Tuesday, May 28, 2024
HomeTopicsCrime & ViolencePhoto Essay: Ríos Montt Genocide Trial

Photo Essay: Ríos Montt Genocide Trial


For the first time in world history, a former head of state was not only tried for genocide and crimes against humanity in a national court, but found guilty of these charges. Former Guatemalan de facto head of state Jose Efraín Ríos Montt, who ruled Guatemala from March 1982 to August 1983, was sentenced to 80 years of jail. Judge Jazmín Barrios declared that military scorched earth campaigns during that period systematically and repeatedly massacred the Ixil Mayan people and indiscriminate patterns of violence were shown. She concluded that Ríos Montt had both command authority and “full knowledge of what was happening and did nothing to stop it.” Ríos Montt, 86, at Guatemala city National Court. Genocide Trial day 27. The final hearing begins at 8 hours, when José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, former Head of Intelligence during the Rios Montt de facto government, declares himself innocent. Ixil Mayan Indigenous authorities await the verdict.. 1992 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchú. Family members and supporters of the accused clap and yell: “Long live the glorious armed forces of Guatemala!” Former Head of Intelligence Rodríguez Sánchez (centre) is acquitted of all charges. From left to right: defence lawyer Jaime Hernández Zamora, the main accused, Efraín Ríos Montt, and controversial defence lawyer Francisco García Gudiel, listen to Judge Barrios’ verdict. Judge Jazmín Barrio, flanked by judges Patricia Bustamante  and Pablo Xitumul, orders the arrest of Ríos Montt. Ríos Montt, 86, reacts as he is sentenced to 80 years in jail – 50 for genocide and 30 for crimes against humanity. 1992 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchú (right) embraces an Ixil woman as the crowd reacts to the guilty verdict. Human rights activist Marylena Bustamante holds a photo of her detained-disappeared brother Emil Bustamante. Emil was still seen alive in a military cell on March 23, 1982, the day the coup d’état brought Ríos Montt to power. Emil’s remains are have not yet been found. Benjamín Manuel Jerónimo, president of the war victims organization Association for Justice and Reconciliation (AJR), plaintiff organization in the case. Human rights activists Sandra Morán (left) and Lolita Chávez embrace. Ixil women clap and dance in euphoric joy as they chant “We won! We beat him!” Judge Barrios declared, “There cannot be peace without justice in Guatemala.” She reiterated that genocide has affected all Guatemalans and urged the Public Prosecutor’s office to investigate and indict others responsible for genocide.

About the photographer:

Based primarily in Guatemala since 2006, James Rodríguez has produced over one hundred social justice and cultural photo essays documenting Central America’s fragile post-war scenario via the MiMundo.org blog (in EnglishSpanish and Japanese). MiMundo.org provides an independent media alternative and editorial photography agency focusing particularly on social justice issues involving land tenure, human rights abuses, post-war processes, and negative effects of globalization. Individual and collective exhibits have featured MiMundo.org’s work in North America, Mexico, Guatemala, and Europe. Notable individual exhibits include The El Estor Evictions, sponsored by Amnesty International Canada, and Mining in Central America: Pain and Resistance, sponsored by Oxfam America and exhibited during the 2008 Americas Social Forum in Guatemala.
LAB also recommens the short documentary “The Invisible Genocide of Women” by the photojournalists Ofelia de Pablo and Javier Zurita. Produced in Guatemala and released online in Feb 2012, this 5:52min video brings interviews with survivors of the Guatemalan genocide. It also documents the forensic and legal investigation that has just resulted in the conviction of former Guatemalan President Efraín Ríos Montt. The Invisible Genocide of Women. by (Ofelia&Zurita) from Ofelia de Pablo & Javier Zurita on Vimeo.
For more information on the Ríos Montt genocide trial, please see the  LAB Newsletter on the case released on the 16th May 2013.

This article is funded by readers like you

Only with regular support can we maintain our website, publish LAB books and support campaigns for social justice across Latin America. You can help by becoming a LAB Subscriber or a Friend of LAB. Or you can make a one-off donation. Click the link below to learn about the details.

Support LAB