—A delegation of Latin American judges and prosecutors arrive in Guatemala on April 16 to observe the final stretch of the trial of former military strongman General Efraín Ríos Montt. The Myrna Mack Foundation, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), and the Center for Legal and Social Studies (Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales, CELS) will hold a press conference on Thursday, April 18, to discuss their impressions of the trial and the evolution of the legal proceedings to date; the role of criminal investigations of grave human rights violations for truth, justice, and ending impunity; and the central role that such investigations play in helping societies come to terms with conflictive pasts and lay the grounds for a future based on the rule of law.
WHAT: Press conference of international delegation to the Ríos Montt trial
WHEN: Thursday, April 18, 2013, 3:30 p.m.
WHERE: Hotel Panamerican, 9 Calle 5-63, Zona 1, Ciudad de Guatemala
The trial, which started on March 19 and is set to conclude later this week or early next week, is a crucial step in efforts to bring justice to the victims of human rights violations in Guatemala. According to Guatemala’s Historical Clarification Commission, 200,000 were killed and 45,000 went missing in a war that fell heaviest on the country’s indigenous population. Ríos Montt’s 17 months in power from 1982 to 1983, which included a scorched-earth campaign that resulted in the deaths of thousands of people, were among the most violent of the 36-year war. Among other charges, Ríos Montt stands accused of orchestrating the massacre of more than 1,750 indigenous Ixil Mayans in the Guatemalan department of Quiché. This is the first time a Latin American president has been prosecuted for genocide. (For reporting on the trial, please see the Open Society Justice Initiative [OSJI] trial monitoring website, http://www.riosmontt-trial.org.)
The delegation is comprised of judges and prosecutors from Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Uruguay who have vast collective experience investigating and adjudicating grave human rights violations and crimes against humanity.
Judge María del Carmen Roqueta of Argentina is vice president of Public Federal Court Number 6 in the city of Buenos Aires. In 2012, she ruled in the case of the “Systematic Plan to Appropriate Children,” finding former general and de facto president of Argentina’s last military dictatorship (1976-83) Jorge Rafael Videla and other high-ranking members of the military guilty of orchestrating a systematic plan of repression that included the practice of appropriating children born in captivity to women imprisoned during the dictatorship.
Judge Alejandro Solís of Chile was appointed by the Chilean Supreme Court to adjudicate cases of crimes against humanity committed during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990). He ruled in the case of the assassination of former Chilean general Carlos Prats, who was killed in Buenos Aires in an operation carried out in the framework of Plan Condor (the coordination of repression of opponents by the dictatorships of the Southern Cone). Pinochet died before he could stand trial in this case, but the head of the National Intelligence Direction (Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional, DINA) was found guilty. Judge Solís retired in 2012.
Avelino Guillén of Peru was the adjunct senior prosecutor in the trials against former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori. He investigated crimes against humanity as well as the many acts of corruption and abuse of authority committed during the Fujimori regime (1990-2000). In 2009, Fujimori was sentenced to 25 years in prison for several crimes, including the 1991 Barrios Altos massacre and the disappearance of nine students and a professor from La Cantuta University in 1992. Guillén retired from the Public Ministry in 2010.
Mirtha Guianze of Uruguay, in her role as a state prosecutor, investigated several important cases of crimes against humanity committed during Uruguay’s military dictatorship (1973-1985). She handed down the indictment against former dictator Juan María Bordaberry (1973-76), arguing that the 1986 amnesty law did not apply to civilians. Bordaberry was convicted in 2010 for having carried out a coup d’état and for several political killings and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Guianze retired in 2011 and in 2012 was appointed as a member of the National Human Rights Institute, Uruguay’s newly created Ombudsman Office.
The delegation is an initiative of WOLA and CELS, a leading human rights organization in Argentina, with the collaboration of the Myrna Mack Foundation (a highly respected Guatemalan human rights organization), OSJI, and the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ).
The delegation coordinators are WOLA Senior Fellow Jo-Marie Burt, a political science professor at George Mason University who has researched and written extensively on accountability efforts in Latin America, and was an international observer to the Fujimori trial in Peru; and CELS Legal Team Coordinator Daiana Fusca, a lawyer who has litigated numerous cases of crimes against humanity in Argentina, including the first trial in the case of the notorious clandestine detention center known as ESMA (Escuela Superior de Mecánica de la Armada).
The international delegates are available for media interviews in Guatemala between April 17-18.
For interviews with delegation members:
Martha Paz (Myrna Mack Foundation)
Phone: (+502) 2414-0500
Email: [email protected]
For interviews with WOLA Senior Fellow Jo-Marie Burt (In Guatemala April 16-22) or CELS Legal Director Daiana Fusco (in Guatemala April 17-18):
Phone: (+502) 5596-3689
After April 22:
WOLA Communications Director