Monday, April 22, 2013

Cloud of Uncertainty over Genocide Trial

In a change from the air of flying sparks last week at the Guatemala genocide trial, when the entire defense team walked off in protest at judge’s rulings to leave Gen. Efrain Rios Montt and Gen. Mauricio Rodriguez alone at the table, a judge from another court “nullified” the trial, and the genocide trial judge refused to accept the cancellation in front of a full house of spectators, a slow-growing cloud of uncertainty has fallen over proceedings.  The Supreme Court room that seats 500 where the trial has been unfolding, sits empty.  

Ten blocks away, in sessions closed to all but magistrates, the Constitutional Court must decide whether the trial continues.  Survivors and supporters of Ixil Maya at the center of the genocide charge demonstrated outside the Constitutional Court building to pressure magistrates inside to come to a decision, to dissipate the cloud. Many wore buttons saying, “My heart is Ixil.”  
Women held up a kind of quilt made by family members to memorialize their dead and disappeared. 


Photos of some of the murdered, and other photos from the 1980s by Jean-Marie Simon were placed in public space outside the court. Following the culmination of a countrywide traveling exhibit in 2011, financed by the U.S. Embassy via former Ambassador Steven McFarland, Simon donated two sets of images to Guatemalan organizations. “They have put them to hugely good use,” said the photographer in an email. 
The Constitutional Court has until May 2 to deliver a decision on whether the trial continues, but may deliver its answer before that date.