Prosecutors of Guatemalan ex-dictator win Silver Rose Award

October 19, 2013

On October 16, Hivos partner the Center for Human Rights Legal Action (CALDH) received the Silver Rose Award at the European Parliament for their work in defense of the Ixil people in Guatemala and their fight for truth and justice regarding the crimes committed against the indigenous Ixil communities during the dictatorship of General Efraín Ríos Montt between 1982 and 1983.

CALDH has been a driving force in this struggle, supporting the Ixil community notably in their lawsuit that brought charges of genocide and crimes against humanity against Ríos Montt.

The Silver Rose Award is offered by Solidar, a platform of 60 civil society organisations from 27 European countries. The award is given in recognition of contributions to social justice and solidarity throughout the world. More than 250 people attended this 13th edition of the Solidar Silver Rose Award, a key civil society event in the European Parliament.

“I will fight for human rights until the day I die,” said Juana Sanchez Toma, member of the Ixil community, in a heartfelt speech which met with a standing ovation. “We hope the European Union will continue to support and accompany the struggle against impunity in our country; one that we consider a necessary step to achieve the peace our country has sought for so long,” said Juan Francisco Soto, CALDH Director.

Efraín Ríos Montt became head of state of Guatemala after a coup in 1982. Prosecutors say his reign (1982-1983) marked the bloodiest period of the Guatemalan civil war, which began in 1960, lasted 36 years and cost according to the UN more than 200,000 lives and the disappearance of thousands of civilians. He would not only be responsible for the murder of 1771 Ixil Maya, but also for their forced displacement and for sexual violence against and torture of their members.

On 10 May 2013, the former dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity and sentenced to eighty years in prison. Less than two weeks later, however, his conviction was declared invalid by the Constitutional Court of Guatemala. This represented a blow to the victims and survivors and a setback for human rights organisations. The new trial will possibly start in April 2014.

Hivos is very proud of the continuing efforts of its partners CALDH and AJR for justice. “Hivos supports CALDH and AJR for over a decade. Together we want to let the justice system in Guatemala overcome and we fight against impunity,” said a representative of CALDH during an interview.