Guatemala, Life After Genocide
The brutal Guatemala civil war (1960-1996) left over 250,000 civilian victims. Thousands were forcibly disappeared, their corpses never found. Thanks to numerous exhumations and DNA analysis, the war victims are finally being identified and properly buried. This process has marked the beginning of an extraordinary healing process in both rural and urban families.
Yet for some, it goes beyond finding and burying a family member, as it is also evidence of heinous crimes committed during the war. On May 10, 2013, former de facto head of state Efrain Rios Montt, who ruled from 1982 to 1983, was convicted of Genocide and crimes against humanity. Even though the conviction was overturned shortly after due to a technicality, it marks the first time in world history a former head of state is tried for genocide in a national court. As of early 2017, eight former high-ranking officers await trial for the largest case of mass disappearance in the history of Latin America after 533 corpses were exhumed in 2012 from mass graves in a former military installation.
The unforeseen and unpredictable shifts within the Guatemalan justice system, propelled by an UN-led anti-corruption coalition force that has empowered the district attorneys office, have shaken up the power structures and allowed for judicial processes that were thought to be impossible. The struggle for justice and social cohesion after the brutal crimes carried out by the State against the Guatemalan people during the war will undoubtedly take generations to heal. But at least some families can finally find closure in burying their loved ones after decades of uncertainty and hope that justice is carried out against the intellectual perpetrators.