Peace without social reconciliation? Understanding the trial of Generals Ríos Montt and Rodriguez Sánchez in the wake of Guatemala's genocide
Journal of Genocide Research
Notes on contributor Roddy Brett is a Lecturer with the School of International Relations, University of St Andrews and Co-Coordinator of the M.Litt in Peace and Conflict Studies. He lived for over a decade in Latin America, principally in Guatemala and Colombia, working as a scholar-practitioner, in the fields of conflict and peace studies, political and other forms of violence, genocide studies, social movements, indigenous rights, democratisation and transitions. He has published and
... d eight books on these subjects. He has acted as Advisor to the United Nations System in Latin America and to the Norwegian Embassy in Guatemala. Dr. Brett worked with the Centre for Human Rights Legal Action in Guatemala, initially as Field Investigator, and subsequently as Coordinator of the Department for Justice and Reconciliation (DEJURE). In this capacity, he was a member of the original team that prepared the evidence for and political strategy of the legal case filed against three former presidents of Guatemala and their military high commands of the 1980s for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. This led to the conviction by a Guatemalan court of former dictator General Efraín Ríos Montt in May 2013 for eighty years for genocide and crimes against humanity. Abstract This article argues that the legal trial against Generals Efraín Ríos Montt and José Mauricio Rodriguez Sánchez for genocide and crimes against humanity has evidenced the interplay between the complex factors shaping post-conflict reconstruction and social reconciliation in post-genocide Guatemala, and, ultimately, the disjunctive impact of the country's peace process. The 'genocide trial' then is about more than a legal process, but rather represents a thermometer for Guatemala's peace process and, ultimately, for testing the nature and stability of the post-genocide / post-conflict conjuncture. Acknowledgement and interiorisation of human rights frameworks and justice mechanisms by indigenous and human rights activists, including of the Genocide Convention, has consolidated a partial rights culture. However, the trial and the overturning of its verdict have simultaneously evidenced the instability, fragility and disjunctive nature of post-conflict peace and the continuing impact of the profound legacy of the genocide and of social authoritarianism. The article argues that whilst the trial has wielded broad impact within both state institutions and society, ultimately consolidating indigenous political actors, it has simultaneously fortified spoilers and evidenced indigenous collective memory as a contested sphere, characterised by fractures within indigenous experience and recollection.