Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Singular Accomplishment of Guatemala's First Female Attorney General

It finally happened in May, 2013: the first conviction of an individual for genocide in a country's national court.

General Efraín Ríos Montt, Guatemala's former dictator, was sentenced at age 86 to 80 years in prison. The conviction was largely the result of one woman's efforts, then-District Attorney Claudia Paz y Paz.

From her first year in courageous office, 2010, Paz gave a pair of Dutch filmmakers - Joey Boink and Sander Wirken - full access. The resulting documentary premiered at The Hague this spring and today, screens in Buenos Aires at the Festival Internacional de Cine de Derechos Humanos. From the film notes:

The country that has been ravaged for years by a devastating civil war, in which nearly 200,000 Mayan Indians were systematically massacred, is today one of the most violent countries in the world. Claudia starts a frontal attack against corruption, drug gangs and impunity and does what everyone had hitherto held to be impossible: she arrests former dictator Montt on charges of genocide...

Boink previously made another Guatemala-focused documentary, about the country's education system, as well as others for Netherlands Public Broadcasting on child labor in India and Millennium Development Goals in Latin America. Collaborator Wirken's PhD thesis for the University of Amsterdam about impunity in Guatemala won school prize and was the spark for the documentary. Wirken also worked in Guatemala for two years with an NGO he co-founded, Niños de Guatemala.

As part of the roving Human Rights Watch Film Festival, Burden of Peace just screened twice in New York City. Paz stepped down from her D.A. position upon completion of her first term in May 2014.

[Burden of Peace]

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