Spanish judge hears testimony in Guatemalan genocide case

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From: HREA – Human Rights Education Associates and its Newsletter
Date: 06/02/2008

For Immediate Release from The Center for Justice & Accountability.

Madrid, Spain, February 5, 2008: Judge Santiago Pedraz took testimony today from courageous survivors of genocide on crimes against humanity and other abuses committed by the Guatemalan military during their campaign of terror perpetrated against the Mayan population of Guatemala in the 1980s. The witnesses, represented by the Center for Justice & Accountability (CJA) and the Spanish Association for Human Rights (APDHE), traveled from Guatemala to Madrid at great personal risk after the Guatemalan courts’ recent refusal to grant Spain’s extradition request for the named defendants, all former Guatemalan officials, in what has become known as the Guatemalan Genocide Case.

This week’s testimony underscores Judge Pedraz’s resolve to move forward with this important case.

Jesus Tecú Osorio, survivor of the Rio Negro massacre and winner of the Reebok Human Rights Award, had this to say, “This is an exceptional, historic and unexpected opportunity and I am grateful to my attorneys and Judge Pedraz for making this possible. My people and I feel heard, understood, and relieved to have the truth told. This opportunity represents justice for all Guatemalans and honors the memory of my family and all the people that we have lost.”

Also testifying this week is award winning international journalist Allan Nairn who will describe the evidence that he uncovered while reporting on the abuses committed by the Guatemalan Army in the Guatemalan Quiche region in 1982, particularly those perpetrated in the Ixil Triangle. Testimony will also be given by Spanish Anthropologist Javier Gurriarán on his groundbreaking work on the Guatemalan military’s notorious campaign of genocide that took the lives of so many Mayans.

CJA International Attorney Almudena Bernabeu states: “Many have worked tirelessly and at great personal sacrifice to make this testimony possible. I realize this is the result of a long journey for many people. I am honored to be part of this historic moment.”

The Guatemalan Genocide Case began in 1999 when Nobel laureate Rigoberta Menchú Tum and other victims filed a criminal complaint in Spain against senior Guatemalan government officials charging them with terrorism, genocide and systematic torture. In 2004, CJA joined the case as partie civil (or civil representation) for Mayan survivors of the genocide. The case is modeled on the Pinochet case which was also brought in Spain. APDHE, through its President Manuel Ollé Sesé, joined the case in 2007 on behalf of certain plaintiffs. Professor Naomi Roht-Arriaza, Hastings College of the Law, San Francisco and Susie Kemp of the Netherlands are also part of the international legal team.

CJA is a San Francisco-based human rights organization dedicated to ending torture and other severe human rights abuses around the world and advancing the rights of survivors to seek truth, justice and redress. CJA pursues litigation in the U.S. and Spain to hold perpetrators individually accountable for human rights abuses, develop human rights law and advance the rule of law in countries transitioning from abuses.

APDHE, founded clandestinely in 1976 soon after the death of dictator Francisco Franco, is the oldest human rights association in Spain. APDHE advocates among government agencies and civil society for the protection of human rights. APDHE has a long tradition of working for the promotion of human rights in Latin America.

For more information see The Center for Justice & Accountability.

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