Tackling Impunity in Guatemala

Relatives of massacre victims held demonstrations outside the court.
Relatives of massacre victims held demonstrations outside the court.
A survivor of the 1982 Las Dos Erres massacre giving testimony.
A survivor of the 1982 Las Dos Erres massacre giving testimony.
Applause rang through the court after after the verdict.
Applause rang through the court after after the verdict.

In Guatemala, justice in the wake of civil war atrocities has seemed no more than a fond hope—but with the help of the DFAIT’s Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force (START) and Lawyers Without Borders Canada (LWBC), based in Quebec City, a ray of hope has emerged for victims and their families seeking justice for war crimes.

LWBC trains Guatemalan  judges, prosecutors, Human Rights lawyers and created the first law office specialized in litigation of the most important serious crimes cases, offering free legal assistance to the most vulnerable groups, including women and indigenous people.

Since 2009, LWBC and its local partners have supported 40 strategic litigation cases and provided assistance to 3000 people, 1200 families and 127 communities. 

In a Guatemala City courtroom, five former soldiers were each sentenced to more than 6,000 years of imprisonment for the 1982 massacre of 201 victims in the village of Las Dos Erres, plus an additional 30 years for crimes against humanity. The villagers had been shot or bludgeoned to death and their bodies thrown into a well.  In 2012, a Guatemalan court has ordered a trial against former president José Efrain Rios Montt (1982-1983) who is facing charges of genocide for the deaths of thousands of indigenous people during his regime. This historic trial, which marks the first time genocide proceedings have been brought in Latin America, contribute to the country’s historical memory and represent a form of reparation for victims.