Guatemala:Why bother with trials?

The media frenzy over the Rios Mont trial in Guatemala seems to have abated this week, as people calm down, and start thinking more clearly again; or at least start thinking.

The Constitutional Court, in a judgement that hasn’t yet been published, has struck down the genocide verdict. This is not because the crimes did not occur, since that doesn’t seem to be in dispute, but for other reasons. The most likely, and one that has applied in other cases, is that the Court decided that the events, horrible as they were, did not constitute genocide. This is not surprising, give that genocide is not a crime in itself, but only an interpretation of other crimes, and relies on proving something about what was going on inside the head of the accused.

In which case, there you are, that’s the Law doing its job. But its clear from the spontaneous demonstrations outside the Court by thousands of angry legal scholars (I assume that’s what they were) that people don’t want the Law to do its job: they just want vengeance. Many of them seem completely confused about what genocide is, and how its proved, and some seem to feel that the verdict is somehow an “insult” to those who died; as if the latter somehow cared.

I increasingly think that in cases like this, it’s a waste of time having trials. Why not just ask for a show of hands among victims, relatives and human rights activists, before the trial even starts? A two-thirds majority would secure a conviction. And think of all the time and money you would save. If sharpened stones were handed out at the same time, the the sentence could be carried out immediately, and the whole process could be over in an hour.

I mean, seriously, why not?


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