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Friday, April 19, 2013

American trial long time coming awaits thorough justice

North American coconspirators in massacre un- indictable
Editing, re-reporting by 
Carolyn Bennett

Ríos Montt now on trial in Guatemala is charged with 1,771 specific murders in the area of the Ixil Mayans. These charges are being brought because the prosecutors have the names of each of these victims. They've been able to dig up the bones of most of them,” Allan Nairn is heard today speaking in an interview with Democracy Now.

Wikipedia and Democracy Now notes: Allan Nairn is an award-winning American investigative journalist who became well known when he was imprisoned by Indonesian military forces under United States-backed strongman Suharto while reporting in East Timor. Nairn’s writings have focused on U.S. foreign policy in countries such as Haiti, Guatemala, Indonesia, and East Timor.

In 1982, Nairn interviewed a Guatemalan general named ‘Tito’ on camera during the height of the indigenous massacres. It turns out this man calling himself ‘Tito’ was actually Otto Pérez Molina, the current president of Guatemala.

Otto Pérez Molina rises from code named ‘Mayor Tito’, “the local implementer of a program of genocide Ríos Montt is accused of carrying out, to military general, to Guatemalan head of state.

The National Security Archives of the United States provides evidence of Otto Fernando Pérez Molina’s involvement in the 1980s “scorched earth campaigns” of military dictator Efraín Ríos Montt.

The United Nations-backed Historical Clarification Commission found that a counterinsurgency campaign significantly designed and advanced during the José Efraín Ríos Montt presidency included deliberate ‘acts of genocide’ against Guatemala’s indigenous population.

Allan Nairn reports that Rios Montt, who seized power in a military coup and was dictator of Guatemala during 1982-1983, “killed many tens of thousands of civilians, particularly in the Mayan northwest highlands.”  

Nairn says soldiers he interviewed reported conducting sweeps (through the northwest highlands): “they would go into villages, surround them, pull people out of their homes, line them up and execute them. A forensic witness testified in the trial that 80 percent of the remains they’ve recovered had gunshot wounds to the head.

“Witnesses and survivors have described Ríos Montt’s troops beheading people. One talked about an old woman who was beheaded and then they kicked her head around the floor.”

Soldiers “ripped the hearts out of children as their bodies were still warm and they piled them on a table for their parents to see.”

Trained in United States of America

U.S. President Ronald Reagan “embraced” Rios Montt “as a man of great integrity, someone totally devoted to democracy.”

As it has long been the practice of United States “to sponsor dozens and dozens of repressive armies all over the world,” Nairn said, the United States for decades sponsored the Guatemalan army ─

In the case of Guatemala, if you go into the military academy and you see the pictures of past presidents of the military academy, some of them are actually Americans.

They are actual American officers there who were openly running the Guatemalan military training.

By the 1980s, when the Ríos Montt massacres were being carried out, the U.S. Congress was under the impression that they had successfully stopped U.S. military aid to Guatemala. But in fact it was continuing.

The CIA had an extensive program of backing the G-2, the G-2, the military intelligence service, which selected the targets for assassination and disappearance.

They even built a secret headquarters for the G-2 near the Guatemala City airport.

They had American advisers working inside the headquarters. Out in the field, Guatemalan troops were receiving ammunition and weapons from the United States

Beginning under the Carter administration and continuing under Reagan and after, the United States asked the Israelis to come in and fill the gap that was caused by congressional restrictions; so Israel was doing massive shipments of Galil automatic rifles and other weapons

U.S.-made Civilian-kill doctrine

Reporting on testimony in the current genocide trial, Nairn said, beyond the military weaponry was the “the question of doctrine.” In the current trial, he said, “The Ríos Montt defense called a former commander, a general, of the G-2, as an expert witness on the defense side.”

At the end of the general’s testimony, the prosecution read to him an excerpt from a Guatemalan military training document. “The document said it is often difficult for soldiers to accept the fact that they may be required to execute repressive actions against civilian women, children and sick people; but with proper training, they can be made to do so.

“So, the prosecutor asked the Ríos Montt general, ‘Well, General, what is your response to this document?’ And the general responded by saying:

‘Well, that training document which we use is an almost literal translation of a U.S. training document.’

So this doctrine of killing civilians, even down to women, children and sick people, was, as the general testified, adopted from the U.S.

Indeed, years before, the U.S. military attaché in Guatemala, Colonel John Webber, had said to Time magazine that the Guatemalan army was licensed to kill guerrillas and potential guerrillas. And, of course, the category of potential guerrillas can include anyone, including children.

Equal justice under law

On an earlier Charlie Rose program the audio of which Democracy Now excerpted in its current interview, Allan Nairn is heard debating the issue of justice. “In reality,” Nairn says, “we are not talking about two murders, one colonel. We are talking about more than 100,000 murders; an entire army, many of its top officers employees of the U.S. government. We are talking about crimes and about criminals, not just people like the Guatemalan colonels, but also the U.S. agents who have been working with them and the higher-level U.S. officials.

U.S. ally
allied with former
dictator Rios Montt
Otto Pérez MolinaPresident of
“You have to apply uniform standards,” he said. U.S. President George W. Bush once talked about putting Saddam Hussein on trial for crimes against humanity, Nuremberg-style tribunal. “That’s a good idea; but if you’re serious, you have to be even-handed. … I think we have to start talking about putting Guatemalan and U.S. officials on trial.”

Though the genocide trial in Guatemala of Rios Montt was suspended on Thursday, Nairn said, “The fact that this trial is happening is an indication that he military men don’t have the power that they used to. 

U.S. ally
Dictator Efraín Ríos Montt
This trial is happening because the survivors refused to give up. They persisted—the survivors have been working on this for decades, pushing to bring Ríos Montt and the other generals to justice.

They refused to give up. They got support from international—some international human rights lawyers. And within the Guatemalan justice system, there were a few people of integrity who ascended to positions of some authority within the prosecutorial system, within the judiciary. So we now have this near-political miracle of a country bringing to trial its former dictator for genocide, while the president of the country, who was implicated in those killings, sits by.”
Trial of genocide coconspirators?

That this trial happened at all, Nairn said, shows that “Guatemala has reached a higher level of civilization than the United States has.

U.S. Presidents
“…It is inconceivable” in the United States, he said, that a U.S. attorney could indict a former U.S. president ─

Indict a George W. Bush for what he did in Iraq and/or Afghanistan or indict [a Barack] Obama; and that this could proceed to trial and massive amounts of evidence could be heard.

That’s not yet conceivable in the American legal system but it happened in Guatemala, and it almost succeeded. It came very close. And now there’s going to be a popular reaction to try to continue that fight for law enforcement and justice.

Sources and notes

“Exclusive: Allan Nairn Exposes Role of U.S. and New Guatemalan President in Indigenous Massacres,” Friday, April 19, 2013, http://www.democracynow.org/2013/4/19/exclusive_allan_nairn_exposes_role_of

In 1982, investigative journalist Allan Nairn interviewed a Guatemalan general named "Tito" on camera during the height of the indigenous massacres. It turns out the man was actually Otto Pérez Molina, the current Guatemalan president.

Original Democracy Now interview footage and conversation with Allan Nairn “about the U.S. role backing the Guatemalan dictatorship”

“Last week, Nairn flew to Guatemala where he had been scheduled to testify in the trial of former U.S.-backed dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, the first head of state in the Americas to stand trial for genocide. Ríos Montt was charged in connection with the slaughter of more than 1,700 people in Guatemala’s Ixil region after he seized power in 1982. His 17-month rule is seen as one of the bloodiest chapters in Guatemala’s decades-long campaign against Maya indigenous people, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands.

“The trial took a surprising turn last week when Guatemala President Gen. Otto Pérez Molina was directly accused of ordering executions. A former military mechanic named Hugo Reyes told the court that Pérez Molina, then serving as an army major and using the name Tito Arias, ordered soldiers to burn and pillage a Maya Ixil area in the 1980s.”

“Genocide Trial of Former Dictator Ríos Montt Suspended After Intervention by Guatemalan President ─ A historic trial against former U.S.-backed Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity came to an abrupt end Thursday when an appeals court suspended the trial before a criminal court was scheduled to reach a verdict,” Friday April 19, 2013, http://www.democracynow.org/2013/4/19/genocide_trial_of_former_dictator_ros

Allan Nairn

Allan Nairn (b. 1956 in Morristown, New Jersey) is an award-winning American investigative journalist who became well known when he was imprisoned by Indonesian military forces under United States-backed strongman Suharto while reporting in East Timor. His writings have focused on U.S. foreign policy in such countries as Haiti, Guatemala, Indonesia, and East Timor. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allan_Nairn

José Efraín Ríos Montt: ‘If you are with us, we’ll feed you, if not, we’ll kill you’

The United Nations-backed Historical Clarification Commission found that a counterinsurgency campaign significantly designed and advanced during the Ríos Montt presidency included deliberate ‘acts of genocide’ against the indigenous population.

During the Ríos Montt rule, Indigenous Mayas suffered most and it has been documented that his government deliberately targeted thousands of indigenous people. Huge numbers of civilians, both indigenous Mayas and mestizo Ladinos, died. At least 200,000 Guatemalans were killed during the conflict, making it one of Latin America’s most violent wars in modern history.

On 28 January 2013, judge Miguel Angel Galves, opened a pre-trial hearing in a trial against retired general and former dictator Efrain Rios Montt and retired General José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez for Genocide and crimes against humanity.

José Efraín Ríos Montt (b. June 16, 1926) is a former de facto President of Guatemala, dictator, army general and former president of Congress.

A General in the Guatemalan Army, Ríos Montt came to public office through a coup d’etat on March 23, 1982. In turn, he was overthrown by his Defense Minister, Óscar Humberto Mejía Victores, in another coup d’etat on August 8, 1983.

In the 2003 presidential elections, he ran unsuccessfully as the candidate of the Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG).

In 2007 Ríos Montt returned to public office as a member of Congress, gaining prosecutorial immunity ─ including from a pair of long-running lawsuits alleging war crimes against him and a number of his former ministers and councilors during their term in the presidential palace in 1982-83.

His immunity ended on January 14, 2012, when his term in office ran out. On January 26, 2012, Ríos Montt appeared in court in Guatemala and was formally indicted for genocide and crimes against humanity. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rios_Montt

Otto Fernando Pérez Molina

National Security Archives of the United States provide evidence of Pérez Molina’s involvement in the military dictator Efraín Ríos Montt’s scorched earth campaigns of the 1980s.

He was put in charge of counterinsurgency in the Ixil Community in 1982-3, when 80-90 percent of the villages were razed. At least 184 civilians were killed or disappeared during his deployment.

In July 2011, the indigenous organization Waqib Kej presented a letter to the United Nations accusing Pérez of involvement in genocide and torture committed in Quiché during the Guatemalan Civil War.

They cited, among other evidence, a 1982 documentary in which a military officer whom they identified as Pérez is seen near 4 dead bodies. In the following scene, a subordinate says that those 4 were captured alive and taken ‘to the Major’ (allegedly Pérez Molina) and that ‘they wouldn’t talk, not when we asked nicely and not when we were mean [ni por las buenas ni por las malas].’

Pérez denies his involvement in any atrocities and though never charged with human rights violations, he is the subject of an investigation led by Guatemala's top prosecutor into the disappearance of Efraín Bámaca.

Otto Fernando Pérez Molina (b. December 1, 1950) is a Guatemalan politician and retired military officer who has been President of Guatemala since January 14, 2012.

Before entering politics (during the 1990s), he held the office of Director of Military Intelligence and other political offices. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otto_P%C3%A9rez_Molina

Excerpt from Human Rights Report March 1995 Vol. 7, No. 1: DISAPPEARED IN GUATEMALA

Tens of thousands of Guatemalans have been forcibly ‘disappeared’ by government forces over the past three decades, many of them civilians and some of them combatants. One of the fundamental tasks assumed by the government and guerrillas through the ongoing U.N.-mediated peace process is to end the impunity with which such crimes have been committed. In an agreement on the formation of a commission to study past human rights violations, signed in Oslo on June 23, 1994, the two sides acknowledged "the right of the Guatemalan people to know completely the truth about these events."1 In a separate accord on human rights signed by the parties on March 29, 1994, they agreed on "the need for firm action against impunity."2 In other words, the parties agreed that the truth about human rights violations should be exposed and those responsible should be brought to justice.

The disappearance of Efraín Bámaca Velásquez, a combatant with the Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca (URNG) who was captured by the army in March 1992, puts these solemn commitments to the test, a test which thus far, the government has failed. It is also a case which highlights the fundamental rights that any human being enjoys under both Guatemalan and international law, regardless of his status as a combatant in an armed conflict. While Bámaca’s status as a combatant made him subject to investigation and prosecution under domestic law, it by no means gave the army license to secretly detain and ‘disappear’ him.3

The facts of the Bámaca case open a window into the secretive world of clandestine army detention. The cover-up illustrates a well-established pattern, familiar to many Guatemalans who have sought legal redress for the disappearances of their loved ones. Also typical has been the harassment of Jennifer Harbury, Bámaca’s North American wife, who has aggressively pursued the case in a high-profile confrontation with the government. Http://www.hrw.org/reports/1995/Guatemal.htm


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