News Column

Media Advisory: Guatemalan Human Rights Defenders Welcomed to Winnipeg and Toronto in Shadow of Genocide Trial

Jun 18 2013 12:00AM



WINNIPEG, MANITOBA -- (Marketwired) -- 06/18/13 -- The Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) this week hosts a visit to Canada by two courageous human rights defenders from Guatemala - including the son of its first democratically elected president.

Last month, former Guatemalan dictator Jose Efrain Rios Montt became the first Latin American leader convicted of genocide, only to have the verdict set aside 10 days later. Lawyers Without Borders Canada has been actively assisting in the case, which continues.

The Guatemalan visitors arrived last night for a week of events in Winnipeg and Toronto. Panel discussions will be held at the University of Winnipeg on June 19 and at the University of Toronto on June 20. An event sponsored by Toronto's Guatemalan community association, Asoguate, will be held on June 21 - Guatemala's "National Day Against Forced Disappearances". More information is included in the attached backgrounder.

June 19WHAT: Panel discussion and MOU signingWHERE: University of Winnipeg - Convocation HallWHEN: Wednesday, June 19 11:45 a.m. CDT - Panel discussion 1 p.m. CDT - News conference and MOU signingJune 20WHAT: Panel discussionWHERE: University of Toronto Room 507 - 140 George St., Claude Bissell BuildingWHEN: 4:30 p.m. EDT, Thursday, June 20June 21WHAT: Asoguate event - presentation and community gatheringWHERE: Casa Maiz, 2nd Floor, 1280 Finch Ave.WHEN: 7:30 p.m. EDT, Friday, June 21WHO: Julio Solorzano Foppa, chair of Memorial Para la Concordia Vivian Salazar Monzon, director of Guatemala's International Institute of Learning for Social Reconciliation Pascal Paradis, executive director of Lawyers Without Borders Canada (Winnipeg event only) Stuart Murray, CMHR president and CEO (Winnipeg event) Clint Curle, Head, Stakeholder Relations, CMHR (Toronto event) Alexandra Keim, CMHR art and objects manager (Winnipeg event)


Julio Solorzano Foppa is chair of the Memorial Para la Concordia. He is the son of reformist former Guatemalan president Juan Jose Arevalo (elected 1944) and famous poet Alaide Foppa, who was kidnapped and disappeared in 1980 while searching for her other sons. Their remains have never been found. Foppa is a businessman and promoter of artistic projects, which he believes can create awareness and reconciliation to help Guatemala face the truth about its past and move forward.

Vivian Salazar Monzon is director of the International Institute of Learning for Social Reconciliation, which develops educational programs for children and adults, to promote inter-ethnic relations and democracy. She coordinates a permanent museum exhibit designed to encourage dialogue about the ways that Guatemala's troubled past - still shrouded in silence and denial - is affecting its society today.

Pascal Paradis is a founding member of Lawyers Without Borders Canada ( ). Based in Montreal, he has participated in legal projects in numerous countries in Latin America and Africa. He has just returned from Guatemala, assisting with of the ongoing Rios Montt case, which resulted in the first-ever condemnation for genocide of a former head of state by a national tribunal.

Memorial Para la Concordia consists of a network of Guatemalan human rights organizations who promote human rights and reconciliation, with a goal of building a memorial and museum about the thousands of disappeared people and Indigenous victims of mass atrocity. About 200,000 were victims of state-ordered massacres (80 per cent from the Mayan Ixil population) during a 36-year civil war that ended with fragile Peace Accords in 1996. Perpetrators carried out crimes against humanity with impunity that is only now beginning to erode.

The CMHR is partnering with these Guatemalan human rights defenders as part of its mandate to promote awareness and dialogue about human rights. CMHR representatives travelled to Guatemala in February to learn more about their work, which includes reclaiming bodies from mass disposal sites and identifying them through DNA. In addition, a new CMHR staff member from Mexico previously spent time doing volunteer legal work on the Rios Montt trial.

Canadian links to Guatemala's human rights struggle include:

-- Testimony of Ramiro Osorio Cristales, now living in Canada, helped convict five Guatemalan army officers in 2011 and 2012 for the massacre of his entire village and family.-- Lethbridge resident Jorge Sosa Orentes, accused of participating in the massacre of Cristales' village of Dos Erres, was extradited to the U.S. last September.-- University of Northern British Colombia adjunct professor Freddy Peccerelli runs the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation, conducting DNA identification on bodies found in mass disposal sites.-- Lawyers Without Borders Canada has provided legal support in Guatemala's historic trials, with assistance from the Government of Canada. LWBC was also the principal supporter of the Human Rights Law Office of Guatemala.

Maureen Fitzhenry
CMHR media relations manager
(204) 289-2112
Cell: (204) 782-8442

Source: Marketwire

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