Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Seeing Red

Genocide Trial Judge Stands Her Ground

            Survivors wait for trial to continue.

            In the shortest session since the trial against former head of state Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt began March 19, Judge Jazmín Barrios declared three times in twenty minutes, "The trial is not annulled."
                Judge Barrios generally dresses in courtroom-appropriate muted colors.  Today she marched in wearing a blazing red dress.
Rios Montt waits for elevator.
            Decisions from other courts on complaints, accusations against magistrates including Barrios and demands for throwing out the case, on the part of the defense, have delayed the trial.  Today Ríos Montt's defense lawyer, Francisco Garcia Gudiel, called in sick.  Barrios said Gen. Ríos Montt could call back his two other defense lawyers, one a well-known former guerrilla, both of whom walked out with their briefcases on April 18 in a demonstration they called "peaceful resistance."  She called for debate to open again promptly in 24 hours.
     In the mid-1980s, when massacre survivors from Ixil country were either still wandering wildlands subsisting on grass and leaves, or undergoing re-education in model villages based on the U.S. Phoenix Program strategic hamlets system in Vietnam, a Guatemalan officer gave me his assessment of the origins of current local dress in the area of Nebaj, the area's largest town.  Spanish conquerers perceived the particularly rebellious nature of Indians there, he said, and had ordered them to wear red.  
Observers were still arriving when the session ended, only 20 minutes after it had begun.  Journalist Xeni Jardin tweeted from the courtroom, "...if you want to know what's going on with this trial don't ask a lawyer.  Hire a psychic."