The worst violators of human rights in Guatemala have largely enjoyed impunity, which can be termed the freedom or exemption from punishment, over the course of the last fifty years. The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders declared in her 2009 Guatemala mission report: "In Guatemala there is almost total de facto impunity for violations of human rights, including those committed against human rights defenders . [t]he reported figure of 98 per cent of impunity for attacks against human rights defenders makes justice an empty word in Guatemala."
Nevertheless, since the end of the internal armed conflict and the signing of the Peace Accords, Guatemalan individuals and organizations have tirelessly sought to bring to justice the people responsible for many of the conflict's egregious human rights abuses. NISGUA seeks to support these efforts to combat impunity by providing accompaniment, advocacy, and public education for the most significant human rights lawsuits. Our primary focus is the case against former military dictators Rios Montt and Lucas Garcia, who are charged with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. In 2000, the Center for Human Rights Legal Action (CALDH) asked NISGUA to undertake political support and accompaniment of the witnesses in those cases.
We have successfully drawn widespread media and activist attention through our education and advocacy. In one campaign, we collected 10,000 postcards demanding the fair and expeditious processing of the cases. The postcards were used in Guatemala in a public event to demand governmental responsiveness on the cases. We have also organized Congressional briefings and engaged U.S. and Guatemalan government officials to support the cases and protection of the witnesses.
Through the Guatemala Accompaniment Project (G.A.P.) we provide long-term accompaniment of witnesses in the genocide cases, while our emergency-response accompaniment team based in the capital responds to the needs of at-risk organizations and individual human rights defenders as they arise. Our emergency-response accompaniers have accompanied the trials surrounding the assassinations of Bishop Gerardi and anthropologist Myrna Mack, as well as offered support for the SITRABI union leaders who were driven out of the country under threat of death. Our work around the genocide cases and other precedent-setting legal cases remains a high NISGUA priority.
In addition to combating impunity through the legal system, NISGUA supports efforts to pressure the Guatemalan and U.S. Governments to support policies that lead to the dismantling of the clandestine structures that perpetuate impunity in Guatemala.
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© 2009 Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala