On Monday 22nd June, BHRC hosted a film-screening of the recent documentary ‘Burden of Peace’ which tells the story of Dr. Claudia Paz y Paz, the first woman to lead the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Guatemala. The film intimately follows Claudia’s struggle against corruption and impunity in her country, focussing on her courageous move to arrest former dictator Efraín Rios Montt on charges of genocide. His conviction becomes the first conviction for genocide of a former head of state in a national court in world history. Yet Claudia pays a heavy price for her relentless commitment to justice and human rights.

The screening was followed by a panel discussion with film-maker, Sander Wirken, who talked about his experience documenting Claudia’s day-to-day efforts and battles against some of the most openly corrupt of elite classes. The audience were struck by how freely those in positions of power were willing to lambast those working on human rights even at the most senior international levels.

The second panellist was Omar Jeronimo, Coordinator of the Nuevo Día Chorti Indigenous Association, which works in Chiquimula department providing support and legal representation to local communities campaigning on land, environmental, and cultural rights. As a result of their work, Nuevo Día members have been subject to threats and harasment so Omar receives the protective accompaniment of Peace Brigades International. Omar described the dichotomy in Guatemalan society where for some communities, such as Mayan Indians and rural poor, human rights is a tool for survival, whereas for many of the urban elite human rights are seen as synonymous with Marxism and communism.

Despite reforms to the legislative system, the overarching impunity means that there is little impact on the endemic violence. The panellists called on the international community to support Guatemalan civil society and the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), which was set up to support State institutions in the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed by organised criminal enterprises with links to political and security sector organisations. The next three months will be crucial for the future of the country with its upcoming Presidential elections. The international community should watch events very closely.

For more information visit burdenofpeace.com