Aryeh Neier, the veteran human rights campaigner, has highighted the vital role played by Guatemala’s post-civil war truth commission in bringing about the current trial on genocide charges of former president Rios Montt.
Writing in on the blog of the New York Review of Books, Neier describes the 1999 publication of the nine volume report of the commission as a “crucial turning point” in the struggle to hold Rios Montt accountable.
The report was produced by the Historical Clarification Commission, known by its Spanish acronym CEH (Comisión para el Esclarecimíento Histórico). The CEH was created in 1997 following a UN-brokered agreement in Oslo, Norway that ended thirty-six years of armed conflict between the Guatemalan government and guerrilla forces.
Neier, who stepped down as president of the Open Society Foundations last year and now serves as president emeritus, also notes that Guatemala’s current president, Otto Pérez Molina, was an army major serving in Ixil at the time of the alleged genocide campaign in the region, and that he took part in the negotiations that led to the 1996 Oslo peace accord. He writes:
“Up to now, there have not been significant complaints about his human rights record as president. An important test will come when he decides whether to keep Claudia Paz y Paz, who was appointed as Attorney General in 2010 by his predecessor, President Álvaro Colom, and whose four-year term ends next year.”