Genocide on Trial, Days 17 & 18: AJR Responds to Efforts to Delegitimize the Trial

NISGUA (Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala) filed the following Days 17-18 report of the genocide trial of former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt and ex-intelligence chief Mauricio Rodriguez Sánchez in Guatemala City. They have given us permission to republish all their reports about this historic trial.

NISGUA continues live coverage of the trial in Guatemala of Efraín Rios Montt and Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez for genocide and crimes against humanity. Read our previous summaries: Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4/5Day 6Day 7Day 8Day 9Day 10Day 12Days 13/14Days 15/16 and full archive of ongoing live Twitter coverage.

Days 17 and 18 of the genocide trial continued with expert testimonies, called by both the prosecution and defense. Expert Héctor Rosada Granados, a Guatemalan political analyst, opened day 17 and testified on the Guatemalan military’s structure, ideology and chain of command. Rosada explained, “Guatemala’s National Security Doctrine has its basis in the Cold War, in a climate of polarization between capitalism and communism.”

University of Arizona Professor, Elizabeth Oglesby, testified on her experience studying displacement in the Ixil region while completing anthropological research with Myrna Mack. Eduardo Vasquez Arriaza followed Oglesby and complimented her testimony with maps of the displacement of the Ixiles during the conflict. Rodolfo Robles, a Peruvian former army general, dominated the afternoon’s testimonies for the prosecution. Robles, who has previously testified in the Guatemalan case of the Dos Erres massacre and also against Peruvian ex-President Alberto Fujimori, provided a wealth of information around military terminology and command.

Judge Barrios ended day 17 reminding the defense team to come prepared to present their witnesses the next morning. The defense called two witnesses on Day 18 – Mauricio Illescas García, former lieutenant during Ríos Montt’s regime, and Alfred Antonio Kaltschmitt Luhan, director of FUNDAPI (the Foundation to Aid the Ixil Indigenous People) and frequent right wing public commentator. The defense, however, was not prepared with more witnesses. Instead, the courtroom turned their attention to the prosecution’s video evidence of 1982 interviews conducted by documentary filmmaker Pamela Yates. Viewing the three interviews with Efraín Ríos Montt, General Luis Gordillo Martínez and General Horacio Maldonado Schaad created a truly eery atmosphere in the courtroom on Tuesday afternoon. Ríos Montt was forced to watch his younger self, projected on the courtroom wall, proclaim, “If I can’t control the army, then what am I doing?”

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For additional coverage of the trial’s expert testimonies from days 17 and 18, we recommend Kate Doyle’s excellent summaries from Monday and Tuesday and journalist Xeni Jardin’s account from inside the courtroom here.

Outside the courtroom, efforts continue to try to delegitimize the genocide case. A 10-page paid insert titled “The Farce of Genocide in Guatemala: a conspiracy perpetrated by Marxists with the Catholic Church” was published in Guatemala City-based newspaper El Periódico on Sunday, April 14. On Tuesday, two Guatemalan newspapers ran a false paid political advertisement in the name of the Association for Justice and Reconciliation (AJR). We have translated the AJR’s statement in response to the ad below. You can view the original statement in Spanish here.

Statement by the Association for Justice and Reconciliation
The false paid political ad, published April 16th, is a new form of “dirty war”
Translation by NISGUA

On Tuesday, April 16, a false paid political advertisement was published in two Guatemalan newspapers, featuring the logo of the Association for Justice and Reconciliation (AJR) and the logo of an alleged “Movement for Guatemalan Progress,” unknown to our organization until now. [This paid ad] opens a new chapter in the campaign of disinformation against social organizations that work for justice and against impunity.

The malicious and false publications previously mentioned show the photograph of a woman who is unaffiliated with the AJR, as well as an image of the AJR’s logo extracted from a snapshot of the AJR’s website where it is published. This implies multiple violations of the law as well as a clear intention to act through all available means with deceptive tricks characteristic of a “dirty war,” illustrating the mentality of its authors.

The AJR categorically rejects this apocryphal publication, which adds to the libel that came to light publicly on Sunday, April 14 of this year, which aims to confuse the Guatemalan population and revive the monsters of the psychological counterinsurgency warfare of the 1980s. Likewise, we announce that we have initiated the corresponding legal actions in order to find who, lacking all ethics, is responsible for publishing these types of documents and to identify what individual or legal entities orchestrated this campaign, which bears the mark—in form and content—of an intelligence operation, anachronistic and outdated, in accordance with the backwards mentality of groups that remain frozen in the past.

The AJR, as the plaintiff in the case accusing José Efraín Ríos Montt and José Mauricio Rodriguez Sánchez of genocide in the Ixil region between 1982 and 1983, deplores the attempt to use dishonest practices to hinder and discredit the current judicial process. We call on the population, organizations and institutions to reject reactionary methods so that we can advance toward a future of reconciliation, with justice and full respect for the individual and collective rights of all Guatemalans.

NISGUA has provided human rights accompaniment to the witness’ organization, the Association for Justice and Reconciliation, and their lawyers, the Center for Human Rights Legal Action since 2000. We will continue to bear witness to the truth and bravery of these survivors throughout this historic trial. To bear witness with us, stay tuned to our ongoing live Twitter coverage @NISGUA_Guate, like ourFacebook page and sign up for email updates.

You can take action to support these brave witnesses! Sign our pledge to commit to following the genocide trial and take a photo for justice with your friends.

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