27 Mar The first trial for the genocide of Indigenous Peoples
Above: Catalina Sánchez testifying. Photo: Elena Hermosa
Ten years ago, General Efraín Ríos Montt was put on trial for genocide and crimes against humanity committed against the Maya-Ixil people of Guatemala. It was the first time anyone had been tried for genocide against Indigenous People in the Americas. Ever. It took a 30 year quest for justice on the part of the survivors and their legal representatives, plus the political will of bold judges and jurists in Guatemala to reach this moment.
At Skylight, we gathered a group of filmmakers from Guatemala, Colombia, and the U.S. to document the whole trial in real time, from the first gavel strike to the last word of Judge Yassmín Barrios’ verdict. Every few days we uploaded a new episode of highlights from the trial in order to throw the doors of the courtroom open to the entire world. This became the 24-part web series “Dictator in the Dock”. (And later the basis for our feature documentary 500 YEARS.)
Follow along via our Facebook Page (no account needed to watch) as we re-release all 24 episodes over the course of the next six weeks, ending with the final episode, “The Verdict” on May 10th, 2023. That episode commemorates the conclusion of this dramatic trial with its reverberations throughout Latin America, the world, and above all how it changed Guatemala forever.
We want to be sure that the historical memory of this unprecedented trial remains alive and active, so we encourage you to share this series on your social networks far and wide.
And the fight continues. Just 10 days ago, in a high-profile retaliation, the lead prosecutor in the genocide trial, Orlando Salvador López was arrested on trumped up charges by the current Attorney General’s office. Judge Barrios has also been constantly threatened.
Special thanks to the Bertha Foundation who stepped in with emergency film funding in 2013, and to Judge Barrios for allowing access, enabling us to document this historic trial.