San José and Guatemala City, July 22, 2015.- The victims of Guatemala’s internal armed conflict, Guatemalan society in general, and the international community all await with great expectation the reopening of the second trial for the genocide of the Maya Ixil People, scheduled for July 23, 2015. The process has been suspended for more than two years following a ruling from the Constitutional Court (CC) which alleged procedural errors in the first trial, in which the former head of State, José Efraín Ríos Montt, was sentenced to 80 years in prison for genocide and crimes against humanity. The ruling was not unanimous and was promoted by three of the Court’s five judges, while many lawyers within and outside of Guatemala questioned their objectivity and legality.
The criminal trial for genocide against the Guatemalan Ixil population has spent more than 15 years in the justice system, and more than 30 years have passed since the original events occurred. This unwarranted delay shows that the authorities have not always done the most to fulfill their duty to investigate, prosecute and punish the perpetrators of these serious acts. Genocide and crimes and against humanity are very serious offense for which should not go unpunished and unresolved.
The victims and the complainants have put their trust in Guatemala’s judicial system, but they have faced many obstacles during the process, such as: the limited investigative capacity of the criminal prosecution system, the authorities’ tolerance of the malicious litigation by the defense, the slowness with which the judgements are issued, interference by groups with power as well as threats and other acts of harassment to aimed at the victims, witnesses, lawyers and judicial officials. Most recently, the attorneys for General Ríos Montt have publicly said they requested the closure of the case because Ríos Montt is unfit to stand the second trial, backing up their argument with a medical report from the National Institute of Forensic Sciences (INACIF) ordered by Judge Carol Patricia Flores.
This is interpreted by the victims and their families as another strategy by the defense to evade justice, which is the reason why the authorities must objectively analyze the opinion and, as the case may be, request a new independent study to the state of health of the accused.
We reiterate the importance of reopening the trial without any further delays. As long as the trial is suspended, the anguish and uncertainty of the victims will continue: some are already deceased, many are sick and living in extreme poverty. All of them deserve fair treatment and the guarantee of their right to justice. The justice system must act responsible, quickly, and independently to judge with objectivity and impartiality the facts which caused so much damage to the indigenous population of Guatemala and which continue to be a stain on humanity's conscience. The Guatemalan government is obliged under national and international law to combat impunity and should therefore ensure that the trial against Ríos Montt is carried out in a transparent manner and with respect for the rights of the victims.