HRDAG Testifies in Guatemala

On Friday, April 12, 2013, Patrick Ball provided expert testimony in Guatemala's Supreme Court, against General José Efraín Ríos Montt. Gen. Ríos Montt, de-facto president of Guatemala in 1982-1983, is charged with genocide and crimes against humanity. (Commentary borrowed from


  1. "The afternoon began with expert testimony from Patrick Ball, a U.S. scientist who has worked with numerous truth commissions and international tribunals. He provided a statistical analysis of killings in the Maya Ixil area. He concluded that the Guatemalan army killed indigenous people at a much higher rate than non-indigenous people."
  2. "Ball explained that the data came from the 1981 census and studies conducted by four groups. However, their numbers are likely incomplete and there are almost certainly more deaths. So Ball used statistical analysis and probability to estimate the likely numbers."
  3. "Broadening the time period, Ball explained that from 1979 to 1986, the army killed 18.3% of the indigenous population and 3.2% of the non-indigenous population. He compared this to acknowledged genocides like Rwanda and Srebrenica, which had murder rates of identifiable groups around 20%, and he concluded that the numbers in Guatemala were comparable."

  4. "Prosecutor Orlando López asked Ball whether genocide was committed. He responded that the numbers, which show a big difference in mortality rates between indigenous and non-indigenous populations, are consistent with the hypothesis that there was a genocide but that numbers cannot speak to intentionality (i.e. the intent to eliminate an identifiable group, which is necessary for the crime of genocide). Ball emphasized that statistical analysis is circumstantial evidence but is nonetheless essential."
  5. "Edgar Pérez, representing the victims’ group AJR, asked Ball to compare the homicide rates from 1982-83 to the present day. Ball stated that the rate for non-indigenous people was ten times less in 1982-83 than it is today. For the indigenous population, however, the rate was 100 times higher than the present day."
  6.  Reportage by Matt Eisenbrandt for