A stagnant spring? Reverberations of the Rios Montt trial on judicial independence and sexual violence as war crime
Maria Angelica DeGaetano (University of Oxford)
Paper short abstract:
Continued impunity? Plateau in justice? The meaning and implications of the Rios Montt trial on judicial independence and sexual violence as war crime and the reverberations of this case for justice in Guatemala and the region.
Paper long abstract:
"You were able to see our impunity live in action," a human rights worker told me as I exited the Constitutional Court in Guatemala after a hearing in post-trial proceedings of the Rios Montt case in September 2013. This cynicism comes from a long history of impunity in the region. No one believed that with an impunity index for current and past crimes measured at 98% in 2009 by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR), Guatemala would be the first country to prosecute in their own courts a former head of state for the crime of genocide. With the recent movements in the case--the overturning of a guilty verdict, the delay of the re-trial for 2015, and the presentation of the case before the IACHR-- the impact of the case has raised new questions. Is this case another example of continued impunity in Guatemala? What are the takeaways from the trial and its aftermath? Using a theoretical and empirical framework, this paper explores the influence of this case on neighboring regions and cases with regards to judicial independence and gender issues. In El Salvador, practitioners refer to this case as a positive model to learn from. In the Ixil region of Guatemala, the reverberations of the acknowledgement during the trial of sexual violence as a war crime can be seen. Even though the case is recent and not finalized, there are significant conclusion that can already be made as well as a few projected implications.
The Ríos Montt trial and other aporias of justice in Guatemala