Guatemalan ex-dictator denies being 'genocidal'
By Henry Morales Arana
"I declare myself innocent," the 86-year-old told the court after asking to take the stand in the final arguments of his landmark trial.
"I never had the intention, the aim to destroy any national ethnic group," he said. "I am not genocidal."
Rio Montt denied the prosecution's charge that he authorized military plans to exterminate the Ixil Maya population.
"I never authorized, I never signed, I never ordered attacks against a race, an ethnic group or a religion. I never did!" the retired general thundered in a courtroom packed with survivors of the country's civil war, rights activists, relatives of the accused, and journalists.
The former strongman, taking sips of water during his 50-minute testimony, insisted that he had no control over the actions of troops operating in indigenous areas.
"I don't know what the squad leader did. I was the head of state," he said.
About 24 people began collecting 5,000 signatures in support of their campaign outside the Supreme Court's building in Guatemala City, where Rios Montt is being tried on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.
The protesters held signs that read "There was no genocide here" and "Respect to military dignity and historic truth" as speakers blasted Guatemala's national anthem and military marches.
Retired army Gen. Victor Argueta, president of an association of war veterans, said the group plans to collect signatures throughout the country and turn them in to the Supreme Court.
Here's why Rios Montt and his supporters are wrong when they claim genocide didn't happen:
Confused About Genocide in Guatemala? Apparently You're Not Alone
By Laura Powell
a. Killing members of the group;
b. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
c. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
d. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
e. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
On this basis, the two fundamental elements of the crime are: intentionality and that the acts committed include at least one of the five previously cited in the [list] above.”
So now that we have a better idea of what ‘genocide’ actually entails, let us be very clear: the authors of COHA’s recent analyses on Guatemala have not come to the conclusion, arbitrarily and independently, that genocide occurred in Guatemala. The United Nations—an international organization with a stated aim of facilitating the protection of human rights—determined that genocide occurred in Guatemala. Through the Accord of Oslo on June 23, 1994, the United Nations with the cooperation of the Government of the Republic of Guatemala formed the Commission for Historical Clarification (CEH) in order to “clarify with objectivity, equity and impartiality” the acts of violence and potential human rights violations connected to the armed conflict in Guatemala; “the Commission was not established to judge…but rather to clarify the history of the events of more than three decades of fratricidal war.”
The Guatemalan civil war had been going on since the 1960s, with thousands of people killed or "disappeared." Rios Montt was a general in the Guatemalan Army who took power in a coup d'etat. As general and president, there's no way he didn't know about the decades of war crimes. If he didn't put a stop to them immediately, he gave them his tacit approval. He might as well have authorized them explicitly.
In other words, if he didn't order the murders himself, he aided and abetted them. It's like a bank robbery where a gang member defies the leader and kills someone. A US court would find the leader guilty of murder because it happened under his watch.
For more on Rios Montt, see Rios Montt's Conviction Annulled and Rios Montt Found Guilty of Genocide.