Guatemala: at long last, ex-dictator Rios Montt in court over possible genocide charges

Cloths embroidered with signs are seen in front of the Supreme Court of Justice in Guatemala City January 26, 2012. Former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt, who ruled the country from 1980-1982 during a bloody civil war, went to the Supreme Court of Justice to declare for the genocide accusations committed during the armed conflict. Rios Montt is one of those accused by Spain of genocide during the 36-year conflict in which some 250,000 people died and 45,000 disappeared from 1960-1996. The sign reads, "In memory of the victims of armed conflict."

Below: Ríos Montt speaks on the phone at the Supreme Court of Justice in Guatemala City, while indigenous Maya protesters outside carry banners with the faces of "desaparecidos," relatives who disappeared during his military era.

Related coverage: Amnesty International, BBC News, NYT, LAT, and an LAT op-ed today. The Wikipedia entry on Ríos Montt is pretty comprehensive, and includes reminders of Ríos Montt's many links to the US: he was trained at the School of the Americas, was involved in the 1954 CIA-backed coup, and was longtime pals with US power-evangelicals Pat Robertson and Jerry Fallwell. (photos: REUTERS)


  1. I’m guessing that the US head of state won’t be urging everyone to just “look forward, not backward” in this particular case?

  2. I wanted to give a shout to independent photojournalist James Rodriguez at  – who has been delivering amazing on-the-ground photo essays for years and years out of many countries, but particularly Guatemala. Fantastic stuff worthy of being passed around.

  3. Thanks for this welcome news. Rios Montt was himself a fundamentalist Christian. This is what mad fundamentalists do when in power, kill hundreds of thousands. Whether Christian, Jewish or Muslim; fundamentalists are bloody killers, as history has repeatedly demonstrated. So here’s a question: Why on earth are they tolerated? 

  4. Wow. Add this to the list of things I thought I’d never see in my lifetime. Pinochet arrested, check. A U.S. president publicly apologize for our involvement in Guatemala, check. President Lula, check. Mubarak overthrown,check. Black U.S. president, check. And now Argentina and Brazil are going after their war criminals. Now all I need is Justice to come knocking’ on Dick Cheney’s door.

  5. It’s a great step in the quest for Justice in my country, Guatemala. To see a man that had all the power and manipulated the strings for so many years face a trial is a milestone. But lets hope that the guerrilla leaders are also prosecuted in the same manner for their crimes. There was more than one party involved in the war.

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