On Saturday, I had the pleasure of taking part in a powerful art installation in Washington, DC. After three years of preparation, the organization One Million Bones blanketed a section of the National Mall with bones made of various materials to bring attention togenocide committed around the world. The organizers of One Million Bones had extended a special invitation to GHRC and the Guatemala community to take part and commemorate Guatemala’s genocide victims.
I, along with GHRC interns and volunteers, joined thousands of others in laying out the bones. Our group took the opportunity to read the names of the victims in the Ixil Triangle included in the charges against former generals Ríos Montt and Rodríguez Sánchez.
I posted a photo of the event on our Facebook page on Saturday afternoon, and was shocked to see the response. Our wall was covered by an energetic debate about genocide in Guatemala. It was heartwarming to see all the comments in support of justice for victims, but sad to see that there were also many comments full of hate, anger, and denial of the crimes committed against Guatemala’s indigenous people.
Unfortunately, many of the people who posted on our wall are the same people who have been spreading the same messages of hate and denial in the Guatemalan media and organizing protests in support of those who committed atrocities.
The courageous genocide survivors, along with their lawyers, the judges, and the organizations who support justice, have been victim to this type of attack constantly since the Ríos Montt trial began.
The messages in the media in Guatemala are not just slander. They are threats of violence. For example, Ricardo Méndez Ruiz, founder of the Foundation Against Terrorism, who posted on our wall, said in an interview with Guatemalan TV station Guatevision that the civil society leaders pushing for justice could be assassinated. In his post on GHRC’s facebook page, he called us a “terrorist organization.”
We don’t want to hide this debate going on in Guatemalan society, but we adamantly condemn the use of defamation, threats and messages of hate. We would love to see our page covered with messages of support for justice and for the victims and survivors of genocide. Can you add your voice?
Many of the posts are about whether or not genocide was committed in  Guatemala. The evidence presented at the genocide trial against Ríos Montt and Rodríguez Sánchez was meticulous and extensive. You can read more about the trial in our publication, El Quetzal, here. For even more detailed information about the evidence presented, you can read www.riosmontt-trial.org.
Those who deny that genocide was committed in Guatemala do so not based on any evidence, but by making claims like “the army was simply defending the country against communists.” Or: “the guerrillas committed abuses too.” The first claim was extensively refuted in the genocide trial.
Survivor testimony, expert witnesses and forensic evidence showed that the vast majority of those killed in the Ixil triangle were not killed in combat, but executed, often in gruesome ways, and that many of the victims were either elderly, or young children.
The second claim is addressed in the report produced by the UN backed Commission for Historical Clarification, which does document that some human rights abuses were committed by guerrilla forces, but that 93% of the abuses were committed by military or paramilitary forces, and only 3% were committed by the guerrillas. In the other 4% of cases it was not clear who was the perpetrator.
There are powerful sectors in Guatemala who benefit from impunity for crimes of the past. These sectors, including Guatemala’s business elite and military, have launched an all-out offensive to ensure that they and their cronies are never held accountable and the courts can be bent to their wishes.
Help us stand with genocide survivors and their supporters in Guatemala as they work for a just and peaceful Guatemala. Post your message for justice on our Facebook wall, and we’ll print them all out and present them to Guatemalan survivors as a show of solidarity.
Thank you for your support!
Kathryn Johnson