Guatemalan lawyer Edgar Perez is calling on the international legal community to help end human rights abuses in his country.
Perez handles cases relating to massacres and human rights abuses carried out during Guatemala’s 36-year civil war, during which 200,000 people died and another 40,000 were ‘forcibly disappeared’.
He was prominent in bringing former president Efraín Ríos Montt to trial for crimes committed between 1982 and 1983, when 1,771 indigenous Mayans were killed and some 29,000 displaced.
Ríos Montt was convicted of genocide on 10 May 2013. However, the sentence was annulled 10 days later by the constitutional court.
A new trial date is being set, but Perez says Ríos Montt’s supporters and the business community are trying to prevent the former president from being brought to justice.
‘I’m calling on the international legal community for help,’ he said.
Perez is seeking advice and analysis from litigators and academic lawyers, ‘in particular for this emblematic case of the genocide trial’. He is also calling for his international colleagues to shine a spotlight on current abuses in Guatemala.
‘I’m asking for observation missions, so we are able to bring the opprobrium of the world [to bear] and that should affect [business] interests as well.’
Perez said commercial lawyers also have a responsibility to help end human rights abuses.
‘If you are advising transnational companies, do so [to ensure] that the business is more human and that the population historically excluded [from power] suffer fewer consequences as a result of the profit motive. This applies not just to Guatemala but across the world,’ he added.