Guatemala: Dictator on trial

March 17, 2013

Kate Doyle and Freddy Peccerelli after accepting the 2012 ALBA/Puffin Award for Human Rights Activism in New York. Photo Len Tsou.

History is being written in Guatemala as former military dictator Efraín Ríos Montt is being put on trial for crimes against humanity and genocide. The New York Times’ Elizabeth Malkin covers the latest developments today in a long story:

Guatemala’s justice system has begun a transformation. In a show of political will, prosecutors are taking long-dormant human rights cases to court, armed with evidence that victims and their advocates have painstakingly compiled over more than a decade — as much to bear witness as to bring judgment.

Ríos Montt’s rule was based on “terror,” Fredy Peccerelli, winner of the 2012 ALBA/Puffin Award for Human Rights Activism and witness in the trial, tells Malkin, “This is a strategy to make sure that anyone and everyone who is opposed to you is afraid of you; not only now, is afraid of you forever.”

Updates on the trial are also available at the Facebook page of Skylight Pictures, whose film Granito: How to Nail a Dictator narrates how pieces of unused footage from Pamela Yates’ classic documentary When the Mountains Tremble became key pieces of evidence in the case against Ríos Montt. For the occasion of the trial, Granito will be streamed for free through PBS for two weeks (details here). See also Daniel Wilkinson’s Human Rights column in the latest issue of the Volunteer.