On Friday, May 10th, Guatemalans breathed a sigh of relief. Judge Yasmin Barrios read the verdict against Efraín Ríos Montt for the whole world to witness, and in solidarity, defenders of human rights from every corner of the globe sighed right along with them. In a landmark case, Ríos Montt was sentenced to 80 years in prison for crimes against humanity and genocide against the Ixil Mayan indigenous people during the US-backed Guatemala civil war that lasted for 36 years.
A new era of justice in Latin America?
It was the first time that any former dictator from the region had been convicted on Latin American soil. It set a precedent, and evoked hope for the future of justice and accountability for the many crimes committed against indigenous peoples in Latin America and the Caribbean. Read More
Desmond Tutu once said, “I have no idea what childbirth is like but I am told it is a painful yet rewarding experience.”
For me, as a person who grew up in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, this quote is perfect to describe the situation in South Sudan. In many African traditions, a new child in the house brings new hope; a new child symbolizes a bright future and reconciliation in the family. South Sudan is the new child of the motherland.
President Obama declared this past week, “Justice has been done.” I work for an organization that throws around the word “justice” every day, and also none too lightly. The juxtaposition left me uneasy.
At AJWS, we speak about justice in many different contexts. Sometimes the context is our work, for example, on “food justice,” described by Gottlieb and Joshi as “[a movement seeking] to ensure that the benefits and risks of where, what, and how food is grown, produced, transported, distributed, accessed and eaten are shared fairly.” Sometimes the context is specifically Jewish, as reads the oft-quoted line from a commandment-heavy section of Deuteronomy, “Tzedek tzedek tirdof” – “Justice, justice shall you pursue.” That, however, does not quite help me understand what the President meant by “justice.” I think this is because the President’s “justice” translates in Hebrew not to tzedek, but to din. Read More