The Genocide Trial of General Efrain Rios Montt Has Just Been Suspended: Afirsthand behind-the-scenes account of how Guatemala's current President andthreats of violence killed the case
Allan NairnGuatemala CityThursday, April 18, 2013For a while it looked like Guatemala was about to deliver justice.But the genocide case against General Efrain Rios Montt has just been suspended,hours before a criminal court was poised to deliver a verdict.The last-second decision to kill the case was technically taken by an appeals court.But behind the decision stands secret intervention by Guatemala's current presidentand death threats delivered to judges and prosecutors by associates of Guatemala'sarmy.Many dozens of Mayan massacre survivors risked their lives to testify. But now thecourt record they bravely created has been erased from above.The following account of some of my personal knowledge of the case was writtenseveral days ago. I was asked to keep it private until a trial verdict had been reached:"It would be mistaken to think that this case redounds to the credit of Guatemala'srulers.It was forced upon them from below. The last thing they want is justice.But they agreed to swallow a partial dose because political forces were such that theyhad to, and because they thought that they could get away with sacrificing Rios Monttto save their own skins.I was called to testify in the Rios Montt case, was listed by the court as a 'qualified witness,' and was tentatively scheduled to testify on Monday, April 15. But at the lastminute I was kept off the stand 'in order to avoid a confrontation with the[Guatemalan] executive.'What that meant, I was given to understand, was that Gen. Otto Perez Molina,Guatemala's president, would shut down the case if I took the stand because mytestimony could implicate him.Beyond that, there was fear, concretely stated, that my taking the stand could lead toviolence since given my past statements and writings I would implicate the'institutional army.'