For the last week or so, I’ve been wanting to post something on here about the historic and on going trial of former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt. It’s historic because it’s the first time that a former head of state has faced charges for genocide and crimes against humanity. And in Guatemala, none the less. In Guatemala. A country where people usually get off the hook with a bribe to the judge, or the prosecutor, or maybe because they harass a few witnesses. But this trial is actually happening. After years of stalling, and appeals, and motions by his lawyers, Efrain Rios Montt is in trial. I’m still not certain that we’ll be happy with the outcome (the prosecution itself has admitted it has no direct evidence linking Rios Montt, but is relying on hundreds of witnesses testimony to establish a chain of command to link Rios Montt to the murders of almost 2,000 indigenous Mayans during the country’s civil war).
The reason I haven’t posted anything yet is because I couldn’t really offer any more insight than what news channels already have. But today I came across a blog that I thought was worth translating and sharing.
Before that, though, I do want to say that I’m extremely happy this is happening, and incredibly proud of the current Attorney General of Guatemala. She’s kind of my new personal hero.
Without further ado…
The trial is a murmur on my computer. I don’t understand much of the legalese, but I understand that they are doing what they can to avoid the genocide charges against him. The voice of the judge is strong, a brave woman behind the name of a flower. I think about the importance of those small gestures, the preponderance of the every day, what you almost don’t see. I think about the ixil women who are following the trial, who sit all the way in the back, silently and fully absorbed. It’s not hard to imagine where their thoughts fly to, maybe they go back to a time before the war, before the violence tore their lives apart, before the house burning, before the persecution, before the violation, before the death, before the fear, before the general, who is now deaf, old, and ruined, gave the order to exterminate the Ixil village. I see the pictures of the audience, and in the front row is the daughter of the genocidal man and the son of the government minister of the time, impeccable, serious, worried. Rigoberta Menchu is also there, with all her dignity on her back, dignity that hurts the cowards that hide so they don’t have to face the past. I don’t see two sides, I don’t see the good guys and the bad guys. I see the weight of history falling on us. I understand that the crimes against humanity are not forgiven. I see a unique opportunity for guatemalans to construct peace, illuminated by justice. I don’t know if justice is that intelligible murmur that comes out of my computer. But I know that hearing this stories from the victims can sensitize us more than a thousand ProGuate campaigns.