Friday, September 18, 2009

Genocide in Guatemala News, 2001 to 2004 pt3

2004 18 Jan 2004 Nobel prizewinner to oversee Guatemala peace deal By Sara Silver in Mexico City The Guatemalan Nobel prizewinner Rigoberta Menchu will help to oversee the implementation of the peace accords that ended the country's 36-year civil war as part of its newly elected government. Successive governments have ignored or stumbled over the recommendations of the 1996 United Nation-brokered accords ending the conflict that killed 200,000 people, mostly members of the nation's Maya Indian majority, which includes Ms Menchu. Thorny issues remain, such as reducing the role of the army, compensating war victims, fighting ethnic discrimination, redistributing land and lessening the gross inequality that fuelled support for the anti-government rebels. Ms Menchu, who won the peace prize in 1992, said on Saturday that she would work within the Oscar Berger government, reportedly as a type of "goodwill ambassador to the accords". The president's wife, Wendy Widmann de Berger, stressed the administration's commitment to implementing the accords: "We believe [Ms Menchu] is the person who can show the world the changes we want to make." Ms Menchu's international credibility had been tarnished when she conceded that she mixed the testimony of other war victims into I, Rigoberta Menchu, the book that brought to world attention the horrors of the civil war. Reflecting the patchwork of his nation's past, President Berger is appointing leading human rights activists, officers who played key roles in US-backed military regimes and figures who come with the strong backing of the landed elite that financed his own campaign. Both Ms Menchu and respected human rights lawyer Frank LaRue, who was named head of the presidential human rights office, have long worked to prosecute on genocide charges the military officers who designed or carried out human rights violations. Chief among the targets is former military dictator Efrain Rios Montt, whom Mr Berger beat in November's first round of elections. Mr Berger has dodged questions on whether he will allow genocide charges to proceed against Mr Rios Montt, who until last week enjoyed legislative immunity as president of Congress.

Lawyers Committee for Human Rights 22 Jan 2004 Rights Organizations Hail Supreme Court Decision in Myrna Mack Case January 22, 2004 The Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) today welcomed the decision of Guatemala’s Supreme Court to reinstate the conviction of Colonel Juan Valencia Osorio for orchestrating the murder of renowned Guatemalan anthropologist Myrna Mack Chang in 1990. The three organizations, which have all campaigned for justice in the Mack case and in other human rights cases in Guatemala for many years, described the decision as “a tremendous victory for the Mack family and everyone in Guatemala who challenges entrenched impunity.” The Supreme Court’s decision, which was notified on Tuesday to Myrna Mack’s sister Helen and the Mack Foundation, overturned a May 2003 ruling of the Fourth Appeals Court, which had reversed Valencia Osorio’s earlier conviction by a trial court. In October 2002, a trial court had sentenced Valencia Osorio to thirty years imprisonment for masterminding the murder while he served as Head of the Department of Presidential Security of the Presidential General Staff (Estado Mayor Presidencial, EMP), a unit originally created to provide security for the President and Vice-president which operated as a military intelligence center and has been implicated in some of Guatemala's most high-profile human rights abuses. The Supreme Court reconfirmed the sentence and ordered Valencia Osorio’s arrest. The Lawyers Committee, CEJIL and WOLA commended the Supreme Court ruling, noting that judges and lawyers in Guatemala remain under constant threat of violence and intimidation. “We hope that this decision marks the beginning of a new period in Guatemala where rights abusers are held accountable for their actions, no matter their positions in previous power structures,” stated Neil Hicks, Director of the Lawyers Committee’s Human Rights Defenders Program. Adriana Beltrán, WOLA's Program Officer for Guatemala and co-author of a recent publication, entitled “Hidden Powers: Illegal Armed Groups in Post-conflict Guatemala and the Forces Behind Them” added “The countless delays and obstacles in the Myrna Mack case provide a prominent example of the influence and impunity enjoyed by clandestine power structures in Guatemala." In its decision, the Supreme Court held that the Fourth Appeals Court had erred in its reasoning when it found an “inconsistency” in the original trial court decision concerning the role played by Valencia Osorio in the planning and execution of the Mack murder. The trial court had found that “resources of the EMP’s Department of Presidential Security, where the order to kill anthropologist Myrna Mack originated, were used to carry out the murder.” It also later stated that “it has not been totally proven that the plan of execution … would have been conceived at the level of the EMP.” The Fourth Appeals Court perceived a contradiction between these two statements insofar as they relate to the role of the EMP in the crime. The Court therefore concluded that, as Valencia Osorio was tried on the basis of his role as a member of the EMP, the contradiction in the trial court’s reasoning placed into question the causal relationship between Valencia Osorio and the crime and his imputed authorship of the crime. However, the Supreme Court disagreed, finding that there was no inconsistency in the trial court’s position. The reconfirmation of Valencia Osorio’s conviction and sentence marks the end of a thirteen-year struggle for justice by Helen Mack and the Mack Foundation. Osorio’s conviction also represents the first time a high ranking military officer has been convicted of a human rights violation committed during the country's long civil war. While Noel de Jesús Beteta Álvarez, a soldier with the EMP, was convicted in 1993 for carrying out the killing, Helen Mack sought to have those responsible for ordering and arranging the execution of the crime also held accountable. In addition to Juan Valencia Osorio, she also accused General Edgar Augosto Godoy Gaitán and Lieutenant Colonel Juan Guillermo Oliva Carrera of involvement. In October 2002, however, the trial court acquitted Godoy Gaitán and Oliva Carrera, and their acquittal was reconfirmed by the Supreme Court. While domestic criminal proceedings were stalled in Guatemala, Helen Mack brought a parallel case to the Inter-American Commission and subsequently the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. These institutions are mandated to determine state responsibility for violations of the American Convention on Human Rights. In November 2003, the Inter-American Court found in favor of Helen Mack, ruling that Guatemala was responsible both for Myrna’s murder and for the subsequent denial of justice in the case. The Court specifically found that commanding officers in the EMP had ordered and carried out the murder and directed Guatemala to make reparations. Such reparations included ensuring the removal of all obstacles to justice in the case, public recognition of the state’s responsibility, and creating public memorials to Myrna Mack. “We believe that the Inter-American Commission and Court proceedings have helped to push the domestic justice system forward in this case,” commented Roxanna Altholz, Staff Attorney at CEJIL. Fundación Myrna Mack

Reuters 12 Feb 2004 Ex-Guatemala dictator to testify over reporter death GUATEMALA CITY, Feb 12 (Reuters) - A judge has banned former dictator Efrain Rios Montt from leaving Guatemala and ordered him to testify to a court investigating his possible implication in the death of a reporter last year. Judge Luis Alfredo Morales subpoenaed Rios Montt and members of his family and political party for their alleged role in violent protests in Guatemala City last year in which a radio journalist died while fleeing an armed mob. The reporter's son is accusing Rios Montt -- whom rights groups accuse of genocide during his iron-fisted 1982-83 dictatorship -- of murder, his lawyer said on Thursday. Radio reporter Hector Ramirez died of a heart attack in July as he was being chased by stick-wielding rightists at a demonstration backing a presidential bid by the ex-dictator. Walter Roble, the lawyer representing his son, also called Hector, said he welcomed the judge's ruling, made on Wednesday. "The decision to ban the accused from leaving the country is prudent, in virtue of the fact that in Guatemala those accused often become fugitives of justice," he told Reuters. Rios Montt, 77, was head of Congress at the time of the protests, called in support of his bid to be a candidate for Guatemala's 2003 presidential election. The retired general lost parliamentary immunity from prosecution when he stepped down from Congress in January after losing the election in the first round. Rights groups accuse Rios Montt of ordering the massacre of thousands of Maya Indians during his rule at the height of a 36-year civil war in which 200,000 people died. Judge Morales told local media that a warrant for Rios Montt's arrest would be issued if he did not present himself willingly to the court. Lawyers in the case say they expect Rios Montt to be called to appear next week. The court will then decide, based on his initial testimony, whether to proceed with the case.