Thursday, February 28, 2013

CPO Denounces Delay in Ruling on Guatemala's Mining Law | Statement by the Western People's Council

In July 2012 Guatemala’s Constitutional Court heard a landmark case challenging the constitutionality of the 1997 Mining Law. The legal action, presented by the Western Peoples’ Council (CPO), contends that the current law is unconstitutional because it fails to fulfill national and international mandates that require the State to consult with indigenous people regarding policies that will significantly impact their territories. 

Now, almost eight months later, the Court has yet to issue a decision. Earlier this week the CPO held a press conference to denounce this setback in justice and to remind the judges of the Constitutional Court of their responsibility to ensure that judicial processes move forward without bias or “malicious delay”.

Read our translation of the CPO press release below or see the Spanish version here.

Photo via Waqib' Kej

“For the defense of LIFE and territory”


Re: Action of General Unconstitutionality against Decree 48-97, which contains the Mining Law, file number 1008-2012

Our country is currently experiencing a climate of high instability and social conflict regarding the business activities taking place on our ancestral lands, which have serious impacts on our fundamental rights and that put at risk governability and inclusive economic development. 

This social conflict is the result of the implementation of the Mining Law approved in 1997 that “coincidentally” followed the end of the 36-year internal war (1996), and which demonstrates that the signing of the peace was reached in order to facilitate the exploitation of metallic and non-metallic minerals.  According to official sources, from 1997 to the present, under the protection of the aforementioned law, the Ministry of Energy and Mines has granted a total of 117 licenses for mineral exploration and 8 licenses for the mineral exploitation.

This law was issued while the right to prior, free and informed consent was in effect, as regulated by article 6, number 1, subparagraph a), of Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization -ILO- regarding Indigenous Peoples, and is for this reason illegal. As such, on March 12, 2012 the Western Peoples’ Council presented to the Constitutional Court a general Action of Unconstitutionality against the Mining Law, Decree 48-97.

Today, almost one year after this legal action and almost eight months since it was possible for the Constitutional Court to issue a sentence, the decision remains unresolved. The Judges, and their conscience, know the reasons for this delay. However, for Indigenous Peoples this is nothing more than new evidence of the racism that permeates the State and of the historic negation of justice for Indigenous Peoples. 

For this reason we remind the Judges of the Constitutional Court that their attitude is the responsibility of the State and that their conduct falls within the crime of “malicious delay”, which is regulated within the Penal Code. 

“The current K’atun is the time of the People”
Western Guatemala, February 26, 2013

[i] Coalition of the authorities and institutions of the Maya Peoples in Western Guatemala: Mam Council (San Marcos, Quetzaltenango, Huehuetenango and Retalhuleu), K’iche Council of Quiché, K’iche Council of Quetzaltenango, Board of Directors of the 48 Communities of Totonicapán, Council of Community Authorities of Momostenango, Indigenous Association of San Francisco el Alto, Assembly of the Peoples of Huehuetenango, Indigenous Authorities of Maya Ixil Peoples and Kaqchikel Communities of Chimaltenango.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

NISGUA in the Media

Check out these recent interviews by current and former NISGUA staff in local media outlets!

NISGUA's Guatemala Accompaniment Project (GAP) Director Bridget Brehen speaks about developments in the genocide case on KPFA's La Raza Chronicles:

Former GAP Coordinator Phil Neff also spoke to KEXP's Mind Over Matters public affairs show about NISGUA and the significance of the genocide case:

Phil also recently gave a presentation in Seattle about "Neoliberal Militarism and Social Movements in Guatemala". You can find more insight and analysis by Phil at Cascadia Solidaria.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

UNREDACTED | Update on Guatemalan Genocide Case by Kate Doyle

The following is reblogged from UNREDACTED, the National Security Archive Blog. We're posting Kate Doyle's article in full for her first-hand account of the most recent proceedings in the Guatemalan Genocide Trial. Follow the National Security Archive's work here.

Rios Montt on trial. Credit: Jorge Dan Lopez/Reuters

Guatemala City, February 4, 2013—Judge Miguel Ángel Gálvez ended a four-hour hearing today in the genocide trial of former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt by accepting all of the witnesses, experts and documents submitted as evidence by the prosecution. The defense, by contrast, failed in its bid to incorporate experts and documentary evidence on behalf of their client, although the judge approved several defense witnesses.

The ruling signifies that the case will now advance to the Sentencing Tribunal for a decision on when to open the final, oral phase of the groundbreaking trial against the retired general and his intelligence chief, José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez. Both men are accused as the masterminds behind a “scorched earth” military campaign against rebel forces during 1982-83 that massacred hundreds of Mayan civilians living in the northwestern Ixil region of the country.

The hearing took place on the 14th floor of the Tribunals Tower in Guatemala City before an audience of human rights defenders, Mayan activists, journalists and other observers. Ríos Montt sat behind his three attorneys, listening to the proceeding and taking notes, while prosecutor Orlando López and four representatives of the victims shared a long table opposite him.

Although the afternoon was dominated by the judge as he read aloud the names of the hundreds of witnesses proposed by the Public Ministry – many of them survivors of the massacres – his rejection of much of the defense team’s evidence sparked a heated response from Ríos Montt’s lawyers. Attorneys Francisco Palomo, Danilo Rodríguez, and Marco Cornejo railed against the ruling, calling the proceeding a “lynching” and protesting that the court was “violating our client’s right to a defense.” “We can’t enter into a trial without experts,” complained Palomo, “especially when the prosecution has 64 of them.”

Gálvez pointed out that they had submitted the names of experts (such as retired general  José Luis Quilo Ayuso) without providing their analysis or expert reports, rendering them invalid. The judge also explained that rather than enter documents into evidence, Ríos Montt’s attorneys had submitted last-minute requests for Ministry of Defense records, which they hoped to obtain through a court order. In effect, the judge was pointing out the failure of the defense team to do the work that the case required. When Palomo complained that they had not had enough time to prepare, the judge shot back that the genocide case against Ríos Montt and his senior officers was originally filed in 2001. [For excellent background on the case in Spanish, see the summary posted by the Center for Human Rights Legal Action (Centro para la Acción Legal en Derechos Humanos—CALDH), one of the organizations representing victims of the genocide.)

Judge Gálvez also rejected the defense team’s objections to the admissibility of army plans and records connected to Operation Sofía, a violent military assault in the Ixil Triangle in July and August of 1982 that resulted in the destruction of Mayan settlements and the killing of civilians. In justifying his decision, he pointed out that the Inter-American Court had ruled repeatedly that Guatemala could not withhold evidence from criminal human rights trials on the basis of “state secrets.” Among the cases cited by Gálvez was the court’s ruling in the 1990 assassination of Myrna Mack, “Caso Myrna Mack Chang v. Guatemala” (a sentence rendered on November 25, 2003), in which the court wrote:

…in the case of human rights violations, the state authorities cannot resort to mechanisms such as State secrets or the confidentiality of the information, or by virtue of public interest or national security, in order to avoid submitting information required by the judicial or administrative authorities charged with a pending investigation or process. [See paragraph 180]

The Operation Sofía documents and military plans admitted as evidence by Gálvez today are likely to play a central role in the prosecution’s effort to prove the accusations against Ríos Montt and Rodríguez Sánchez.

The genocide case now moves to the sentencing court, “Tribunal Primero A de Mayor Riesgo,” presided by Judge Jazmín Barrios. In the coming days, the tribunal will determine when the oral phase of the trial will begin – probably sometime in the next three to four months.

Judge Barrios has presided over some of the most important human rights trials in Guatemala, including the trials of military officers in the cases of the 1990 assassination of Myrna Mack, the murder of Bishop Juan José Gerardi in 1998, and the massacre cases Dos Erres and Plan de Sánchez.