|Testimony from R?os Montt: Major Step Towards Ending Impunity|
June 22, 2006 message from the Center for Justice and Accountability:
As torture continues to take center stage around the world in places such as Iraq and Darfur, all eyes should turn to Guatemala City next week where an important step toward justice will take place.
CJA Attorney Almudena Bernabeu will travel to Guatemala where she will take testimony from former head of state General Efra?n R?os Montt and his associates about their responsibility for the widespread human rights abuses committed by the military against the civilian population in Guatemala from 1960 through 1996.
The importance of these proceedings in Guatemala City cannot be underestimated. For dozens of years survivors of the Guatemalan genocide have been denied the opportunity to confront their abusers. The taking of this testimony represents a critical step in building a solid case to prove that the former Guatemalan heads of state bore direct responsibility for the atrocities committed against the civilian population. It is hoped that the case will help to empower the movement for justice and accountability in Guatemala as the Pinochet case did in Chile.
It is fitting that these historic proceedings will begin on June 26th which, coincidentally, is the UN Day in Support of Victims of Torture.
As always, thank you for supporting our mission and our work. The press release follows.
For Immediate Release
June 22, 2006
Contact: Moira Feeney, Esq.
CJA TO TAKE TESTIMONY FROM FORMER GUATEMALAN PRESIDENT RIOS MONTT AND OTHER HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSERS
KEY FIGURES IN THE GUATEMALAN GENOCIDE CASE ARE REQUIRED TO TESTIFY IN GUATEMALA CITY ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES
Guatemala City, Guatemala: Starting on June 26, 2006, CJA Attorney Almudena Bernabeu will take testimony from key defendants in the Guatemalan Genocide Case pending before the Spanish National Court including former heads of state General Efra?n R?os Montt and General Oscar Humberto Mejias Victores, and former director of the National Police Colonel German Chupina Barahona. The testimony will be taken in Guatemala City under the auspices of the Spanish investigative judge, Santiago Pedraz, and are scheduled to last one to two weeks. Judge Pedraz will also be questioning the defendants.
In 1999 Novel laureate Rigoberta Mench? Tum and a group of Spanish and Guatemalan non-governmental organizations filed a criminal complaint in the Spanish National Court (SNC) against several senior Guatemalan government officials charging them with terrorism, genocide, and systematic torture. CJA was invited to participate because of our expertise in human rights litigation and joined the complaint in 2004 on behalf of two torture survivors. The case, known as the Guatemalan Genocide Case, is modeled on the Pinochet case which was also brought before the SNC.
From 2000 through 2005, the parties have engaged in contentious legal battles on jurisdiction and the rights of non-Spanish citizens to bring claims in Spain. In a groundbreaking decision issued in September 2005, the Spanish Constitutional High Court held that Spanish courts have jurisdiction over crimes of international importance ? crimes prosecutable in any jurisdiction as prescribed by international treaties including the Geneva Conventions ? regardless of the nationality of the victims and perpetrators. Such crimes include torture, crimes against humanity and genocide.
Procuring the testimony of Rios Montt and other officials represents a critical step towards proving that the former Guatemalan heads of state bore direct responsibility for the atrocities committed against the civilian population. This testimony represents the last step in the investigative phase of the case and will set the stage for a trial.
CJA Attorney Bernabeu, a private prosecutor in the case, states, ?The opportunity to question Rios Montt and his associates represents an historic step towards accountability for the unspeakable atrocities that occurred in Guatemala during the 1980s. We applaud Judge Santiago Pedraz for pursuing the case and the courage of the individual plaintiffs for stepping forward and demanding the truth.?
CJA is a San Francisco-based non-profit organization which works to deter torture and other severe human rights abuses through impaction litigation, education and outreach. CJA is the only U.S. based human rights legal organization solely devoted to seeking justice and accountability on behalf of torture survivors against their perpetrators in the courts.
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